||25 August 1949
||Exeter College, Oxford
||A series of best-selling novels
||Antonia Phillips (1984-1993); Isabel Fonseca (1996-present)
||Delilah (1976), Louis (1985), Jacob (1986), Fernanda (1997), Clio (1999)
||Kingsley Amis (father), Hilary Ann Bardwell (mother)
||Philip Amis (brother), Sally Amis (sister)
Martin Louis Amis (born 25 August 1949) is a British novelist, the author of many novels including Money (1984) and London Fields (1989). He is currently Professor of Creative Writing at the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester, but will step down at the end of the 2010/11 academic year. The Times named him in 2008 as one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.
Amis's raw material is what he sees as the absurdity of the postmodern condition and the excesses of late-capitalist Western society with its grotesque caricatures. He has thus been portrayed as the undisputed master of what The New York Times called "the new unpleasantness." Influenced by Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov, and James Joyce, as well as by his father Sir Kingsley Amis, he has inspired a generation of writers with his distinctive style, including Will Self and Zadie Smith. The Guardian writes that his critics have noted what Kingsley Amis called a "terrible compulsive vividness in his style ... that constant demonstrating of his command of English," and that the "Amis-ness of Amis will be recognisable in any piece before he reaches his first full stop."
Amis was born in Swansea, South Wales. His father, Sir Kingsley Amis, was the son of a mustard manufacturer's clerk from Clapham; his mother, Hilary Bardwell (Hilly), was the daughter of a Ministry of Agriculture civil servant. He has an older brother, Philip, and his younger sister, Sally, died in 2000. His parents divorced when he was twelve.
He attended a number of schools in the 1950s and 1960s—including the Bishop Gore School ( Swansea Grammar School), and Cambridgeshire High School for Boys—where he was described by one headmaster as "unusually unpromising." The acclaim that followed his father's first novel Lucky Jim sent the family to Princeton, New Jersey, where his father lectured. This was Martin's introduction to the United States.
In 1965, at age 15, he played John Thornton in the film version of Richard Hughes' A High Wind in Jamaica.
He read nothing but comic books until his stepmother, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, introduced him to Jane Austen, whom he often names as his earliest influence. After teenage years spent in flowery shirts and a short spell at Westminster School while living in Hampstead, he graduated from Exeter College, Oxford with a "Congratulatory" First in English – "the sort where you are called in for a viva and the examiners tell you how much they enjoyed reading your papers."
After Oxford, he found an entry-level job at The Times Literary Supplement, and at age 27 became literary editor of The New Statesman, where he met Christopher Hitchens, then a feature writer for The Observer, who remains a close friend.
According to Martin, Kingsley Amis famously showed no interest in his son's work. "I can point out the exact place where he stopped and sent Money twirling through the air; that's where the character named Martin Amis comes in." "Breaking the rules, buggering about with the reader, drawing attention to himself," Kingsley complained.
His first novel The Rachel Papers (1973) won the Somerset Maugham Award. The most traditional of his novels, made into an unsuccessful cult film, it tells the story of a bright, egotistical teenager (which Amis acknowledges as autobiographical) and his relationship with the eponymous girlfriend in the year before going to university.
He also wrote the screenplay for the film Saturn 3, an experience which he was to draw on for his fifth novel Money.
Dead Babies (1975), more flippant in tone, chronicles a few days in the lives of some friends who convene in a country house to take drugs. A number of Amis's characteristics show up here for the first time: mordant black humour, obsession with the zeitgeist, authorial intervention, a character subjected to sadistically humorous misfortunes and humiliations, and a defiant casualness ("my attitude has been, I don't know much about science, but I know what I like"). A film adaptation was made in 2000.
Success (1977) told the story of two foster-brothers, Gregory Riding and Terry Service, and their rising and falling fortunes. This was the first example of Amis's fondness for symbolically 'pairing' characters in his novels, which has been a recurrent feature in his fiction since (Martin Amis and Martina Twain in Money, Richard Tull and Gwyn Barry in The Information, and Jennifer Rockwell and Mike Hoolihan in Night Train).
Other People: A Mystery Story (1981), about a young woman coming out of a coma, was a transitional novel in that it was the first of Amis's to show authorial intervention in the narrative voice, and highly artificed language in the heroine's descriptions of everyday objects, which was said to be influenced by his contemporary Craig Raine's 'Martian' school of poetry.
1980s and 1990s
Amis's best-known novels are Money, London Fields, and The Information, commonly referred to as his "London Trilogy." Although the books share little in terms of plot and narrative, they all examine the lives of middle-aged men, exploring the sordid, debauched, and post-apocalyptic undercurrents of life in late 20th-century Britain. Amis's London protagonists are anti-heroes: they engage in questionable behaviour, are passionate iconoclasts, and strive to escape the apparent banality and futility of their lives.
Money (1984, subtitled A Suicide Note) is a first-person narrative by John Self, advertising man and would-be film director, who is "addicted to the twentieth century." "[A] satire of Thatcherite amorality and greed," the novel relates a series of black comedic episodes as Self flies back and forth across the Atlantic, in crass and seemingly chaotic pursuit of personal and professional success. Time included the novel in its list of the 100 best English-language novels of 1923 to 2005. On 11 November 2009, The Guardian reported that the BBC had adapted Money for television as part of their early 2010 schedule for BBC 2. Nick Frost played John Self. The television adaptation also featured Vincent Kartheiser, Emma Pierson and Jerry Hall. The adaptation was a "two-part drama" and was written by Tom Butterworth and Chris Hurford. After the transmission of the first of the two parts, Amis was quick to praise the adaptation, stating that "All the performances (were) without weak spots. I thought Nick Frost was absolutely extraordinary as John Self. He fills the character. It's a very unusual performance in that he's very funny, he's physically comic, but he's also strangely graceful, a pleasure to watch...It looked very expensive even though it wasn't and that's a feat...The earlier script I saw was disappointing (but) they took it back and worked on it and it's hugely improved. My advice was to use more of the language of the novel, the dialogue, rather than making it up."
London Fields (1989), Amis's longest work, describes the encounters between three main characters in London in 1999, as a climate disaster approaches. The characters have typically Amisian names and broad caricatured qualities: Keith Talent, the lower-class crook with a passion for darts; Nicola Six, a femme fatale who is determined to be murdered; and upper-middle-class Guy Clinch, 'the fool, the foil, the poor foal' who is destined to come between the other two. The book was controversially omitted from the Booker Prize shortlist in 1989, because two panel members, Maggie Gee and Helen McNeil, disliked Amis's treatment of his women characters. "It was an incredible row," Martyn Goff, the Booker's director, told The Independent. "Maggie and Helen felt that Amis treated women appallingly in the book. That is not to say they thought books which treated women badly couldn't be good, they simply felt that the author should make it clear he didn't favour or bless that sort of treatment. Really, there was only two of them and they should have been outnumbered as the other three were in agreement, but such was the sheer force of their argument and passion that they won. David [Lodge] has told me he regrets it to this day, he feels he failed somehow by not saying, `It's two against three, Martin's on the list'."
Amis's 1991 offering, the short novel Time's Arrow, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Notable for its unique, backwards narrative - including dialogue in reverse - the novel is the autobiography of a Nazi concentration camp doctor. The unique reversal of time in the novel seemingly transforms Auschwitz - and the entire theatre of war - into a place of joy, healing, and resurrection.
The Information (1995) was notable not so much for its critical success, but for the scandals surrounding its publication. The enormous advance (an alleged £500,000) demanded and subsequently obtained by Amis for the novel attracted what the author described as "an Eisteddfod of hostility" from writers and critics after he abandoned his long-serving agent, the late Pat Kavanagh, in order to be represented by the Harvard-educated Andrew "The Jackal" Wylie. The split was by no means amicable; it created a rift between Amis and his long-time friend, Julian Barnes, who was married to Kavanagh. According to Amis's autobiography Experience (2000), he and Barnes had not resolved their differences. The Information itself deals with the relationship between a pair of British writers of fiction. One, a spectacularly successful purveyor of "airport novels," is envied by his friend, an equally unsuccessful writer of philosophical and generally abstruse prose. The novel is written in the author's classic style: characters appearing as stereotyped caricatures, grotesque elaborations on the wickedness of middle age, and a general air of post-apocalyptic malaise.
Amis's 1997 offering, the short novel Night Train, is unique in that it is the first of Amis' books to use a female protagonist. Narrated by the mannish American Detective Mike Hoolihan, the story revolves around the suicide of her boss's teenage daughter. Like most of Amis's work, Night Train is dark, bleak, and foreboding, arguably a reflection of the author's views on America. Amis's distinctively American vernacular in the narrative was criticized by, among others, John Updike, although the novel found defenders elsewhere, notably in Janis Bellow, wife of Amis's sometime mentor and friend, the late Saul Bellow.
The 2000s were Amis's least productive decade in terms of full-length fiction since starting in the nineteen-seventies (two novels in ten years), while his non-fiction work saw a dramatic uptick in volume (three published works including a memoir, a hybrid of semi-memoir and amateur political history, and another journalism collection).
In the year 2000 Amis published a memoir titled Experience. Largely concerned with the strange relationship between the author and his father, the novelist Kingsley Amis, the autobiography nevertheless deals with many facets of Amis's life. Of particular note is Amis's reunion with his daughter, Delilah Seale, resulting from an affair in the 1970s, whom he did not see until she was 19. Amis also discusses, at some length, the murder of his cousin Lucy Partington by Fred West when she was 21. The book was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography.
In 2002 Amis published Koba the Dread, a devastating history of the crimes of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, and their denial by many writers and academics in the West. The book precipitated a literary controversy for its approach to the material, and for its attack on Amis's long-time friend, Christopher Hitchens. Once a passionate and committed leftist, Hitchens' alleged sympathy for Stalin and communism was criticized by Amis. Although Hitchens wrote a vituperative response to the book in The Atlantic, his friendship with Amis appears to have emerged unchanged: in response to a reporter's question, Amis responded "We never needed to make up. We had an adult exchange of views, mostly in print, and that was that (or, more exactly, that goes on being that). My friendship with the Hitch has always been perfectly cloudless. It is a love whose month is ever May."
In 2003, Yellow Dog, Amis's first novel in six years, was published. The novel drew mixed reviews, and was most notably denounced by the novelist Tibor Fischer: "Yellow Dog isn't bad as in not very good or slightly disappointing. It's not-knowing-where-to-look bad. I was reading my copy on the Tube and I was terrified someone would look over my shoulder… It's like your favourite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating." Elsewhere, the book received mixed reviews, with some critics proclaiming the novel a return to form, but most considered the book to be a great disappointment. Amis was unrepentant about the novel and its reaction, calling Yellow Dog "among my best three". He gave his own explanation for the novel's critical failure, "No one wants to read a difficult literary novel or deal with a prose style which reminds them how thick they are. There's a push towards egalitarianism, making writing more chummy and interactive, instead of a higher voice, and that's what I go to literature for." Yellow Dog "controversially made the 13-book longlist for the 2003 Booker Prize, despite some scathing reviews", but failed to win the award.
Following the harsh reviews afforded to Yellow Dog, Amis relocated from London to Uruguay with his family for two years, during which time he worked on his next novel away from the glare and pressures of the London literary scene.
In September 2006, upon his return from Uruguay, Amis's published his eleventh novel. House of Meetings, a short work, continued the author's crusade against the crimes of Stalinism and also saw some consideration of the state of contemporary post-Soviet Russia. The novel centres on the relationship between two brothers incarcerated in a prototypical Siberian gulag who, prior to their deportation, had loved the same woman. House of Meetings saw some better critical notices than Yellow Dog had received three years before, but there were still some reviewers who felt that Amis's fiction work had considerably declined in quality while others felt that he was not suited to writing an ostensibly serious historical novel. Despite the praise for House of Meetings, once again Amis was overlooked for the Booker Prize longlist. According to a piece in The Independent, the novel "was originally to have been collected alongside two short stories - one, a disturbing account of the life of a body-double in the court of Saddam Hussein; the other, the imagined final moments of Muhammad Atta, the leader of 11 September attacks - but late in the process, Amis decided to jettison both from the book." In the same 2006 interview, Amis revealed that he had "recently abandoned a novella, The Unknown Known (the title was based on one of Donald Rumsfeld's characteristically strangulated linguistic formulations) in which Muslim terrorists unleash a horde of compulsive rapists on a town called Greeley, Colorado" and instead continued to work on a follow-up full novel that he had started working on in 2003:
"The novel I'm working on is blindingly autobiographical, but with an Islamic theme. It's called A Pregnant Widow, because at the end of a revolution you don't have a newborn child, you have a pregnant widow. And the pregnant widow in this novel is feminism. Which is still in its second trimester. The child is nowhere in sight yet. And I think it has several more convulsions to undergo before we'll see the child."
The new novel took some considerable time to write and was not published before the end of the decade. Instead, Amis's last published work of the 2000s was the 2008 journalism collection The Second Plane, a collection with compiled Amis's many writings on the events of 9/11 and the subsequent major events and cultural issues resulting from the War on Terror. The reception to The Second Plane was decidedly mixed, with some reviewers finding its tone intelligent and well reasoned, while others believed it to be overly stylised and lacking in authoritative knowledge of key areas under consideration. The most common consensus was that the two short stories included were the weakest point of the collection. The collection sold relatively well and was widely discussed and debated.
In 2010, after a long period of writing, rewriting, editing and revision, Amis published his long-awaited new long novel, The Pregnant Widow, which marks the beginning of a new four-book deal. Originally set for release in 2008, the novel's publication was pushed back to 2009 and then 2010 as further editing and alterations were being made, expanding the novel to some 480 pages. A statement from publishers Johnathan Cape describes the content of the novel:
"The 1960s, as is well known, saw the launch of the sexual revolution, which radically affected the lives of every Westerner fortunate enough to be born after the Second World War. But a revolution is a revolution - contingent and sanguinary. In the words of the Russian thinker Alexander Herzen: The death of the contemporary forms of social order ought to gladden rather than trouble the soul. Yet what is frightening is that what the departing world leaves behind it is not an heir but a pregnant widow. Between the death of the one and the birth of the other, much water will flow by, a long night of chaos and desolation will pass. In many senses, including the literal, it was a velvet revolution; but it wasn't bloodless. Nor was it complete. Even today, in 2009, the pregnancy is still in its second trimester. Martin Amis, in "The Pregnant Widow", takes as his control experiment a long, hot summer holiday in a castle in Italy, where half a dozen young lives are afloat on the sea change of 1970. The result is a tragicomedy of manners, combining the wit of "Money" with the historical sense of "Time's Arrow" and "House of Meetings"."
The first public reading of the then just completed version of The Pregnant Widow occurred on 11 May 2009 at the Norwich Playhouse as part of the Norwich and Norfolk festival. Amis was in conversation with the Observer’s Robert McCrum, a long-time friend of his. At this reading, according to the coverage of the event for the Norwich Writers' Centre by Katy Carr, "the writing shows a return to comic form, as the narrator muses on the indignities of facing the mirror as an aging man, in a prelude to a story set in Italy in 1970, looking at the effect of the sexual revolution on personal relationships. The sexual revolution was the moment, as Amis sees it, that love became divorced from sex. He said he started to write the novel autobiographically (something that has been interesting the press recently), but then concluded that real life was too different from fiction, and difficult to drum into novel shape, so he had to rethink the form." Additionally, Amis "seemed quite happy reading the opening pages in the novel’s first public outing."
Further details concerning the novel's plot were revealed by The Times on 10 May 2009, its reporter Maurice Chittenden writing that at the event "Amis said the book was originally meant to be based much more closely on his own life. He had introduced more fictional passages after realising the format was not working," and that he "[had] been working on the partly autobiographical The Pregnant Widow for more than five years."
Chittenden writes that Amis said at the event regarding the length of the novel's protracted writing and creative gestation:
"In 2003 I tried for a couple of years [to make the novel more autobiographical]. I flailed about and it all felt awful. Bits were autobiographical but I had to completely rethink it. It was an uncontrollably long and pointless novel of 200,000 words. But the summer in Italy, I drew that out.”
In an 1 August 2009 interview with The Afterworld, Amis clarified the nature of some of the content of The Pregnant Widow and revealed that he is currently "writing two novels at the same time":
I started a novel [but] then I’m going to write a novella before I get on to it. But I was in big trouble a few years ago, with a huge, dead novel. And it took me a long time, and a lot of grief, to realize -- I thought I was clutching at straws -- it turned out it was actually two novels, and they couldn’t go together. So I wrote The Pregnant Widow, [that’s] one half of it, and the other half I started, and it will be very autobiographical, the next one.
Published in a whirl of publicity the likes of which Amis had not received for a novel since the publication of The Information in 1995, The Pregnant Widow once again saw Amis receiving mixed reviews from the press and sales being average at best. Despite a vast amount of coverage, some positive reviews, and a general expectation that Amis' time for recognition had come, the novel was overlooked for the 2010 Man Booker Prize long list (as were efforts by his contemporaries Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie).
Amis's next project is a novella currently titled State of England, and that will be followed by another full novel made up of some of the other half of the original draft of The Pregnant Widow.
Amis and Katie Price
On 27 October 2009, The Daily Telegraph reported that during a recent appearance by Amis at the Hay Festival in Wales, Amis had discussed his fascination with the glamour model turned celebrity author Katie Price (formerly known as Jordan). Amis went on to reveal that he "has honoured [Price] with a character bearing some of her traits" in his forthcoming new novella provisionally titled State of England (also the title of a 1996 short story by Amis). Amis said that her character was named 'Threnody', and stated categorically that Threnody "isn't based on" Jordan but readers should "bear in mind" the model when they read the book. Furthermore, Amis said of Price: "She has no waist, no arse...an interesting face...but all we are really worshipping is two bags of silicone," though he admitted to having read both volumes of her autobiography.
Amis's remarks concerning Price and the rise of the "celebrity author" provoked wide discussion and much fierce debate with the press and literary circles, with Guardian BookBlog writer Jean Hannah Edelstein accusing Amis of misogyny and implying that it showed insecurity on his part. David Lister in The Independent thought that Amis was "refreshingly unafraid to challenge prevailing orthodoxies" but thought he had also been "a real fool". "In turning his critique of celebrity publishing into a personal attack on a woman's physical attributes in language that would have seemed chauvinist 40 years ago, let alone now, he has shown his true colours, won Jordan sympathy and lost the argument on celebrity novels," Lister wrote. These are accusations which have been levelled at Amis before, most notably in 1989 when London Fields was rumoured to have been excluded from the Booker Prize longlist for similar reasons after protests by judges Maggie Gee and Helen McNeil, and exclusions from the shortlist for the Whitbread Prize the same year. Independent Editor-At-Large Janet Street Porter also attacked Amis's remarks: "The truth is, he doesn't sell as many books as he used to...Whether Amis can cope with it or not, Katie Price sells millions of books to people who would not normally buy books." Street Porter went on to add that Price's novels were "pure escapism" (asking "...what's wrong with that?") and that in being "reduced to slagging off a woman who will never have read one of his own books, or even have heard of him, in order to drum up interest and grab a few headlines for his next opus", Amis was "signing up to the very culture he's said to despise." Porter signed off her piece saying that Amis shouldn't be "...such a rude snob."
Amis was defended by fellow novelist Tony Parsons. Writing in The Mirror, Parsons opined that "...it is wrong to suggest that Amis is just jealous of Jordan’s sales figures. I think the real problem is the sheer excitement that Katie/Jordan generates among her readers. She encourages people to pour into bookshops in a way that the likes of Martin and I can only dream about." Despite the critical acclaim of literary fiction and high profile awards such as the Booker Prize, Parsons said that ultimately "Jordan, those two bestselling bags of silicone, has done more to promote reading in this country than anyone apart from the great J.K. Rowling."
Amis revealed a few more details about Threnody and his views on Jordan in an interview with Will Gore for the Epsom Guardian prior to the release of The Pregnant Widow:
“She is a minor character,” he explains. “It is not Jordan but a rather different type of woman who gets about as much attention. My character is a poet, not a novelist, on the side as well as being a glamour model. “I think it is slightly depressing that Jordan’s autobiography is a best seller and people queue for five hours to meet her. What does that say about England? “Snobbery has to start somewhere and if you can’t be snobbish about Katie Price you are dead, you’ve gone.”
Further details about State of England and Amis's plans were revealed in an interview with The Times in late January 2010 prior to the release of The Pregnant Widow. According to the article, "[Amis has] nearly finished his next novel, State of England, about chavs, which contains one character, Threnody, inspired by Katie Price and another, “my worst yet”, he says, based on Mikey Carroll, a crack-smoking lottery winner. “Lionel Asbo wins £90m on the lottery and does something so vicious…I can't tell you what”. Amis clarified further by stating: “I’ve got the first draft of the next novel done...and another novel ready to go after that.”
Amis has also released two collections of short stories (Einstein's Monsters and Heavy Water), four volumes of collected journalism and criticism (The Moronic Inferno, Visiting Mrs Nabokov, The War Against Cliché and The Second Plane), and a guide to 1980s space-themed arcade video-game machines (Invasion of the Space Invaders). He also regularly appeared on television and radio discussion and debate programmes, and contributes book reviews and articles to newspapers. His wife Isabel Fonseca released her debut novel Attachment in 2009 and two of Amis's children, his son Louis and his daughter Fernanda, have also been published in their own right in Standpoint magazine and The Guardian, respectively.
Amis returned to Britain in September 2006 after living in Uruguay for two and a half years with his second wife, the writer Isabel Fonseca, and their two young daughters. Amis became a grandfather in 2008 when his daughter Delilah gave birth to a son. He said, "Some strange things have happened, it seems to me, in my absence. I didn't feel like I was getting more rightwing when I was in Uruguay, but when I got back I felt that I had moved quite a distance to the right while staying in the same place." He reports that he is disquieted by what he sees as increasingly undisguised hostility towards Israel and the United States.
In late 2010 Amis bought a property in the Cobble Hill area of Brooklyn, New York, although it is unclear whether he will be permanently moving to New York or just maintaining another 'sock' there.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, Amis was a strong critic of nuclear proliferation. His collection of five stories on this theme, Einstein's Monsters, began with a long essay entitled "Thinkability" in which he set out his views on the issue, writing: "Nuclear weapons repel all thought, perhaps because they can end all thought."
He wrote in "Nuclear City" in Esquire of 1987 (re-published in Visiting Mrs Nabokov) that: "when nuclear weapons become real to you, when they stop buzzing around your ears and actually move into your head, hardly an hour passes without some throb or flash, some heavy pulse of imagined supercatastrophe."
Amis expressed his opinions on terrorism in an extended essay published in The Observer on the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11 in which he criticized the economic development of all Arab countries because their "aggregate GDP... was less than the GDP of Spain", and they "lag[ged] behind the West, and the Far East, in every index of industrial and manufacturing output, job creation, technology, literacy, life-expectancy, human development, and intellectual vitality."
The Catholic-Marxist critic Terry Eagleton, in the 2007 introduction to his work Ideology, singled out and attacked Amis for a particular quote (which Eagleton mistakenly attributed to one of Amis's essays), taken the day after the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot came to light, in an informal interview in The Times Magazine. Amis was quoted as saying: "What can we do to raise the price of them doing this? There’s a definite urge – don’t you have it? – to say, ‘The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.’ What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children...It’s a huge dereliction on their part". Eagleton wrote that this view is "[n]ot the ramblings of a British National Party thug, [...] but the reflections of Martin Amis, leading luminary of the English metropolitan literary world".
In a highly critical article in the Guardian "The absurd world of Martin Amis" the satirist Chris Morris likened Amis to the Muslim cleric Abu Hamza (who was jailed for inciting racial hatred in 2006), suggesting that both men employ "mock erudition, vitriol and decontextualised quotes from the Qu'ran" to incite hatred.
In a later piece, Eagleton added: "But there is something rather stomach-churning at the sight of those such as Amis and his political allies, champions of a civilisation that for centuries has wreaked untold carnage throughout the world, shrieking for illegal measures when they find themselves for the first time on the sticky end of the same treatment."
Elsewhere, Amis was especially careful to distinguish between Islam and radical Islamism, stating that:
||"We can begin by saying, not only that we respect Muhammad, but that no serious person could fail to respect Muhammad - a unique and luminous historical being...Judged by the continuities he was able to set in motion, Muhammad has strong claims to being the most extraordinary man who ever lived...To repeat, we respect Islam - the donor of countless benefits to mankind...But Islamism? No, we can hardly be asked to respect a creedal wave that calls for our own elimination...Naturally we respect Islam. But we do not respect Islamism, just as we respect Muhammad and do not respect Muhammad Atta."
A prominent British Muslim, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, wrote an op-ed piece on the subject condemning Amis and he responded with an open letter to The Independent which the newspaper printed in full. In it, he stated his views had been misrepresented by both Alibhai-Brown and Eagleton. In an article in The Guardian, Amis subsequently wrote:
||And now I feel that this was the only serious deprivation of my childhood - the awful human colourlessness of South Wales, the dully flickering whites and grays, like a Pathe newsreel, like an ethnic Great Depression. In common with all novelists, I live for and am addicted to physical variety; and my one quarrel with the rainbow is that its spectrum isn't wide enough. I would like London to be full of upstanding Martians and Neptunians, of reputable citizens who came, originally, from Krypton and Tralfamadore.
On terrorism, Martin Amis wrote that he suspected "there exists on our planet a kind of human being who will become a Muslim in order to pursue suicide-mass murder," and added: "I will never forget the look on the gatekeeper's face, at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, when I suggested, perhaps rather airily, that he skip some calendric prohibition and let me in anyway. His expression, previously cordial and cold, became a mask; and the mask was saying that killing me, my wife, and my children was something for which he now had warrant."
In comments on the BBC in October 2006 Amis expressed his view that North Korea was the most dangerous of the two remaining members of the Axis Of Evil, but that Iran was our "natural enemy", suggesting that we should not feel bad about having "helped Iraq scrape a draw with Iran" in the Iran–Iraq War, because a "revolutionary and rampant Iran would have been a much more destabilising presence."
His views on radical Islamism earned him the contentious sobriquet Blitcon from the New Statesman (his former employer). This term, it has since been argued, was wrongly applied.
His political opinions have been attacked in some quarters, particularly in The Guardian. He has received support from many other writers. In The Spectator, Philip Hensher noted:
||"The controversy raised by Amis’s views on religion as specifically embodied by Islamists is an empty one. He will tell you that his loathing is limited to Islamists, not even to Islam and certainly not to the ethnic groups concerned. The point, I think, is demonstrated, and the openness with which he has been willing to think out loud could usefully be emulated by political figures, addicted as they are to weasel words and double talk. I have to say that from non-practising Muslims I’ve heard language and opinions on Islamists which are far less temperate than anything Amis uses. In comparison to the private expressions of voices of modernity within Muslim societies, Amis is almost exaggeratedly respectful."
In June 2008, Amis endorsed the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, stating that "The reason I hope for Obama is that he alone has the chance to reposition America's image in the world".
In 2006, Amis said that "agnostic is the only respectable position, simply because our ignorance of the universe is so vast" that atheism is "premature". Clearly, "there's not going to be any kind of anthropomorphic entity at all", but the universe is "so incredibly complicated", "so over our heads", that we cannot exclude the existence of "an intelligence" behind it.
In 2010, he said: "I'm an agnostic, which is the only rational position. It's not because I feel a God or think that anything resembling the banal God of religion will turn up. But I think that atheism sounds like a proof of something, and it's incredibly evident that we are nowhere near intelligent enough to understand the universe.... Writers are above all individualists, and above all writing is freedom, so they will go off in all sorts of directions. I think it does apply to the debate about religion, in that it's a crabbed novelist who pulls the shutters down and says, there's no other thing. Don't use the word God: but something more intelligent than us... If we can't understand it, then it's formidable. And we understand very little."
In February 2007, Martin Amis was appointed as a Professor of Creative Writing at The Manchester Centre for New Writing in the University of Manchester, and started in September 2007. He ran postgraduate seminars, and participated in four public events each year, including a two-week summer school.
Of his position, he said: "I may be acerbic in how I write but...I would find it very difficult to say cruel things to [students] in such a vulnerable position. I imagine I'll be surprisingly sweet and gentle with them." He predicted that the experience might inspire him to write a new book, while adding sardonically: "A campus novel written by an elderly novelist, that's what the world wants." It was revealed that the salary paid to Amis by the university was £80,000 a year. The Manchester Evening News broke the story claiming that according to his contract this meant he was paid £3000 an hour for 28 hours a year teaching. The claim was echoed in headlines in several national papers. As with any other member of academic staff, his teaching contact hours constituted a minority of his commitments, a point confirmed in the original article by a reply from the University. In January 2011, it was announced that he would be stepping down from his university position at the end of the current academic year.
From October 2007 to July 2011, at Manchester University's Whitworth Hall or at the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, Martin Amis regularly engaged in public discussions with other experts on literature and various topics (21st century literature, terrorism, religion, Philip Larkin, science, Britishness, suicide, sex, ageing, his novel The Pregnant Widow, violence, film, the short story, and America).
- Einstein's Monsters (1987)
- Two Stories (1994)
- God's Dice (1995)
- Heavy Water and Other Stories (1998)
- Amis Omnibus (omnibus) (1999)
- The Fiction of Martin Amis (2000)
- Vintage Amis (2004)
- Invasion of the Space Invaders (1982)
- The Moronic Inferno: And Other Visits to America (1986)
- Visiting Mrs Nabokov: And Other Excursions (1993)
- Experience (2000)
- The War Against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 (2001)
- Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million (2002) (about Joseph Stalin and Russian History)
- The Second Plane (2008)
- ^ a b c d "Martin Amis", The Guardian, 22 July 2008.
- ^ Page, Benedicte (26 January 2011). "Colm Tóibín takes over teaching job from Martin Amis". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jan/26/colm-toibin-teaching-martin-amis.
- ^ The 50 greatest British writers since 1945. The Times, 5 January 2008.
- ^ a b c Stout, Mira. "Martin Amis: Down London's mean streets", The New York Times, 4 February 1990.
- ^ Leader, Zachary (2006). The Life of Kingsley Amis. Cape, p. 614.
- ^ Stringer, Jenny. Martin Amis, The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Literature in English. Oxford University Press 1996.
- ^ "Martin Amis", British Council: Contemporary Writers, accessed 24 January 2009
- ^ Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo."All Time 100 Novels"
- ^ a b c d Plunkett, John (11 November 2009). "Nick Frost to star in BBC2 adaptation of Martin Amis's Money". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/nov/11/nick-frost-bbc2-martin-amis-money. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
- ^ Catriona Wightman (25 May 2010). "Martin Amis praises Money adaptation", Digital Spy.
- ^ Wynn-Jones, Ros. Time to publish and be damned, The Independent, 14 September 1997.
- ^ Begley, Adam (28 May 2000). "All for a Liberace Smile? Amis in the Dentist's Chair", The New York Observer.
- ^ Amis, Martin, Experience (2000), pp. 247-249
- ^ Janis Freedman Bellow. "Second Thoughts on Night Train, The Republic of Letters, 4 May 1998: 25-29.
- ^ "Martin Amis: You Ask The Questions", The Independent, 15 January 2007.
- ^ Tibor Fischer (4 August 2003). "Someone needs to have a word with Amis", The Daily Telegraph.
- ^ "Amis needs a drink", The Times, 13 September 2003.
- ^ Luke Leitch (16 September 2003). "Booker snubs Amis, again", Evening Standard.
- ^ a b c Bilmes, Alex (8 October 2006). "Martin Amis: 30 things I've learned about terror". The Independent (London). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/martin-amis-30-things-ive-learned-about-terror-418950.html. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
- ^ Tom Chatfield (4 May 2009). "Martin Amis: will he return to form?", Prospect.
- ^ The Pregnant Widow
- ^ a b c Katy Carr (11 May 2009). "Amis reads The Pregnant Widow
- ^ a b Chittenden, Maurice (10 May 2009). "Martin Amis lays bare a sexual trauma". The Times (London). http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article6256982.ece. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
- ^ a b Q&A with Martin Amis: "There's only one way of judging quality and that's time"
- ^ a b c d e f Adams, Stephen (27 October 2009). "Jordan is just 'two bags of silicone' says Martin Amis". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/6447521/Jordan-is-just-two-bags-of-silicone-says-Martin-Amis.html. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
- ^ "Martin Amis's problem is not Katie Price, but women". The Guardian (London). 28 October 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/oct/28/martin-amis-katie-price-women. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
- ^ a b c "David Lister: You need a PhD for a night at the opera". The Independent (London). 31 October 2009. http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/david-lister/david-lister-you-need-a-phd-for-a-night-at-the-opera-1812304.html. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
- ^ Nicolas Tredell. The Fiction of Martin Amis, Chapter 7
- ^ a b c d e Street-Porter, Janet (1 November 2009). "Editor-At-Large: Face it, Martin – Katie sells books, and you don't". The Independent (London). http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/janet-street-porter/editoratlarge-face-it-martin-ndash-katie-sells-books-and-you-dont-1812777.html. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
- ^ a b Tony Parsons (30 October 2009). "Katie Price: Why is it right that we worship two bags of silicone"
- ^ Will Gore (10 November 2009). "Martin Amis at Book Now Festival", Epsom Guardian.
- ^ a b Camilla Long (24 January 2010). "Martin Amis and the sex war", The Sunday Times
- ^ The Martin Amis Web
- ^ a b c d e Alexandra Topping (15 February 2007). "Students, meet your new tutor: Amis, the enfant terrible, turns professor". The Guardian (London). http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2013359,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=10. Retrieved 23 February 2007.
- ^ http://www.observer.com/2010/real-estate/martin-amis-brooklyn-bound
- ^ Martin Amis, Ian Buruma (5 October 2007) (flash). Monsters (Conversation). New York City: The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/online/video/festival/2007/AmisBuruma. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
- ^ a b Amis, Martin. "The Age of Horrorism", The Observer, 23 February 2007.
- ^ Martin Amis interviewed by Ginny Dougary, originally published in The Times Magazine, 9 September 2006
- ^ Morris, Chris (25 November 2007). "The absurd world of Martin Amis". London: The Observer. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/nov/25/bookscomment.religion. Retrieved 22 June 2008. "Last week Amis was called a racist. I saw him speak at the ICA last month. Was his negativity about Islam technically racist? I don't know. What I can tell you is that Martin Amis is the new Abu Hamza. […] Like Hamza, Amis could only make his nonsense stand up with mock erudition, vitriol and decontextualised quotes from the Koran."
- ^ Eagleton, Terry. "Rebuking obnoxious views is not just a personality kink", The Guardian, Wednesday 10 October 2007
- ^ a b Martin Amis."No, I am not a racist", The Guardian, 1 December 2007
- ^ Jackson, Michael (12 October 2007). ""Amis launches scathing response to accusations of Islamophobia" - Home News, UK - Independent.co.uk". London: News.independent.co.uk. http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article3052346.ece. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
- ^ "Martin Amis - Take Of The Week". BBC. 26 October 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/this_week/6088700.stm. Retrieved 23 February 2007.
- ^ Ziauddin Sardar (11 December 2006). "Welcome to Planet Blitcon". http://www.newstatesman.com/200612110045. Retrieved 23 February 2007.
- ^ Robert McCrum (7 December 2006). "Planet Blitcon? It doesn't exist". London: The Guardian. http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/robert_mccrum/2006/12/post_764.html. Retrieved 24 February 2007.
- ^ Bennett, Ronan (19 November 2007). "Shame on us". Guardian Unlimited (London). http://books.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2213285,00.html. Retrieved 3 January 2008.
- ^ Hensher, Philip (Wednesday, 16 Jan 2008). "Defender, though not of the faith". The Spectator. http://www.spectator.co.uk/print/the-magazine/books/451411/defender-though-not-of-the-faith.thtml.
- ^ Martin Amis on Barack Obama. BBC1, This Week, 30 July 2008.
- ^ Bill Moyers and Martin Amis and Margaret Atwood. PBS, 28 July 2006. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
- ^ Tom Chatfield (1 February 2010). "Martin Amis: The Prospect Interview", Prospect. Retrieved 20 March 2010.
- ^ Yakub Qureshi, £3,000 an hour for Amis, Manchester Evening News, 25/1/2008; Amis the £3k an hour professor, Guardian, 26/01/2008.
- ^ Yakub Qureshi, op. cit., Manchester Evening News, 25/1/2008.
- ^ Jonathan Brown (22 January 2011). "Amis writes off star lecturer job", The Independent.
- ^ Martin Amis Public Events
Comprehensive information and hubs
Sample works and articles by Amis
- Authors in the front line: Martin Amis, The Sunday Times Magazine, 6 February 2005 – On the streets of Colombia, young boys cripple or murder each other just for showing disrespect or for winning at a game of cards. Is the taste for violence opening up a wound that can never heal? Report: Martin Amis – In The Sunday Times Magazine's continuing series of articles, renowned writers bring a fresh perspective to the world's trouble spots. The international medical-aid organisation MSF has helped our correspondents reach some of these inhospitable areas.
- CareerMove - A complete short story by Amis.
- The Unknown Known - A satire on fundamentalism in this extract from an unpublished manuscript by Amis. NOTE: Requires subscription to Granta to access.
- Martin Amis articles at Byliner
- 'Money and Pornography', a review of the role of pornography in Amis' novels, from Money to Yellow Dog, in the Oxonian Review
Note: for reviews of an individual work, please see its article.
Amis and "Islamism"