Tag Archives: Martin Amis

Distracted By Quotations

This was going to be a post on Shakespeare and the lost-and-not-quite-but-sort-of-if-you-think-about-it-found play Cardenio, thought to have been co-quilled by the Swan of Avon and John Fletcher.

It was going to start with the marvellous observation that ‘The only evidence we have of Shakespeare’s existence, other than the poems and plays, is the portrait of a man who was clearly an idiot.’  As you can already see (because you’re not only mind-bendingly attractive but also unusually clever) the programme has changed somewhat. Continue reading


Complete Works

In the middle of last year, I began hunting down second-hand copies of The Complete Works of George Orwell.  I use the word copies advisedly, because the complete Orwell consists of twenty tomes: nine novels and eleven volumes of collected letters, essays, journalism and fascinatingly varied jottings.

Twenty volumes.  Over eight thousand, five hundred pages in total.  And the fruit of seventeen years of hard graft by its editor, Peter Davison. Continue reading

World Book Day (UK and Ireland)

Yesterday was World Book Day.  Rather confusingly, according to the website, you can have a World Book Day in England and Ireland only.    Clearly the days of empire are not entirely gone and forgotten.  In Australia, so far as I can gather, we’re waiting for April the 23rd for World Book Day Australia.  I have no idea why.  If it’s going to be a global phenomenon, I would have thought that settling on one date for the whole planet (time zones notwithstanding) would have been a pretty good idea.

Howmsoever that may be, I confess that World Book Day (U.K. and Ireland) slipped past me unnoticed.  Entirely unnoticed.

I was too busy reading. Continue reading

Martin Amis’ The Pregnant Widow

If you read Martin Amis without a pencil handy, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

The kind of trouble that involves searching, later, for the really great bits.  Which is the more troublesome because you’ll get distracted by all the bits that are merely very, very good.  Which means that when you’re looking for the perfect little Amis passage on the English novel, or fellatio, say, or even on beauty, you’re going to have to read the whole book again.

Not that re-reading Martin Amis is ever a chore: but you’ll be impatient to get to a real, world-stopping zinger. Continue reading

Kingsley and Martin Amis On The Hangover

Having only recently (and narrowly) survived one, hangovers have been rather on my mind recently.  In another post, I quoted Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim on the subject of the crushing feelings that make themselves felt after an evening’s overindulgence.

Martin Amis (Kingsley’s son) described his father as ‘the laureate of the hangover’ in the memoir Experience.  Let’s have another look at the passage from Lucky Jim: Continue reading

Martin Kingsleyovich Amis

Russians are tough: particularly Russian women, since the men tend to be tough to the point of early self-destruction.  Even the language sounds tough – only Polish sounds more like a stand-up argument is in progress while in fact two lovers coo endearments at each other.  Russians have been imbued with a special and enduring kind of gloom and fatalism by their history, yet somehow they refuse to be cowed by it: ‘So we’ve had a hard few centuries?  Nitchevo.’

Martin Amis, by some mysterious process that cannot entirely be explained by the word ‘research’, has absolutely nailed the Russian collective psyche, and he does it in under two hundred pages, in a novel called House of Meetings. Continue reading

Ten Rules For Writing A Blog

I love hearing about how writers write.  Hemingway wrote standing up – by some accounts with a carpenter’s pencil (macho: very, very macho).  Terry Jones insists that he wrote Starship Titanic in the nude.  Proust wrote in bed, in a cork-lined room.  Hunter S Thompson loaded up on anything from bourbon to Benzedrine, put a Dunhill in a cigarette holder, lit up and let rip.  Kerouac wrote on rolls of paper because he believed that individual pages imposed artificial boundaries on his prose.  Martin Amis hand-writes his fiction, but used a computer for Experience.  Clive James sometimes writes in cafes and takes a nap every afternoon.  When writing a book Stephen Fry gets up progressively earlier each day to work on it and eschews shaving.  Salman Rushdie starts writing at 10:30am and doesn’t eat lunch.

I love this kind of information because it’s essentially gossip.  The last thing I’d ever do is think that any of these snippets represented the secret to successful scribbling.  They just give my impressions about writers a local habitation and a name.

It’s puzzling, therefore, to be confronted with advice relating to writing.  And when I’m confronted with rules for becoming a writer purporting to be a signpost reading ‘Fountain of the Hippocrene: 500m’, I start to twitch a bit and bite things. Continue reading