Over the past couple years I’ve had the Martin Amis fever real bad. I started out liking his pop, Kingsley, whose Lucky Jim (1954) is required reading for anyone born after World War II who likes really funny novels, then got into Martin via his psychotically hilarious Money (1984), the best novel of the Eighties. It’s been heating up from there. There are many novelists I love on my shelves, but right now if I had to take one person’s books to prison, they would be his: there is nobody smarter or funnier or sadder or meaner or cooler writing fiction in English, not since Bellow (or maybe Twain) died. David Foster Wallace is the nearest American equivalent, and he only got close.
Amis got his start at 24, because people wanted to see how bad the novel of famous Kingsley’s son would be. Turned out he was good.
His prose has always sounded “young,” because he’s a funny prick with a poet’s relish for the language, but Amis is getting older. He just turned 60; his best friend of forty years, Christopher Hitchens, is dying of cancer; and he’s now written twelve novels. A reliably engaging guest on Charlie Rose, during the latest interview (from August) he’s able to dodge Charlie’s inane, overabundant questions, and get to improvising brilliant things about terrible things like death and wonderful things like writing. He probably practices in the mirror, but still. Enjoy the video here.
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