So, we probably need to get a few things straight if we’re talking about Martin Amis. I haven’t started reading the book yet, but I’ll spread out my general thinking-about-Mart grundrisses here.
First up, I like his novels. He’s more fun and interesting than his contemporaries. One of the best here and now.
We’ll qualify that. I don’t think it’s an impressive time or place to be a big man:
1) We’re at the arse end of the novel. tbh after I publish mine, there probably won’t be that much left to do with the form, so if anyone else out there’s written one & you’re dropping after me, might be best to rethink (maybe turn it into a tapestry? Suspect that will be the new glamour form).
2) I don’t think Britain in particular has been in great shape post-1950 or so. Minor writers abound.
So a strong, limited talent, who looks better or worse than he is depending how you squint at him.
A word on his limits. I’d say – to put it in a old-fashioned way – he has trouble reconciling the general and particular. he’s very good at the specific & the grotesque. It’s not just the characters he draws – he also likes lists, strange words, odd names, lots of environmental detail. Not terrific on visual images, but metaphorically inventive. He’s an absolutely rotten generaliser, though, a rotten generaliser who just can’t stop pontificating and pronouncing. He tries to shift it off onto his characters, but you know he just loves telling you HOW IT IS. Sometimes it’s funny; sometimes it’s a bit airline-peanuts; sometimes it’s a flat bore.
The vice, as ever, is related to a virtue – the confidence behind the opining bolsters or drives his style. Really, it’s just what you’d call ‘having a strong voice’. But it also cripples his range. He doesn’t really have an imagination for other people because he want to think of HOW-IT-IS things to say about them as soon as he’s imagined them.
His characters tend to come from a limited palette – clever oik, stupid oik, 2-D cruel posh boy, supersexygirl, sexygirl w/ degree (it seems to be built from a simple arithmetic of class/sex/brains) – and they tend to turn out either HOW-IT-IS maxims or dinner-party gobbets from the last issue of New Scientist when given space on the page.
The lust for HOW-IT-ISism leaves him very prone to ‘men drive like this, women drive like this’ essentialism.
Ah. Yes. Women. New post maybe?