By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
It’s pretty clear that Amis doesn’t like England much at the moment, which may be why he’s planning to spend the next year in Uruguay, together with his half-American, half-Uruguayan wife, the writer Isabel Fonseca. There’s a philistine flattening and leveling going on, he says about England, and hints that it may account for the savage reception of his novel.
“It seems to me that what people want from the novel is a sort of across-the-table, 50-50, I’m-okay-you’re-okay exchange of views. What they really don’t like is a high style. That makes them bristle. When I read I want to be told something. I want to be shaken up and feel that I’m being addressed from a certain distance and even from a certain height. But that would be a humiliation for them.
“I can already see this egalitarian P.C. thing souring on people,” Amis continues. “Because what did it tell you? It told you that because of the strength of your feelings you were the equal of everyone else. My feelings are just as important as your feelings or indeed Shakespeare’s feelings. And so you’re proud for a bit about your feelings, but then it dawns on you that it doesn’t empower you to do anything else, being equal in your feelings, and you find that, yet again, you’re unequal in the talents.”
Which, of course, is one of Amis’ great themes. His third novel was called Success, but several others could just as easily have been titled Failure.
Amis’ last three books — Experience, a highly praised memoir, The War Against Cliché, a collection of his reviews (everyone loves Amis’ reviews), and Koba the Dread, an essay on the crimes of Stalin that was widely mocked for being overly earnest and naive — kept him from fiction for the best part of a decade. In the meantime, fiction moved on. Of late, all the novelistic noise has been made by writers at least a decade younger — Zadie Smith, Monica Ali, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen and the rest, all of whom one can just about imagine being invited to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show(Franzen actually was, and turned it down). One cannot imagine such an invitation being extended to Amis.
“It has its poignant side, things getting stranger,” he says. “As I put it as early as The Information, the writer and the human being goes from saying hi to saying bye. There’s a lot of poignancy in seeing these young people in the street, who look so different, and yet their expressions are ageless, eternal — and I find myself very touched indeed. I’m not going to be watching them for thatmuch longer. It’s a valedictory mode. I don’t think you become a marginal, blimpish figure, you just see it from a slightly alien perspective.”