May 24Liked by Ian Leslie

Thank you. I was trying to explain my affection for Amis to my daughter (understandably unimpressed by his literary treatment of women), and failing to persuade her. This does a far better job, though probably too late for a conversion.

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May 24Liked by Ian Leslie

Thank you Ian, I think this is a lovely and fitting tribute to a special writer.

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Jun 3Liked by Ian Leslie

Aside from all his other achievements, he was, for me at least, the author of the best delayed-action joke I can remember. Five years after I read Money, I was driving through Italy with friends. I began to laugh. ‘What is it?’ they asked. I had to explain that we’d just passed a road sign - and that I now knew what Caduta Massi meant. Martin Amis could make you laugh even when you weren’t reading him.

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May 24·edited May 24

This is a great tribute.

He appeared at Hay on Wye whichever year Lionel Asbo was released. A few hours before his appearance I was in a pub and the man himself came in and sat down at the table nearest to my left hand side. He had with him a huge hardback about the Holocaust with all sorts of notes shoved into it. I assume this made up part of the research for The Zone of Interest. His delivery on stage at the event was as you describe. The only contemporary I can think of spoke as thoughtfully and knowledgeably, with what must have been thousands of quotations on the tip of their tongues to choose from, was Hitchens. It's romantic to day so isn't it, but I hope they are enjoying their catch-up in their eternal whereabouts.

I like to think I'm a reader who takes the same attitude as Amis did to writing, i.e prose over all. Much of the coverage since his death has talked about this matter of his sentences. It almost sounds silly but it's also true - simply no-one else would write those sentences. Of whom else could you say that? Whom else could you read a passage of know immediately who it was by, not by subject matter, but just by tone and cadence? In my experience, Roth, Wodehouse, Waugh, Bellow, Pynchon and Amis. Pretty good company, though I'm just a reader so what the hell do I know.

The news of his death made me pluck Dead Babies, one of I think three of his novels I haven't read, off my shelves and to the top of my pile. I'm halfway through. It isn't one of his most famous and well-regarded, but it's one of the most Amisiest. The sort of comic grotesque charcters who at once both don;t exist in real-life but who are also instantly recogniable as having their origin in people who do. Just the bits of words and phrases shoved here and there. An English lady describes Americans she hates:

'No, Skip's the streak of piss who never says anything. The bossy one. Marvell. Fucking stupid name. And that girl!' Lucy tensed her breasts and folded a hand sultrily over her mouth. '"ooooh, Indy, kin I bite yrr cack aff?"'

In London Fields - I think - there is a female character who Amis says 'wanted a Greenland of heroin.' A Greenland of heroin!! One of the darts scenes in the same novel features the observation that 'Everyone stood up. So everyone stood up.' Any other novelist would leave it at 'everyone stood up.'

Other novels of his I just didn't get. Pregnant widow. The Information. Zone of Interest. Success. Money is of course a desert island novel, by such a distance his best that you might forget the others exist. But all of them have these sentences. If you think of Experience and Inside Story as two halves of a memoir they are perfect.

I am also pleased to see that the obituaries talk a great deal about The War Against Cliche, The Moronic Inferno (a Bellow line about Chicago originally) etc which are surely as good collections of criticism and essays as exist. Not just the reviews, but the stuff about snooker and darts and other things. Another Amis touch - he describes darts player Ciff Lazarenko (a massive man) as 'a hundredweight.' Why not 'nineteen stone?' Because 'a hundredweight' is just funnier, and provides a certain cadence to the sentence. Other writers just can't do this. Amis by the way would not have approved of following cadence so closely with sentence because they both end in 'nce.' But I am a mere idiot with no more literary aspiration than to try to to read 40 novels a year if I can.

The reviews, at least to my ear, read a lot like his Dad's did. There's just some deadpan sensibility to them. Check out the Kingsley Amis collection called The Amis Collection. In it there is a review of one tome which he says is so vast that the hardback version is impossible to someone of normal musculature to hold open on their lap. I enjoy this caustic-flavoured humour woven into serious prose. Both father and son were good at that.

And before I forget, a critic who writes under the pseudonym John Self in The Critic and elsewhere is bound to have lots to say about this death. Look that up, it will be worth reading.

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"It is immoral, unpleasant, shameless, indefensible." Our literary culture has forgotten that most of our greatest novels—nearly all of them to some degree or another—follow that path.

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