5/24/2023 0 Comments
In the blizzard of obits, testimonials, and encomia following the terribly premature passing of Martin Amis, a lot of very good writing has pointed to a lot of other very good writing. I’ve been wasting away the better part of a day enjoying some of the connections. In the online publication UnHerd (thank you, Robert Anasi), Terry Eagleton takes Amis (& Co.) down a peg for failing to develop anything resembling a viable alternative to the political perspectives he parodied, critiqued, or denounced (The liberal complacency of Martin Amis). In that piece, Eagleton references a hilariously mordant takedown of the JFK legacy by Amis’s dear friend and partner in slime Christopher Hitchens (If JFK had lived much longer – available in The Free Library). The occasion of the Hitchens piece is the publication of historian Robert Dallek's bio, An Unfinished Life. The tone is pitch perfect:
A widely shared opinion on Amis is the excellence of his nonfiction, the memoir, essays, and reviews. This sends me back to his collection, The War Against Cliché, wherein we find abundant evidence of the old Saul Bellow observation that writers are readers moved to emulation. Amis analyzes dispassionately, but admiration, even envy, percolates subtextually. We learn, for instance, from Amis’s brief survey of the William S. Burroughs catalogue, that halfway through The Wild Boys, “there’s forty solid pages of rectal mucus …” Rectal mucus. Can you imagine the paroxysms of shoulder-shaking Beavis-and-Butthead snickers that phrase produced in Amis? And we learn in the title essay that the new (1986) edition of Joyce’s Ulysses corrects this seemingly minor error in the Circe section:
which reverts to the author’s original intention, the sublime
“Nes. Yo.” is my favorite line of the day.