13 February 2011

Martin Amis's Mouth

Martin Amis's Time's Arrow: or The Nature of the Offence  (1991) is the only book of his I've enjoyed: it's challenging, clever, and very worthwhile, which is more than I can say for some of the comments that Amis has in the past made about, say, Islam, or women writers. And last week, in a BBC2 interview on Faulks on Fiction, he came out with another statement of amazing arrogance: 'If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children's book.'

Obviously such a sentence would anger many writers of children's books, and perhaps none so much as Jane Stemp, whose book The Secret Songs was shortlisted for the Guardian children fiction award in 1998. She suffers from cerebral palsy and feels deeply insulted by Amis, and the idea of superglueing him to a wheelchair and piping children's fiction into his ear understandably appeals to her.

Amis fils (and doesn't that identifier have oddly derogatory undertones?) goes on to say that 'fiction is freedom and any restraints on that are intolerable'. This is exactly the opposite of the Oulipo group's thinking, so does he also find the writings of, for instance, Raymond Queneau and Georges Perec intolerable?

The ironic part of all this, though, is that the inflammatory statement was a digression from a conversation about John Self, the main character in Amis's Money (1884). Some have seen Self as a character who sums up the greed-driven 1980s, although to me it's a children's book: it's about Self playing with money - in between playing with himself with the help of porn mags. Once again, Amis fils is playing with his oversize ego. He's now 61. Time he grew up.

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