The War Against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000
Like John Updike, Martin Amis is the pre-eminent novelist-critic of his generation. The War Against Cliché is a selection of his reviews and essays over the past quarter-century. It contains pieces on Cervantes, Milton, Donne, Coleridge, Jane Austen, Dickens, Kafka, Philip Larkin, Joyce, Waugh, Lowry, Nabokov, F. R. Leavis, V. S. Pritchett, William Burroughs, Anthony Burge...more
Those of my Booksters who have known me too long now are aware that I have a very serious and embarrassing Martin Amis Problem. It reminds one of youthful compulsions towards hedonism, vice, wildly inappropriate men, and all those th...more
These essays and reviews cover a large span of years but retain the same silky-sounding tone throughout.
Who are Amis' personal gods: Nabokov and Bellow (and possibly Joyce). It's a good list, and these authors continually crop up, and their influence is palpable in his own style, particularly in the case of Nabokov. The shining, serene sentence is what seem...more
I think Amis is the most incisive critic I know. And a master of verbal logistics. And someone with sentiment, and unabashed sensitivity. How can you skewer your subject (target) so deftly and yet be so soft?
Oh. And anyone that likes to think, to juxtapose, to discover, to parry... you'll be laughing out loud at least once per page.
Shaped a lot of my current feelings about the relationship between reader and writer, and the manner in which a reader can claim his or her own portion of the literary conversation.
Quote to live by: "All writing is a campaign against cliche."
"What, nowadays, is the constituency of Ulysses? Who reads it? Who curls up with Ulysses? It is thoroughly studied, it is exhaustively unzipped and unseamed, it is much deconstructed. But who reads Ulysses for the hell of it? I know a poet who carries Ulysses around...more
Since we're going to war and all's fair in love and war, we need to get some things straight. First, let's remember what we've learned from the movies.
1) You're very likely to survive any battle in any war, unless you show someone a picture of your sweetheart back home.
2) All G.I.s know how to make a sti...more
Maybe I'm a sucker for the Brits but Amis has this stern yet satiric and subtly poetic take on contemporary literature which is second to none. There is a sense of finality to the things he says, in the sense of tough authority and savagely on-point wit.
Just look at his face on the cover: there's this "you didn't REALLY think you could pull one over on me, did you?" quality which would either be an immediate turn-off to a prospective reader or a confirmation of his taste, wit, and learning.
In describing why Philip Larkin is a better poet than novelist, Amis reviews two of Larkin’s early novels and in particular looks at A Girl in Winter...more
His review of 'Hannibal' is great. Right on the money.
He has such a skill with the written word, and this book shows that even the reviewing format can be a dazzling platform in the right hands.
This collection gathers a wide variety of literary reviews from 1977-2000 (though the majority of them were composed during the 70's and 80's while Amis was writing for the New Statesman) which provide curious readers with a marvelous resource in the realm of contem...more
Like many young intellectuals, Amis as a young critic is more in love with his own cleverness than with the author or celebrity he examines. As he gets older, he is more t...more
The Guardian writes that "all his critics have noted what Kingsley Amis [his father] complained of as a 'terrible compulsive vividness in his style... that constant demonstrating of his command of English'; and it's true that the Amis-ness of Amis will be recog...more
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Those forces – incomparably the most potent in our culture – have gone on pushing. And they are now running up against a natural barrier. Some citadels, true, have proved stormable. You can become rich without having any talent (via the scratchcard and the rollover jackpot). You can become famous without having any talent (by abasing yourself on some TV nerdathon; a clear improvement on the older method of simply killing a celebrity and inheriting the aura). But you cannot become talented without having any talent. Therefore, talent must go.
Literary criticism, now almost entirely confined to the universities, thus moves against talent by moving against the canon. Academic preferment will not come from a respectful study of Wordsworth’s poetics; it will come from a challenging study of his politics – his attitude toward the poor, say, or his unconscious ‘valorization’ of Napoleon; and it will come still faster if you ignore Wordsworth and elevate some (justly) neglected contemporary, by which process the canon may be quietly and steadily sapped. A brief consultation of the Internet will show that meanwhile, everyone has become a literary critic – or at least, a book-reviewer.”