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The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  478 ratings  ·  31 reviews
A collection of essays on America by the author of London Fields, Money and Yellow Dog.

At the age of ten, when Martin Amis spent a year in Princeton, New Jersey, he was excited and frightened by America. As an adult he has approached that confusing country from many arresting angles, and interviewed its literati, filmmakers, thinkers, opinion-makers, leaders and crackpots

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Hardcover, 208 pages
Published January 19th 1987 by Viking Books (first published 1986)
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(showing 1-30 of 916)
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Anthony Vacca
God, is Martin Amis's journalism good. In this first non-fiction collection (if we do as an embarrassed Martin would like and forget about Invasion of the Space Invaders: I read it and thought it was adorable) Amis tackles, as Saul Bellow deemed it, the Moronic Inferno, a.ka. The United States of America. In a brief introduction, our author makes no claim for the essays that follow standing as any real uniform say on the U.S., but instead suggests that the reader favors the writings as brief sta ...more
MJ Nicholls
A slim and sedulous selection of Marty's early-80s US travels. His status as an author and critic has grown considerably since 1986, so this collection lacks any relevance or substance, contemporary-wards, but there are good pieces. Bellow, Updike, Roth, Mailer, Vonnegut, Capote, Heller. They're all here. (And all dead). *

Marty's non-fiction output is rather thin on the ground. Apart from the tremendous collection The War Against Cliché we could use more articles and opinions from Britain's more
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Pablo
One of the best compilation of Amis essays I've read, full of sassy quotes! I don't know how he gets to get away with some of the stuff he writes. I think maybe because most of the time he's technically just quoting, like:

"Elvis's family were hillbillies, 'a deracinated and restless race'. Elvis's father Vernon, 'greedy and stupid', 'a dullard and a donkey', was clearly a fine representative of the breed. Elvis was 'a silly little country boy' who just happened to be able 'to sing like a nigger'
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Shane Eide
www.emergenthermit.com

America is the subject of this collection of essays by the novelist, Martin Amis. Oscillating between warm affection and perfectly timed quips, Amis brings us close (or close enough to say something amusing) to the worlds of Hugh Hefner, Brian De Palma, Gore Vidal and Gloria Steinem.

Hefner gets off easy, being a relatively easy target already, as Amis says after hearing what an average day in the old guy’s life is like, ‘That’s four movie’s a day.’ Norman Mailer’s career, o
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matt

I was irritated by the title until I realized he was quoting Saul Bellow...
Ron
Amis always produces remarkable literary criticism, and he offers some insight into many events from this time period (the late 70s and early to mid 80s), but many of his insights are now undercut by better understanding in anthropology and evolutionary biology. The book is a product of its times, and is still great reading in terms of his signature style. He takes down the right wing and a few over-rated hacks like Mailer and Roth, though he fails to do the same with similarly over-rated author ...more
Dan
Although all the essays here are on American subjects, they were initially written for readers of newspapers like The Observer and The Sunday Telegraph , and thus for a British audience. In that context, one would expect the essays to reflect some cultural bias; indeed, insofar as Amis, a British writer, was writing for a British reader, a certain amount of cultural bias would be appropriate. However, as most of the subjects Amis writes about depict some of the less flattering aspects of Amer ...more
J
Well, this one took a LONG time to read and that was with me skipping parts. I wanted to like this book more than I did. After all, these United States can stand with the best of them in the moron category. Amis is a good writer or, at least, I like his writing. That this is a collection of articles he wrote for various publications makes for a disjointed read and, frankly, I had little or no interest in several of his subjects. Saul Bellow? Gore Vidal? John Updike? Norman Mailer? Don't care. Th ...more
Valissa

An amusing, but seriously dated, look at America and American culture. Hilarious, especially if you are looking for book reviews on Vonnegut, Capote, Vidal, and Mailer. Or get a different viewpoint on Claus von Bulow (I finally get that Robin Williams joke) or Elvis. Ok, I had the same opinion of Elvis, but like I said, dated.

Nothing like a witty British writer to make American culture shallow and slimy . . . actually, pointing out the obvious shouldn't count as shocking information.
Peter
Read this before delving into the works of post-Vietnam American literature. Bellow survives, and the essays of Vidal, but the rest (Vonnegut, Mailer, Heller, others) is thin gruel indeed.

For me the primo, top shelf, take no prisoners essays were not the essays on US authors—rather, they were the essay on Playboy and the essay on Evangelicals. And these alone were worth the price. Amis’ witty and careful dismantling of the Hefner era Playboy empire is cathartic and yet gives way to foreboding i
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Al Young
Amis is perhaps the best wordsmith on the planet. As much as I do enjoy his novels, I possibly like his nonfiction even more. Inferno is a collection of articles Amis wrote in the late 70s and 1980s for magazines and newspapers like The Guardian and The Observer. It is mostly interviews and book reviews, but Amis put it together in such a way that it fits thematically.

So, you get Amis's takes on the great writers of our time (Bellow, Vonnegut, Heller, Vidal, Capote, Mailer, Updike) and some of
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Matt
Dated [there's a chapter called "making sense of Aids"] musings and interviews on/with America by Martin Amis, mostly republished from the Observer Magazine and Vanity Fair. It includes savagings of Hugh Hefner, William Burroughs, and Norman Mailer, who really comes off as a prize fucker. The Steven Spielberg interview is natty, too. And there's a profile of Truman Capote, whom Amis, thanks to having what we journalists like to call "access," gets to interview on his sick bed. I skipped the chap ...more
Matthew Newton
Interesting and generally enjoyable - a mix of literary reviews and more general social commentary/essays.
Charles Martin
Amis is a literary curiosity, seemingly reviled and exalted in equal measure for his garrulous prose, but I found him to be utterly superb in this collection of journalistic pieces and literary critique. Here, the tenacity of his prose is, uncannily, redoubled by the tenacity of his incisive surveillance of American culture circa the 1980s. There, Amis circumnavigates a torpid ocean of surreal delights, strange fixations (or 'fixities', to mimic Martin's amenable Amis-ness) and solipsistic moral ...more
Jim
The articles and stories may be from the late eighties, but Amis can write powerfully and dramatically when he wants. I remembered some of the images and arguments from the Aids article from when I first read this probably twenty years ago, which is quite a testament to his reportage. I’m picking my way through this selection, and while I started by thinking I’d read one or two articles, I’m impressed with the style enough to think I might now read them all.
Chiffchaff Birdy
I found some of the articles interesting but many were dated, in that I had no real idea who the subjects were. Amis's writing is witty and well observed however.
Dave
Amis works best as a hired hand; his wordplay continues to prance around the margins, but his often noxious biases and tired jokes are balanced by the demands of the limited word-count. This early volume is much more enjoyable in its eclecticism, not to mention far more prescient, than Visiting Mrs. Nabokov, and page-by-page of a higher quality than The War Against Cliche. I still don't understand his success as a novelist...
R.
Purchased at Barking Dog Books and Art in Marietta, Ohio, on August 11th, 2006. With tax, it came to $5.35 - original retail price in 1987 was $16.95. This is a Washington County Public Library copy.

***

Suggested readings: "The Killings in Atlanta", "In Hefnerland", "Double Jeopardy: Making Sense of AIDS" and "Brian De Palma: The Movie Brute"...as well as any and all of the author profiles (esp. Saul Bellow).
Eric Cartier
An excellent collection of essays, reviews and articles concerning American politicians, icons, writers and filmmakers. As always, Amis dazzles with stylistic tricks, sharp wit and profound insights.

The best bit: my used copy, signed by Amis, cost three bucks!

"Why not address the mysterious circumstance of being, and say what it's like to be alive at this time, on this planet?"
Eric Hines
The book isn't terrible, but Amis just isn't as smart as he thinks he is. This is more or less a young writer feeling the effects of success, and it's pretty much spoiled him already. The running assumption is that you care what he thinks because he thinks it. I don't and Amis seem unwilling or unable to do much to persuade.
Kelvin
Martin Amis....is not a Baudriallardian when it comes to the States. Awe, but no gee-shucks-wonder, and that critical eye comes in handy when teasing insights out of the flimsiest of essay subjects, or areas where his interest is seemingly predicated by editorial dictates as opposes authorial swagger.
Sert Sayah
A Brit novelist's light essays & interviews on the U.S. and its authors. Good fun to grumble at his limey judgments and tone if you like the interviewee, or share in Amis's disdain and you're looking back at the 1980's. It is very good writing.
Edward A.
Very uneven. Pieces on Palm Beach and Norman Mailer are wonderful. Other times it feels like he doesn't get American phenomena like Ronald Reagan, Joan Didion. OK, not all Americans got Ronald Reagan either
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Chris O'Brien
I picked up this book somewhere along the way, years ago, and finally broke down and read it. It's like a strange roadtrip through the early 80s by someone overly obsessed with Saul Bellow. But also amusing at times.
Blake Nelson
This is my favorite Martin Amis book. But i am just starting EXPERIENCE which looks really good as well. I think his non-fiction is better than his fiction, but i think i am in the minority opinion on that.
Heather
No one is quite as cutting and astute as Amis when it comes to pre-1990s American culture. His profile of Reagan is spot-on, and his Truman Capote essay uncomfortable yet engaging.
Cynthia Karl
A collection of essays that Amis wrote in the 1980's - several were interesting to read especially for the reader who was an adult in the 1980's.
April Sanders
Admired by Christopher Hitchens and worthy of it.The best of the British education system in the liberal arts.
Johannes Stellwagen
Great snapshot of 70s America.
Highlight: Influence of Christian Fundamentalism on the Reagan campaign.
Keith Miller
The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America by Martin Amis (1991)
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Martin Amis is an English novelist, essayist and short story writer. His works include the novels Money, London Fields and The Information.

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
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More about Martin Amis...
Money Time's Arrow London Fields The Rachel Papers The Information

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“America is proud of what it does to its writers, the way it breaks and bedevils them, rendering them deluded or drunken or dead by their own hands. To overpower its tender spirits makes America feel tough. Careers are generally short.” 10 likes
“Probably all writers are at some point briefly under the impression that they are in the forefront of disintegration and chaos, that they are among the first to live and work after things fall apart. ” 8 likes
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