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The War Against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,037 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
In this collection of essays and reviews spanning twenty-five years of criticism, Martin Amis asserts the writer's obligation to battle "not just cliches of the pen but cliches of the mind and cliches of the heart." He marshals the forces of his infamous arsenal: his language, his wit, and his intolerance for suffering fools to review, consider, and in some cases, condemn. ...more
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published November 21st 2001 by Miramax Books (first published January 26th 2001)
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Jun 02, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: book-readers; rabid fans of the english language
Here's another piece about that chick who's dying in her bookstore because, according to the NYRB, she's allergic to Martin Amis. Poor girl... Well, I have my problems too, sister, but I don't have yours. I'm not allergic to Martin Amis. I am addicted to Martin Amis.

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
Jun 04, 2013 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lately, I've got criticism on my mind. Although I've been a lifelong consumer of reviews, in especial those of the projected screen and the written page—indeed, a quick estimate would have to place the ratio of content of which I've partaken solely of the review and not the material under discussion (movies loom large here) in the neighborhood of ten-to-one—I've tended to avoid collections featuring critiques of the same, perhaps of a part with my anxiety over becoming lost—and, hence, burning t ...more
Sep 06, 2014 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea what ever convinced me to stay away from Martin Amis' work for so long. I'm in awe of his self-deprecating genius for words.

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
Aug 20, 2007 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who hate cliches and are open to the prospect of war against them
Martin Amis is smarter than you.
Sep 11, 2008 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I dare you to get through 5 sentences of Amis without having to look up a word. I also dare you to show that he could have used another word.

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.

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.

I le
May 03, 2015 Alexander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite, exalted
Money initiated Marty and I’s love affair, and The War Against Cliche was the climax of our honeymoon. Martin is amiably erudite, and the range he covers—Clinton, Kasparov, Joyce, Elvis—never detract from what really counts: silky prose; dulcet lyricism; the perfect sentence. What could possibly go amiss when the nonpareil student of Nabokov tries his pen at criticism? Nothing, as this lovely anthology proves.
If there is a book on Literary Criticism funnier, starter, wittier, more vigilant, suave, original, imaginative, compulsive than this, I'll eat my computer. If I've never said this before, let me say this now, Martin Amis is a genius, his literary gifts, his energy of language unrivaled. The greatest critic of his generation.
This book is a work of genius!
May 14, 2007 Shawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the most sheerly fun book of criticism (journalistic cricitism, not scholarly stuff) I've ever read.

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."
Mar 31, 2008 Kathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays-criticism
Amis's book of essays and reviews is funny and astute. It's also full of the kind of contrarian pronouncements that I sometimes take a secret delight in. Here, for instance, Amis dares to hint that nobody really reads Ulysses anymore:

"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
Sep 04, 2008 ChunderHog rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The great thing about starting a "war against cliche" is that it's so catchy. Why write a book about how to avoid cliches when you can let loose the dogs of war and lay down some shock and awe.

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
Frederick Gault
Mar 21, 2015 Frederick Gault rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-reviews
serious thoughtful reviews where Amis is careful to divorce the author and his or her flaws from the art. Deeply satisfying. Amis is not content to skewer something he doesn't like, he holds it up wriggling on the pin as he takes a magnifying glass to burn off the flailing limbs. It helps that I agree with most of what he writes, except for Nabokov's Lolita, which I still find just plain icky.
Tim Miles
Amis is a really terrific book reviewer; acid about any error, able to pinpoint a book's strengths, well versed in the historical. Highlights here include his ability to explain J.G. Ballard and Elmore Leonard's talents, the panning of Hannibal and dissection of a middling humor anthology, an enthusiastic endorsement of Underworld that's still online. The only weak essay is his attempt to explain Jane Austen's appeal-he quotes some passages, doesn't really make any claims about how we get involv ...more
Jul 11, 2010 Allycks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Reading Amis in essay-review form is a treat. The familiar wry buzz of his voice is a pleasant companion, the ironic lilt of carefree name-dropping (example: "Palimpsest... pronounced with full Sitwellian delicacy"... eh, OK, let's check google on that one) raises curiosity more often than hackles, his superior learning and culture come across as the result of a life-long passion for both reading and the writer's craft. In The War Against Clichè (a collection of book reviews and literature-based ...more
Jan 04, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a novel junkie, it took me a while to get started on this book of book reviews recommended by my fiance. Now I can't stop reading it. Of course I feel so ignorant, since Amis is a genius who knows a lot about everything. But at least I am learning a little bit about some things from him. His reviews are more like essays on the topic about which the book is written and it is totally unnecessary to have read any of the books to follow his logic and thoughs. It's also fun to read in the same way ...more
Maggie Rainey-Smith
My first reaction to this impressive work is that Martin Amis has chosen mainly male writers to review and although not all the reviews are glowing, the most glowing are reserved for his favourite male writers. The book commands respect because the reviews are themselves so well written. Amis avoids cliché and so doesn’t just preach, he practices.
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
Mar 22, 2008 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Read poolside at the Arizona Inn. The first essay I turned to, about Elmore Leonard, was one of the strongest, though they are all superb. A great book to just pick up from time to time and read a random selection. This is my first exposure to M. Amis, and I am extremely envious of his writing flair and natural talent. Some of the earlier essays date from his early 20s!
Aug 02, 2007 Lorraine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funandeasyreads
Hilarious acute and acutely hilarious. Say what you want about Amis's stands, this guy is a good writer. The style here is great. It's funny -- the man definitely has a good head for writing in the idiom of the book reviewed -- and a huge sensitivity to language. Better than all of his fiction in my opinion...
Jul 10, 2012 S. added it
I've been milking this one for a long time, and I'm sad to see it finally come to an end. Amis teaches more about writing in one throwaway critique of a writer on his use of "Elegant Variation" (needless synonyms in an attempt at stylistic originality) than most how-to hucksters do in a whole book.
Jan 07, 2008 Sean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
there are some really good essays in here and i like the way amis organizes them. the last section deals with his personal thoughts on what he believes to be the best of the best english novels of all time. he also burns some critics for their praise of novels he believes to be rubbish.
Ben Eldridge
Jun 13, 2007 Ben Eldridge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like reading engaging and hilarious literary reviews.
This is one of those books that would have me chuckling away at night as I sat up in bed reading.
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.
Nov 30, 2007 Erik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Martin Amis is probably a better critic than he is a writer (as many people before me have pointed out). This collection of essays and reviews is pretty great, especially when he tears somebody a new one in his very well mannered, British gentleman way.
M. D.  Hudson
Aug 30, 2008 M. D. Hudson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marvelous collection of lit essays. The central pieces on poet Philip Larkin are my favorite. Amis gets trashed a lot for being mean, but I like 'em mean.
May 03, 2008 Greg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Amis is sharp and a pleasure to read. I got this book as a random gift, otherwise I wouldn't start with a collection of decade-old book reviews.
Feb 08, 2015 GONZA rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mi annovero tra coloro che amano i libri e credo che per noi cultori della materia, poche cose siano migliori di un libro che parla di libri, come in questo caso. Martin Amis si lega a filo doppio con suo padre e con Eco tra coloro i quali scrivono migliori saggi piuttosto che romanzi e questa raccolta delle sue recensioni per "The Guardian" su alcuni dei "mostri sacri" del 1900 é un libro fantastico. Mi ha dato la possibilitá di scoprire nuovi libri, quelli di Rushdie, Capote e Bellow tanto per ...more
Nov 14, 2007 Henry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it, he is anti bland, everything he writes is interesting, although the young fogey occasionally shines through.
Aug 20, 2007 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terry Eagelton might be disappointed with him and his father but I liked this collection of essays.
Dec 28, 2007 Leonardo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
30 years of book reviews. Some of the most literary vicious and clever essays out there.
I like Martin Amis's nonfiction better than his fiction, basically.
Mar 10, 2007 Nat rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Kai
Very enjoyable to dip into.
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  • Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism
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  • Finding a Form
  • Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere
  • United States: Essays 1952-1992
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  • It All Adds Up: From the Dim Past to the Uncertain Future
  • Sex and the River Styx
  • Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews
  • Less Than One: Selected Essays
  • Lectures on Literature
  • Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture
  • A User's Guide to the Millennium: Essays and Reviews
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
More about Martin Amis...

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