John's Reviews > Lionel Asbo: State of England

Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis
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Jun 30, 12

bookshelves: fiction
Read on June 29, 2012

A Comedic Look at Unexpected Fame and Fortune in Modern Britain

Martin Amis’ latest novel, “Lionel Asbo: State of England”, is a dark comedic look at the vicissitudes of fame and fortune in a United Kingdom that is but a pale shadow of its former imperial past. Amis’ novel is a hilarious comedy of errors which pokes fun at class distinctions, even as Amis offers readers sympathetic, if rather flawed, characters like his main protagonist, Lionel Asbo (who has legally changed his name to Asbo; “Anti-Social Behavioural Order”), whom we encounter as he finds himself the unexpected recipient of financial good fortune, newly released from prison, and vows to turn his life around, by pursuing “anger management therapy”. Lionel is a veritable force-of-nature, whose larger than life persona stands in stark contrast to his decent, honest nephew Desmond, or “Des”, whose sole major vice is a sexually charged, romantic relationship with his thirty nine-year old grandmother – and Lionel’s mother - Granny Grace. Amis builds up the thin structure of a plot in which the lives of Lionel and Des are depicted as those on different, if still parallel, courses. Lionel gets himself engaged to celebrity musician/poet “Threnody” whose attitudes and manners should remind observant readers of the Spice Girls and Amy Winehouse. Desmond falls deeper in love with his long-time love Dawn, gets her pregnant, marries her, and spends the rest of her pregnancy in relatively domestic bliss that is far more tranquil than his uncle’s. Renowned for his often cynical depictions of human behavior, Amis provides readers instead with sympathetic, often dignified, portraits of leading protagonists like Lionel and Desmond. Amis demonstrates anew why he is among the United Kingdom’s most important writers of fiction; a most engaging storyteller who writes crackling great prose, especially with regards to dialogue. Without question, “Lionel Asbo: State of England” is yet another great literary trek that both long-time and new fans of Martin Amis will be willing to take.
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