Kingsley Amis interviewed about Martin Amis

I ask, “Was Martin bookish as a child?”

“Not a bit. He read nothing but science fiction till he was fifteen or sixteen. I didn’t think he was university material.”

“How do you find his novels?”

“I must say I find them pretty difficult to get on with.”

“Is it their subject matter?”

“I really don’t know what their subject matter is. It’s his style. I can’t get to the end of a paragraph. It’s too ornate. It reminds me of what someone said about Kipling–‘bombarded with felicities.’ It’s very important to write a dull sentence from time to time–such as, ‘She felt so weary she lay down and fell asleep on the spot.’ You don’t want to bombard the reader with felicities. It goes back to one of Martin’s heros–Nabokov. I lay it all at his door–that constant demonstrating of his command of English. Martin can be the funniest writer, and I admire his intelligence and discipline, but there’s a terrible compulsive vividness in his style.”

“Is this perhaps an American influence?”

He looks as though some bad fish needs taking out. “Martin’s fallen in bad company. He once remarked to me, ‘Motivation in the novel has more or less had its day.’ I said, ‘Oh, really.’ It’s all those ideas about fiction–they’re fatal to a novel. Martin says, ‘I want people to read me twice.’ Well, it’s got to be able to be understood for its significance the first time around, as it stands.”

“Do you think he’s reacting against you?”

“I think he’d write the same way whether or not I existed.”

“Did you ever try giving him some, uh, helpful hints?”

“Whenever I walked into a room where he was writing, he would put his hand over the paper in the typewriter.”

“Have you ever had this conversation with him?”


Charles Michener, “Britain’s Brat of Letters”
Esquire, January 1987

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