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Nutmegged

Frank Kermode: The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 by Martin Amis., 10 May 2001

The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 506 pp., £20, April 2001, 0 224 05059 1
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... can be left till later, if only a little later. Clichés are infallible symptoms of used thinking. Martin Amis has always wanted to be a good writer and he has got what he wanted. He early acquired a habit of vigilance, of stopping clichés at the frontier, and that habit couldn’t easily be broken. He is one of the few critics who trouble, even in a ...

As a returning lord

John Lanchester, 7 May 1987

Einstein’s Monsters 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 127 pp., £5.95, April 1987, 0 224 02435 3
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... from ‘Thinkability’, the introduction to Einstein’s Monsters, and is, in a way, a typical Martin Amis paragraph: Every morning, six days a week, I leave the house and drive a mile to the flat where I work. For seven or eight hours I am alone. Each time I hear a sudden whining in the air or one of the more atrocious impacts of city life, or play ...

Anti-Dad

Adam Mars-Jones: Amis Resigns, 21 June 2012

Lionel Asbo: State of England 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 288 pp., £18.99, June 2012, 978 0 224 09620 1
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... To rate his achievement at its least, Martin Amis has been for upwards of 25 years the By Appointment purveyor of classic sentences to his generation. In Money (1984) he achieved something that was as much of a breakthrough for our insular literature as Bellow’s had been in The Adventures of Augie March (1953) for American writing, a manner electric, impure and unimpressed, except sometimes by itself, mixing refracted slang with swaggeringly artificial cadence ...

J’Accuzi

Frank Kermode, 24 July 1986

The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 208 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 224 02385 3
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... Martin Amis begins this collection of ‘left-handed’ (i.e. journalistic) pieces by deploying two standard topoi. The first is the modesty topos, duly described by Curtius, though under the tendentious title of ‘affected modesty’: ‘I am inadequate to the subject; I haven’t really done enough work, etc ...

Love among the Cheeses

Lidija Haas: Life with Amis and Ayer, 8 September 2011

The House in France: A Memoir 
by Gully Wells.
Bloomsbury, 307 pp., £16.99, June 2011, 978 1 4088 0809 2
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... What would it have been like to fall in love with the young Martin Amis, ‘the most fascinating man’ Gully Wells had ever met? ‘Only the most awful clichés,’ she tells us, ‘could possibly do justice to the way I felt.’ He was ‘very funny and very clever’; ‘he made me laugh and told me things I didn’t know ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Amis Biz, 19 April 2001

... Martin Amis’s memoir, Experience, was recently published in paperback. The banned ads have returned to the Underground, now that the offending image of the boy Amis ‘smoking’ in short trousers – never mind that the cigarette was unlit – has been overlaid by a minimalist design of red and white text stamped on a wash of black, intimating No Logo chic ...

High on His Own Supply

Christopher Tayler: Amis Recycled, 11 September 2003

Yellow Dog 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 340 pp., £16.99, September 2003, 0 224 05061 3
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... Reviewing a new edition of Ulysses in 1986, Martin Amis had a few reservations about the book’s popularity with scholarly intermediaries. James Joyce, he concluded, ‘could have been the most popular boy in the school, the funniest, the cleverest, the kindest. He ended up with a more ambiguous distinction: he became the teacher’s pet ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode, 24 February 1994

The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... liked cricket, bridge (with, among others, the ‘Machiavellian’ David Sylvester), chess (with Martin Amis, who felt humbly as if he always had, or anyway always ought to have, the black pieces). Women found him instantly attractive. And he rode a motor bike. The illustrations here are more than adequate reminders of his dash and industry. On the ...

Do you think he didn’t know?

Stefan Collini: Kingsley Amis, 14 December 2006

The Life of Kingsley Amis 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 996 pp., £25, November 2006, 0 224 06227 1
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... Giving offence has become an unfashionable sport, but Kingsley Amis belongs in its hall of fame, one of the all-time greats. When Roger Micheldene, the central character in his 1963 novel, One Fat Englishman, is warned that he’s about to say something he’ll be sorry for, he replies, ‘those are the only things I really enjoy saying’ – and there isn’t much sign that Micheldene or his creator did feel sorry afterwards ...

Nouvelle Vague

Anthony Quinn, 7 January 1993

The Conclave 
by Michael Bracewell.
Secker, 339 pp., £8.99, October 1992, 0 436 20020 1
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Cock & Bull 
by Will Self.
Bloomsbury, 310 pp., £9.99, October 1992, 0 7475 1274 4
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... who simply cannot resist underlining his point. The sentimental progress of suburban aesthete Martin Knight is weighed down by his creator’s lofty annotations, as when the poor sap first goes window-shopping: ‘This walk was crucial to Martin’s development. It instilled in him, for the first time, the realisation ...

To Kill All Day

Frank Kermode: Amis’s Terrible News, 17 October 2002

Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 306 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 224 06303 0
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... is ordinarily used of sentences that stop before they end, and grammarians, from Ben Jonson to Martin Amis, normally disapprove of such sentences; but aposiopesis may be allowed as a structural feature, as when Yeats ends his ‘In Memory of Major Robert Gregory’ by claiming that he cannot continue his roll call of Gregory’s friends because ‘a ...

In reverse

Frank Kermode, 12 September 1991

Time’s Arrow 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 176 pp., £12.99, September 1991, 0 224 03093 0
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... however absurd, normally is presented to us, even, so far as I know, in Science Fiction. Martin Amis’s new novel has to do with a looking-glass world – its timeflow, as the title implies, is White Queen-wise, backwards, or professes to be. It remembers what happened the week after next, but it also remembers, at least in general terms, what ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Dream On, 27 June 2002

... But then again, it may just be that in a past life I helped sell rhinos to the ancient Greeks. Martin Amis, whatever he may have been in a past life, is currently turning into Gyles Brandreth. Blazoned across the Daily Telegraph on 13 June were pictures of the eminent novelist in sports kit that David Beckham might not be ashamed to be seen ...

Be interesting!

John Lanchester: Martin Amis, 6 July 2000

Experience 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 401 pp., £18, May 2000, 0 224 05060 5
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... of the other type (and his intensely focused Patrimony is somewhere in the middle). Kingsley Amis’s riotous Memoirs are lifelike, too much so for some. Terence Kilmartin once said that the book was ‘fantastically idle’ – which was part of the point. In a sense, it’s logical for a novelist to choose this second course, since a novelist more or ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Dead Babies, 16 November 2000

... to place some higher example before the world. Carp would have been appalled by the goings-on in Martin Amis’s Dead Babies – all kinds of sex, all kinds of drugs, all kinds of violence, if little or no arson – which was written a mere fifty years later, and has just been adapted for the cinematograph and directed by William Marsh. It’s due for ...

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