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By Martin Amis
Published by Knopf Publishing Group on 2018-02-06
FICTION / Historical, REFERENCE
A sharp, witty collection from the prolific writer of fiction, memoir, and acerbic essays.
In his latest work of nonfiction, Amis (The Zone of Interest, 2014, etc.) gathers an enticing miscellany of short pieces—reportage, political and cultural commentary, book reviews, and personal reflections—published during the past 30 years, amended with occasional footnotes and postscripts and, writes the author, given “a great deal of polishing.” In an affectionate piece on The King’s English, his ...
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Also by Martin Amis fiction The Rachel Papers Dead Babies Success Other People Money Einstein's Monsters London Fields Time's Arrow The Information Night Train Heavy Water and Other Stories Yellow Dog House of Meetings The Pregnant Widow Lionel Asbo The Zone of Interest nonfiction Invasion of the Space Invaders The Moronic Inferno Visiting Mrs. Nabokov Experience The War Against Clich? Koba the Dread The Second Plane
The Rub of Time
RT I N A M I S The Rub of Time bellow, nabokov, hitchens, travolta, trump essays and reportage, 1994'2017 Alfred A. Knopf New York 2018
this is a borzoi book published by alfred a. knopf Copyright ? 2017 by Martin Amis All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Originally published in hardcover in Great Britain by Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Vintage Publishing, a division of Penguin Random House Ltd., London, in 2017. www.aaknopf.com Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC. The page following the index constitutes an extension of the copyright page. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Amis, Martin. Title: The rub of time : Bellow, Nabokov, Hitchens, Travolta, Trump: essays and reportage, 1994'2017 / by Martin Amis. Description: First edition. | New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. | 'This is a Borzoi book? | Includes index. Identifiers: LCCN 2017017321 | ISBN 9781400044535 (hardcover) ISBN 9780525520252 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Reportage literature, American. | BISAC: LITERARY COLLECTIONS / Essays. | LITERARY CRITICISM / Books & Reading. Classification: LCC PR6051.M5 A6 2018 | DDC 824/.914'dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017017321 Jacket photograph by Ekko von Schwichow Jacket design by Carol Devine Carson Manufactured in the United States of America First United States Edition
To my grandchildren Isaac and Eleanor
Contents Author's Note and Acknowledgments xi By Way of an Introduction He's Leaving Home 3 Twin Peaks 1 Vladimir Nabokov and the Problem from Hell 9 Saul Bellow, as Opposed to Henry James 22 Politics 1 The Republican Party in 2011: Iowa 31 The Republican Party in 2012: Tampa, Florida 36 The Republican Party in 2016: Trump 42 Literature 1 Philip Larkin: His Work and Life 55 Larkin's Letters to Monica 68 Iris Murdoch: Age Will Win 76 The House of Windsor Princess Diana: A Mirror, Not a Lamp 83 The Queen's Speech, the Queen's Heart 86 More Personal 1 You Ask the Questions 1 97 The Fourth Estate and the Puzzle of Heredity 104
viii ? Contents On the Road: The Multicity Book Tour 108 The King's English 116 Twin Peaks 2 Bellow's Lettres 125 Nabokov's Natural Selection 130 Americana (Stepping Westward) Losing in Las Vegas 145 Travolta's Second Act 156 In Pornoland: Pussies Are Bullshit 167 Literature 2 Don DeLillo: Laureate of Terror 185 J. G. Ballard: From Outer Space to Inner Space 195 Early Ballard: The Drowned World 199 The Shock of the New: A Clockwork Orange Turns Fifty 204 Sport Three Stabs at Tennis 213 The Champions League Final, 1999 221 In Search of Dieguito Maradona 228 On the Court: My Beautiful Game 235 More Personal 2 Deciding to Write Time's Arrow 241 Marty and Nick Jr. Sail to America 244 You Ask the Questions 2 247 Politics 2 Ivan Is Introduced to the USSR: All Together Now 257 Is Terrorism 'About Religion'? 262 In Memory of Neda Soltan, 1983'2009: Iran 268 The Crippled Murderers of Cali, Colombia 279 Literature 3 Philip Roth Finds Himself 293 Roth the Elder: A Moralistic Investigation 298
ix Contents John Updike's Farewell Notes 303 Rabbit Angstrom Confronts Obamacare 308 Jane Austen and the Dream Factory 317 More Personal 3 Christopher Hitchens 329 Politics 3 On Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition 343 President Trump Orates in Ohio 349 Twin Peaks 3 Bellow: Avoiding the Void 363 V'ra and Vladimir: Letters to V'ra 369 Index 375
Author's Note and Acknowledgments the natural sin of language In the process of its composition, a lyric poem or a very short short story can reach the point where it ceases to be capable of improvement. Anything longer than a couple of 'pages''as John Updike will later remind us, in a phrase of T. S. ? Eliot's''will soon succumb to 'the natural sin of language,' and will demand much concentrated work. By the natural 'sin? of language I take it that Eliot is referring (a) to its indocility (how it constantly and writhingly resists even the most practiced hands) and (b) to its promiscuity: in nearly all of its dealings language is as indiscriminate as currency, and gathers much incidental grit and lint and sweat. Poets are familiar with the sudden surmise that their revisions had better be discontinued (and quickly, too), that their ? so-'called improvements are starting to do real harm. Even the novelist shares this fear: you are nervously tampering with an inspiration that is going dead on you. Northrop Frye, a literary ? philosopher-'king to whom I owe fealty, said that the begetter of a poem or a novel is more like a midwife than a mother: the aim is to get the child into the world with as little damage as ? possible''and if the creature is alive it will scream to be liberated from 'the navel strings and feeding tubes of the ego.' Discursive prose, on the other hand (essays and reportage of the kind represented between these covers), cannot be cleansed of the ego, and is in any case limitlessly improvable. So I have done some cutting, quite a bit of adding (footnotes, postscripts), a lot of elabo-
xii Author's Note and Acknowledgments rating, and a great deal of polishing. Very often I am simply trying to make myself clearer, less ambiguous, and more 'precise''but not more prescient (I ? haven't massaged my political prophecies, which tend, as is usual with such things, to be instantly dismayed by events). There are some repetitions and duplications; I have let them stand, because I assume that most readers will pick and choose along the way in accordance with their own enthusiasms (only the reviewer, the proofreader, and of course the author will ever be obliged to read the whole thing straight through). Also, rather to my surprise, I have done some bowdlerizing, making war not against the 'improper or offensive? so much as against the overcolloquial: those turns of phrase that seem ? shop-'soiled almost as soon as they are committed to paper. The natural sin of language is cumulative and unavoidable; but we can at least expel the frailties of mere transience. and my thanks to? .' .' . First, to my friend of ? forty-'five years, Tina Brown, who edited me at The New Yorker, Talk, and Newsweek (at The New Yorker I also relied on Bill Buford, Deborah Treisman, and Giles Harvey). To Craig Raine, my pal and onetime tutor, at Arete. To Sam Tannenhaus and Pamela Paul at The New York Times Book Review. To Eric Chotiner at The New Republic, and to Giles Harvey, again, after he moved to Harper's. To Lisa Allardice and also Ian Katz at The Guardian. To David Horspool and Oliver Ready at the TLS. To Eben Shapiro and Lisa Kalis at The Wall Street Journal. To Aim'e Bell and Walter Owen at Vanity Fair. I have always been very lucky in my editorial helpmates, including the ? fact-'checkers, grammarians, spelling inspectors, redactors, and subredactors. Not reflexively impatient with advice, I have never been tempted to use Clive James's (in fact unspoken) rebuke: 'Listen. If I wrote like that, I'd be you.' And of course salutations to my hardback ? editor-'publishers, Dan Franklin at Cape and Gary Fisketjon at Knopf. My thanks to you all. I would like to pay special tribute to Bobby Baird, the freelance editor (currently at Esquire, in which capacity he squired me to Youngstown, Ohio) who took a mass of clippings, typescripts, attachments, and ? cyber-'litter and turned it into a book. I am as ? low-'tech as it
xiii Author's Note and Acknowledgments is possible to be, and Bobby loomed in my eyes like the Creator''like? him who fashioned a world out of chaos. In the lines of Ted Hughes's Tales from Ovid, Bobby 'forbade the winds / To use the air as they pleased? and 'educated? the 'rivers / To observe their banks.' Brooklyn, October? 2016
By Way of an Introduction