Martin Amis
By: Mark Kingwell | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Literature, Popular

Author Martin Amis

The English novelist and critic MARTIN AMIS (born 1949), son of a famous novelist and critic, is simultaneously gifted and burdened by genetic legacy. He surpasses knighted alcoholic father Kingsley in sheer aesthetic brilliance, yet writes forever under his shadow. Talented Martin published early and often, starting with The Rachel Papers (1974), Dead Babies (1975), and Success (1977), a string of assured, sex-stained, comic-nasty books remarkable for a man still in his twenties. The mature novels, especially Money (1984), London Fields (1989), and The Information (1995) extend the apocalyptic meditation on endgame England and its violent dreams of happiness. The memoir Experience (2000), meanwhile, details the fate of his unknown daughter and lost sister, and his love for father-substitute Saul Bellow. Like Amis père, Amis fils is incapable of writing an uninteresting sentence, and yet the books of the new millennium have been iffy: I am a fan of Yellow Dog (2003), his controversial riff on the porn industry, and of Lionel Asbo (2012), a return to comic form in the London underworld (his anti-hero’s surname comes from the Anti-Social Behaviour Order). But House of Meetings (2006) and The Pregnant Widow (2010) were slogs. I had a smoke with Amis once, outside a Toronto hotel where he’d given a speech. Fan-drunk, wreathed in Havana haze, I told him he was, for me, a necessary tonic to the too-tepid linguistic water of the era. Love him or hate him, Martin reliably brings the bubbles, the pop, the fizz. He is champagne — complete with hangover.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Walt Kelly.

READ MORE about members of the Blank Generation (1944-53).

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Mark Kingwell is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto.