MARTIN AMIS

THE LEG­ENDARY MAN OF LET­TERS STILL HAS A FEW SCORES TO SET­TLE

Sharp Magazine Middle East (English) - - Guide | A Man Worth Listening To - BY ERIC MUTRIE IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY CHLOE CUSHMAN

FOR OVER FOUR DECADES, writer Martin Amis has been a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to publi­ca­tions like The New Yorker, Esquire, and The Ob­server, chron­i­cling the worlds of pol­i­tics, lit­er­a­ture, and en­ter­tain­ment in finely crafted prose. While his nov­els The Rachel Pa­pers, Money, and Lon­don Fields es­tab­lished him as Bri­tish lit­er­ary royalty (suc­ceed­ing his father, Sir Kings­ley), it is his es­says — ad­dress­ing sub­jects as di­verse as ac­tual Bri­tish royalty and the Mal­ibu porn in­dus­try — that best show­case Amis’s wit and in­tel­lect.

The Rub of Time, a new book col­lect­ing 45 ar­ti­cles writ­ten be­tween 1994 and 2017, cov­ers the writer’s on­go­ing lit­er­ary ob­ses­sions — his idols, Vladimir Nabokov and Saul Bel­low — as well as the failed sec­ond act of John Travolta. It also of­fers no short­age of com­men­tary on present-day pol­i­tics; af­ter re­lo­cat­ing to New York in 2011, Amis ar­rived in Amer­ica just in time to study Don­ald Trump’s po­lit­i­cal as­cen­sion. There is some­thing glee­fully fun about such a tal­ented, il­lus­tri­ous au­thor doc­u­ment­ing his close read of Trump’s poorly writ­ten opus, Crip­pled Amer­ica. Not sur­pris­ingly, Amis proves just as funny and in­sight­ful in con­ver­sa­tion as he does in writ­ing.

One of the pieces in this col­lec­tion re­flects on book tours. In it, you write that you’ve felt “robot­i­cally gar­ru­lous” while hav­ing to an­swer ques­tions in city af­ter city. Are you at that point yet?

I’m bet­ter now. It’s part of the pro­fes­sional dis­ci­pline. And it’s ex­cit­ing go­ing to ex­otic places on air­planes. What’s no fun at all is do­ing in­ter­views with other coun­tries and the in­ter­viewer can’t speak English. You find your­self sim­pli­fy­ing your an­swers to eighth grade English.

Speak­ing of youth — this book is ded­i­cated to your grand­chil­dren, Isaac and Eleanor. In one es­say, you talk about the name Tim not typ­i­cally po­si­tion­ing one for great­ness. How did you go about select­ing your own kids’ names?

Clio, my youngest daugh­ter, was named for the muse of his­tory. My first son, Louis, has my mid­dle name, and that’s the most tra­di­tional I’ve ever got­ten. With your first child, you spend months try­ing out names — it be­comes a sort of tor­ment. My first wife and I at one point agreed that we were go­ing to say “To hell with it” and call the child Toi­let. You don’t pay as much at­ten­tion with your sub­se­quent chil­dren. Be­cause of that, your first child ends up clever and neu­rotic — I’ve gath­ered that’s the sort of pat­tern. The sec­ond is more schol­ared and more in con­trol.

How has fa­ther­hood been dif­fer­ent than you’d ex­pected?

I’m more and more con­vinced that, apart from choos­ing your spouse, pro­duc­ing chil­dren is the best thing you ever do. I felt quite broody when I was in my early thir­ties. That sur­prised me. I thought only women felt broody, but you do want a fresh face around the house. And it goes on be­ing tremen­dously in­ter­est­ing — as long as you have half­way-nor­mal ones, as mine all are. I shud­der to think what life would be with­out them. Of course, it’s the least cool thing pos­si­ble to be a grand­par­ent, but you get over that. I just wish I saw more of my grand­chil­dren, who are in Lon­don.

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