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The son of the comic novelist Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis explores his relationship with this father and writes about the various crises of Kingsley's life. He also examines the life and legacy of his cousin, Lucy Partington, who was abducted and murdered by one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers. Experience also deconstructs the changing literary scene, including A The son of the comic novelist Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis explores his relationship with this father and writes about the various crises of Kingsley's life. He also examines the life and legacy of his cousin, Lucy Partington, who was abducted and murdered by one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers. Experience also deconstructs the changing literary scene, including Amis' portraits of Saul Bellow, Salman Rushdie, Allan Bloom, Philip Larkin, and Robert Graves, among others.


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The son of the comic novelist Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis explores his relationship with this father and writes about the various crises of Kingsley's life. He also examines the life and legacy of his cousin, Lucy Partington, who was abducted and murdered by one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers. Experience also deconstructs the changing literary scene, including A The son of the comic novelist Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis explores his relationship with this father and writes about the various crises of Kingsley's life. He also examines the life and legacy of his cousin, Lucy Partington, who was abducted and murdered by one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers. Experience also deconstructs the changing literary scene, including Amis' portraits of Saul Bellow, Salman Rushdie, Allan Bloom, Philip Larkin, and Robert Graves, among others.

30 review for Experience: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ailsa

    “But writers write far more penetratingly than they live. Their novels show them at their very best, making a huge effort: stretched until they twang.” I bought a new 4B pencil to annotate this beast of a memoir. Amis bemoans the messiness of life (“forget about coherence of imagery and the Uniting Theme”) but does a fantastic job of imposing some kind of pleasing biographical structure here. He seamlessly weaves and digresses between areas of his life. Focusing on his relationship with his fat “But writers write far more penetratingly than they live. Their novels show them at their very best, making a huge effort: stretched until they twang.” I bought a new 4B pencil to annotate this beast of a memoir. Amis bemoans the messiness of life (“forget about coherence of imagery and the Uniting Theme”) but does a fantastic job of imposing some kind of pleasing biographical structure here. He seamlessly weaves and digresses between areas of his life. Focusing on his relationship with his father, Kingsley Amis, the disappearance of his cousin in 1973, and having his top teeth completely removed at age 45. Dishes the dirt on his falling out with Julian Barnes and with KA’s biographer Eric Jacobs. Footnotes were usually very interesting and worth stopping for. Prose - pristine as always (“hobnob with Nabokov”). In parts, one of the most amusing books I’ve ever read. So much so that I’m contemplating a reread. Of a biography. Just read it. [Review may be biased - currently in the first flush of feverish obsession with Martin Amis. In case you couldn't tell.] “This remains the great deficiency of literature: its imitation of nature cannot prepare you for the main events. For the main events, only experience will answer.” “Well it’s all experience, though it’s a pity there had to be so much of it.” . . . LITERATURE “after very few pages I felt a recognition threading itself through me…’Here is a writer I will have to read all of’ … I see Bellow perhaps twice a year, and we call, and we write. But that accounts for only a fraction of the time I spend in his company. He is on the shelves, on the desk, he is all over the house, and always in the mood to talk. That’s what writing is, not communication but a means of communion. And there are other writers who swirl around you, like friends, patient, intimate, sleeplessly accessible, over centuries. This is the definition of literature.” 268 “Even the best kind of popular novel just comes straight at you; you have no conversation with a popular novel. Whereas you do have a conversation (you have an intense argument) with Herzog, with Henderson, with Humboldt, frowning, nodding, withholding, qualifying, objecting, conceding - and smiling, smiling first with reluctant admiration, then smiling with unreluctant admiration.” 224 “What was I reading? I want to convey a mood, and what you are reading is a constituent of how you feel. In biographies they should always tell us that, routinely, in the margin: what they were reading.” 207 “It has been said that there are only two types of Irish male: the hard man, and the desperate chancer. In life, Joyce was a desperate chancer. But in his work he was a hard man. Tell a dream, and lose a reader, said Henry James. And we all know that the pun is the lowest form of wit. Joyce spent seventeen years punning on dreams. The result, Finnegan’s Wake, reads like a 600-page crossword clue. But it took a hard man to write it.” 116 “I agree with my father’s entry on ‘Shakespeare’ in The King’s English (1997): ‘to say or imply that the man of this name is not our greatest writer marks a second-rate person at best.’” 117 “Nabokov clearly derived sensual pleasure from being dismissive: it is the patrician in him.” 119 - “over-cultivated contempt” 120 KINGSLEY “Edward Upward said that he felt the aging process at work in him when he experienced ‘little failures of tolerance’. Well, Kingsley was never much of a tolerance-cultivator; and his failures were big failures.” 91 “Jeremy Bentham, like Kingsley Amis, was a man who addicted himself to the endorsement of unattractive opinions.” 325 About MA’s maternal grandfather: “In a letter to Phillip Larkin, Kingsley described him as resembling ‘a music-loving lavatory attendant’ - and I’m sorry, Mum, but the writer in me knows a bullseye when he sees one.” 130 BAD TEETH “My mouth is full of decayed teeth and my soul of decayed ambitions.” James Joyce 114 “My tongue feels like someone coming home and finding his furniture gone.” VN 115 “Still, I claim peership with these masters in only one area. Not in the art and not in the life. Just in the teeth. In the teeth.” 117 “Vladmir, James and I, however, have blackballed Updike. His teeth are too good… It’s not everyone, you know, who can jostle shoulders with Joyce, who can hobnob with Nabokov.” 118 “I thought I would slip out of the country and head off to a land - Albania? Uzbekistan? South Wales? - where nobody else had any teeth either.” 122 “his was the harder course, but mine had to be lived by me.”235 Paraphrase PL WRITING PEDANTRY “singlehanded is already an adverb” As is regardless, over. (Must stop using the word overly) “Can’t believe the US proofs of The Info. A termitary of imported commas, each one like a papercut to my soul.” 209 (Google tells me that termitary = termite colony) Don’t begin a paragraph with the same word that you started the last paragraph with. Unless you do three or more in a row as a conscious stylistic choice. OTHER STUFF “Jerusalem, the city without smalltalk.” 22 “’Virtually’: the signature tune of the idler and the charlatan.” 231 “Poets can’t, don’t, shouldn’t drive. (British poets can’t or don’t drive. American poets drive, but shouldn’t.)” 266 “beauty is accepted slang for yes” Larkin, 245 “(E.M. Forster said that ‘women and children’ was the ‘phrase that exempts the [English] male from sanity’. Now it’s ‘taxpayers’ money’.)” 82

  2. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Martin Amis, you will discover, is a human punching bag for critics. Google his name or one of his books, and you will find an endless resource of Amis-bashing from broadsheets to boobrags. The reason? Pretension. People perceive Amis as a conceited windbag who ranks himself amongst Nabokov, Saul Bellow and his father Kingsley in the pantheon of literary greats. The voice doesn’t help – that interminable transatlantic drawl with its considered hesitations and self-important emphases. The fact of t Martin Amis, you will discover, is a human punching bag for critics. Google his name or one of his books, and you will find an endless resource of Amis-bashing from broadsheets to boobrags. The reason? Pretension. People perceive Amis as a conceited windbag who ranks himself amongst Nabokov, Saul Bellow and his father Kingsley in the pantheon of literary greats. The voice doesn’t help – that interminable transatlantic drawl with its considered hesitations and self-important emphases. The fact of the matter, of the fact of the matter (of the matter), is that Amis is a towering presence in the field of lit-crit: the sharpest and smartest Nero of criticism working in Britain right now, with almost four decades of experience under his belt. Which brings me to Experience, a book that is not about lit-crit, that is not about literature, but which purports to be about Amis and his dad. Well, firstly, there is no book about Martin Amis which is not about lit-crit and the process of writing. After the first fifty pages – past the infinitesimal detail about his entrance into the litosphere – I got the impression Amis had been imprisoned in this role of literary executioner since birth. His entrance into the literary world is so casual, like a son automatically following in his dad's footsteps, that it is barely covered. The novel is largely about Amis’s relationship with his father Kingsley Amis and his cousin Lucy Partington, cut down by Fred West at a bus stop at the age of 21. Amis writes about his father using an incredible amount of literary comparisons and footnotes, showing how much he learned of his father through his books, and quite how important ‘the book’ was in their lives – scarcely a day in the Amis household would pass without reference to the Greats. As is to be expected in household of writers who count Philip Larkin as a cuddly uncle. Anyway, this book is fascinating and intimate. Amis was deeply affected by his cousin’s death, and her presence is felt throughout the whole novel, mirroring her impact on his life. Kingsley is evoked as a genius, wit, and a hilariously un-PC father, but also an adulterer, paranoid and lonely man. Amis looks back on his youth with humour and contempt – including a series of spotty photos in the sleeve – and tackles the press who fondly hound him, and romanticises his dental agony as being a sign of greatness. There are the usual Amis preoccupations to be found here – Nabokov, Saul Bellow and his never-less-than-irritating mate Christopher Hitchens. Even if you’re not a fiftysomething intellectual from a time when people had staunch political stances and voiced ‘radical’ opinions among the bourgeois highbrow crowd, you should find this memoir a touching portrait of an unconventional and privileged upbringing. The passages about his father's death are especially touching. Amis's most honest and lyrical writing is to be found here. Or, you’ll find this a self-indulgent portrait of a man you have absolutely interest in whatsoever. I rather enjoyed it, you know.

  3. 4 out of 5

    lorinbocol

    non avendo ancora letto parla, ricordo di nabokov, e giusto per (non) tenermi alla larga dalle categorie assolute, mi sento di affermare con relativa certezza che questa è l’autobiografia meglio scritta che abbia mai letto. sono poche le pagine che ho girato senza incantarmi di fronte all’acume di una riflessione, al modo di sottolineare le sfumature di un rapporto e, in generale, di raccontare una vita dalla tensione intellettuale a voltaggio sempre molto alto. con la differenza, rispetto ai ro non avendo ancora letto parla, ricordo di nabokov, e giusto per (non) tenermi alla larga dalle categorie assolute, mi sento di affermare con relativa certezza che questa è l’autobiografia meglio scritta che abbia mai letto. sono poche le pagine che ho girato senza incantarmi di fronte all’acume di una riflessione, al modo di sottolineare le sfumature di un rapporto e, in generale, di raccontare una vita dalla tensione intellettuale a voltaggio sempre molto alto. con la differenza, rispetto ai romanzi, che qui abbassando ovviamente l’asticella del sarcasmo martin amis mostra come sa praticare la chirurgia dell’intelligenza anche quando non ci sono freddezza e distacco. anzi, spogliando dal riserbo le proprie debolezze in quella che, nelle parole del padre «è tutta esperienza, dispiace solo che debba essercene così tanta». ho trovato viceversa, in questo libro, molta onestà intellettuale e una dose sufficiente di autoironia perché l’inevitabile riferimento, per esempio, agli scrittori e ai personaggi frequentati fin da quando era bambino non finisca per scivolare in odore di name-dropping. esattamente, anche se in modo diverso, come non ho percepito desiderio di sfoggio nelle situazioni analoghe di lessico famigliare o più recentemente di leggenda privata. nel primo caso per la severità intrinseca a natalia ginzburg, nel secondo per il basso continuo della dolenza nevrotica in michele mari. peraltro leggendo amis mi sono trovata più volte a pensare a quest’ultimo e alla sua auto/bio/grafia con aggiunta di dimensione leggendaria. o meglio a pensare ai paralleli nella vicenda umana dei due. giungendo a concludere che avere: - padri severi collocabili, anche se in modo diverso, dalle parti dell’anaffettività; - madri con crolli nervosi (e matrigne colte e affascinanti); - periodi di marcata povertà abbinati a un’attitudine familiare al non dar peso al denaro (anche perché in entrambi i casi si segnala almeno un solido patrimonio nel ramo nonni) - e infine complessi riconducibili a un problema che richiede un intervento chirurgico con strascichi di sofferenza fisica ed emotiva ecco tutto questo, dicevo, concorre forse senza rilevanza statistica ma in modo decisivo a impastare scrittori che a me piacciono davvero tanto. (un grazie speciale a @gloriagloom cacciatore di rarità, soprattutto quando poi le regala alle amiche)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    The memoir is a guided tour, no free ranging research with the price of admission. It is likely closer to a slide show. One mustn't shuffle the sequence. It alleges itself as a report, an account. It isn't submission. That is unseemly. I often felt ill at ease when reading Experience. My friends and I read Zachary Leader's biography of Kingsley Amis a few years back. The sordid details of the home life and its philandering projections really bothered me. Such an upbringing also gave a context to The memoir is a guided tour, no free ranging research with the price of admission. It is likely closer to a slide show. One mustn't shuffle the sequence. It alleges itself as a report, an account. It isn't submission. That is unseemly. I often felt ill at ease when reading Experience. My friends and I read Zachary Leader's biography of Kingsley Amis a few years back. The sordid details of the home life and its philandering projections really bothered me. Such an upbringing also gave a context to Marty's less than stellar moments. The pauses, omissions and gaffes fuel the narrative. The footnotes underscore the narrative. We must agree with Kingsley's observation that life is grief and labor. I suppose Forster is also on target and I should feel that Amis connected with me, the reader, though I'm not sure I welcome such.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    It's probably appropriate that Experience and Speak, Memory are often compared, because Amis worships Nabokov, and you have to read them both with a pencil handy so you can underline and marvel over their brilliant sentences. But what I've read of both their fiction, while it provides the occasional chuckle, and in the case of Nabokov admiration, has left me cold, even queasy (yes, I have suspicions it's me, not Nabokov, though I feel fortified in learning on p. 119 that there's "something in Na It's probably appropriate that Experience and Speak, Memory are often compared, because Amis worships Nabokov, and you have to read them both with a pencil handy so you can underline and marvel over their brilliant sentences. But what I've read of both their fiction, while it provides the occasional chuckle, and in the case of Nabokov admiration, has left me cold, even queasy (yes, I have suspicions it's me, not Nabokov, though I feel fortified in learning on p. 119 that there's "something in Nabokov that doesn't sit well" with Saul Bellow, either). The memoirs are warmer - Amis is both a devoted father and son, and Nabokov's passage about his infant child is one of my favorites from Speak. The memoir jumps around chronologically and topically: life (and death) with Kingsley, mourning a 21 year old cousin who disappeared one winter night in 1973 (her fate revealed more than 20 years later), discursions on writers and writerly things, and, never far from his mind, Amis's dental problems. Amis is an extremely clever writer, but he seems to have no backspace or delete keys on his computer. He tells us that (218n) "...novels are (among other things): not almanacs of your waking life but messages from your unconscious history", but unfortunately he seems to think that memoirs are almanacs of your waking life; Experience often seems less a traditional memoir than a notebook, an accretion of jottings and extended marginalia. And nothing, nothing, is too insignificant for a footnote. Endless footnotes, long footnotes, distracting footnotes, on nearly every page - what is the point, to purposely annoy? Some of the footnotes are interesting, funny, relevant, but is there any reason at all they couldn't have been included in the text? They occupy an entire parallel universe. The book is about 400 pages but feels like 800, and it's mostly the footnotes that give it the sense of bloat. And the dental problems, which are dealt with both on their own and as writerly grist (Amis shares horrible teeth with Nabokov and Joyce), get about 20 times as much attention as Amis's two wives. (He takes dentistry so seriously that Mike Szabatura, his dentist, "will always glow in myth for me.") You do get the sense that he's sheltering his first wife, at least, from the public gaze (although not literally, as he includes a photo). The letters from an adolescent Amis to his father and stepmother, lodged in between chapters, don't really add much substance. Their inclusion is puzzling, all the more so when he admits that he hasn't kept Kingsley's letters to him, or Philip Larkin's. Amis quotes from a review of his first novel, The Rachel Papers, which criticized his "cheesy bon mots" and "dingy little aperçus." Minus the cheesy and dingy, these are in abundance here. "My life looked good on paper - where, in fact, almost all of it was being lived." "Here we would mingle with enormous, and enormously evolved, hitch-hikers (Germans, Swedes), nordic titans of self-reliance who regularly girdled the earth on a dollar a year." A retired matador wears "an omelette of makeup." At a public dinner Amis goads Salman Rushdie on the subject of Beckett's prose, which Amis hates and Rushdie likes. Rushdie gets more and more peeved, until "he looked like a falcon staring through a venetian blind." "...Finnegans Wake reads like a 600-page crossword clue." On his two good friends Saul Bellow, also a mentor, and Christopher Hitchens: "I am not [Bellow's:] son, of course. What I am is his ideal reader. I am not my father's ideal reader, however. His ideal reader, funnily enough, is Christopher Hitchens." On Kingsley's habit of getting annoyed in restaurants: One sure infuriant was the unbidden approach of a waiter (he felt they always timed it to ruin his anecdotes). Waiters bearing peppermills drew his special scorn. -Would you like some pepper, sir? -...Well I don't know yet, do I? Because I haven't tasted it. When my turn came I accepted a thick coat of pepper on my unbroached starter. Kingsley stared hard at me. I said, -If you like it you like it. It's not the same as salt. That's why they don't go around with a salt cellar. He seemed to find this genuinely enlightening. But then he closed his eyes and his head dropped sideways: a nearby infant was crying. -Formerly, he said, she'd have to take it off and deal with it. Formerly, they'd be lucky to be taken out at all. -Well then. A clear improvement. -A change, anyway, he said, now raising his chin. I like Amis more after reading Experience. Humanity, and insecurity, are revealed. How can you not like a person who welcomes a previously unknown, illegitimate child with such excitement? Who writes, "...I wanted to raise a girl. I was desperate to see how the other half lived." And The incredulity my children excite in me never diminishes. I contemplate a child of mine, and I can't believe that a creation in which I shared has gone on to gain such contour and quiddity and mass. Watch the way they fill up a car, a room. In the bath - look at all the water they displace. But I also agree more or less with one critic who wrote: "Reading Experience, one is struck by a mismatch between events and what Amis has made of them: the dental fixation, his conviction that journalists are persecuting him, the unintentional bad taste of his writing about his cousin, the high rhetorical style that, as in his fiction, cannot mask a dearth of things to write about: all these suggest a worrying reality gap. Perhaps the book really shows that it is not experience that matters - but what you do with it."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    I think this is my all-time favourite autobiography. Beautifully written, packed with wonderful anecdotes, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes deeply moving. What more can you ask for?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Made it to page 236. Thought I was a huge enough Amis fangirl to be crazy about this, but after a promising beginning it wound up making me adore him less. At the end of the day, I just don't find Martin Amis's life as fascinating as Martin Amis does, and I definitely am not as interested in his relationship with his father. Don't get me wrong, there's some amazing stuff in here, but the book as a whole reminded me of personal essays I see students write for grad school admission: most people ha Made it to page 236. Thought I was a huge enough Amis fangirl to be crazy about this, but after a promising beginning it wound up making me adore him less. At the end of the day, I just don't find Martin Amis's life as fascinating as Martin Amis does, and I definitely am not as interested in his relationship with his father. Don't get me wrong, there's some amazing stuff in here, but the book as a whole reminded me of personal essays I see students write for grad school admission: most people have no insight, in writing about their own lives, into what material will be interesting to other people and what will not. So there is some incredible writing and good anecdotes and analysis and fun literary name-dropping, but there are also portions that just didn't feel print-worthy to me, and there are too many points where Martin gifts us with some breaking news -- e.g. both the Amises and Nabokov agree that Shakespeare was a great writer! (p. 117) -- that don't seem that urgent and sort of made me roll my eyes. He also seemed not to be getting around to many of the subjects that would have interested me most, which made his focus on things I didn't care about even harder to bear. Part of my problem with this was doubtless based in my personal suspicion of and discomfort with the genre of memoir. If you love Martin Amis and memoir, you'll probably love this. I got increasingly bored, then stalled out, and when I read Alison Bechdel's Fun Home somehow being so invested in another author's relationship-with-my-father memoir gave me permission to throw in the towel on this.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Whether you love or hate Amis, the sentences he crafts are as sparkling and witty and imaginative as anything, and his pronouncements are somehow uttered with this devastatingly quiet authority of hipness that you sort of can't help but take him seriously. He's the guy at the party you want to like you... I initially found out about him through my years-long obsession with all things Hitch, so learning about Amis' life and work has been an unexpected bonus. Check it: "I said in the car, the hired Whether you love or hate Amis, the sentences he crafts are as sparkling and witty and imaginative as anything, and his pronouncements are somehow uttered with this devastatingly quiet authority of hipness that you sort of can't help but take him seriously. He's the guy at the party you want to like you... I initially found out about him through my years-long obsession with all things Hitch, so learning about Amis' life and work has been an unexpected bonus. Check it: "I said in the car, the hired Chevrolet Celebrity, -Now no sinister balls, okay? -...No sinister balls. -Promise? -Promise. My passenger was Christopher Hitchens and I was taking him to Vermont to meet Saul Bellow. We would have dinner and stay the night and drive back to Cape Cod the following morning. Cape Cod was where I spent eight or nine summers with my first wife, and with the boys, on Horseleech Pond, south of Wellfleet... The trope sinister balls went back to our days at the New Statesman. In 1978 the incumbent editor, Anthony Howard, bowed to historical forces and honorably stepped down. I and the Hitch were part of the complicated, two-tier, six-member committee that would decide on his successor. During an interview Neal Ascherson, one of the three candidates on the final shortlist, came up with the following: "Anyone who resists the closed shop is going to get the biggest bloody nose of all time.' I said afterwards that this was sinister balls, and Christopher, whether or not he agreed (he was, of course, much more pro-union than I was), certainly seemed to be taken by the phrase. So 'no sinister balls' meant no vehement assertions of a left-wing tendency. In 1989 temporary fluctuations- going under the name of Political Correctness- had rigged up Saul Bellow as a figure of the right; he was under frequent attack, and I felt that he deserved a peaceful evening in his own house. As it happens I now believe that Bellow and Hitchens are not dissimilar in their political intuitions- especially in their sense of how America is managed or carved up...As the Chevrolet Celebrity moved boldly down Route 6, I was pretty confident that the evening would go well. There would be no sinister balls... At about 11.15 a silence slowly elongated itself over the dinner table. Christopher, utterly sober but with his eyes lowered, was crushing in his hands an empty packet of Benson & Hedges. The Bellows, too, had their gazes downcast. I sat with my head in my palms, staring at the aftermath of the dinner-that evening's road smash, with its buckled headlights, its yawning hinges, its still-oscillating hubcap. My right foot was injured because I had kicked the shins of the Hitch so much with it. It would be a simplification to say that Christopher has spent the last ninety minutes talking up a blue streak of sinister balls. But let us not run in fear of simplification. Simplification is sometimes exactly what you want... The theme of the discord was, of course, Israel. Christopher was already on record with a piece called 'Holy Land Heretic' (Raritan, Spring 1987), where he had adduced 'the generalized idealizations of Israel commonly offered by Saul Bellow, Elie Wiesel, and others'. Much of Christopher's discourse, at the dinner table in Vermont, can be found in this 8,000 word essay, which he wrote, so to speak, as a gentile. And the rest of his discourse can be found in 'On Not Knowing the Half of It: Homage to Telegraphist Jacobs' (Grand Street, Summer 1988), which he wrote as a Jew. Needless to say, it was a point of fundamental, of elementary intellectual honor that Christopher's changed ethnicity should have no effect whatever on questions of political science and political morality. Grandmother Dodo's disclosure had not rendered Israel any less mechanistic or expansionist or quasi-democratic. Christopher would do no thinking with his blood, neither at his desk nor at the dinner table. Emotions, atavisms, would be set aside, while reason- the nabob of all the faculties- went about its work.... Naturally Bellow was capable of a rational- indeed a Benthamite- discussion of Israel, pros and cons. But it wasn't that kind of evening. No, it wasn't that kind of evening. Very soon Janis and I were reduced to the occasional phoneme of remonstration. And Saul, packed down over the table, shoulders forward, legs tensed beneath his chair, became more laconic in his contributions, steadily submitting to a cataract of pure reason, matter-of-fact chapter and verse, with its interjected historical precedents, its high-decibel statistics, its fortissimo fine distinctions- Christopher's cerebral stampede. Then it was over, and we faced the silence. My right foot throbbed from the warm work it had done beneath the table on the shins of the Hitch, availing me nothing...As I shall explain, I too think about Israel with the blood. But my blood wasn't thinking about Israel, not then. A consensus was forming in the room, silently: that the evening could not be salvaged. A change of subject and a cleansing cup of coffee? No. Nothing for it, now, but to finish up and seek out bedding. But for the time being we sat there, rigid, as the silence raged on. Christopher was still softly compacting his little gold box of Benson & Hedges. He seemed to be giving this job his full attention. Before him in the silence lay the stilled battlefield: the state of Israel, thoroughly outmanuvered, comprehensively overthrown....In his clef-ish novel of London literary life, Brilliant Creatures (1983), Clive James said of the Hitchens-based character that the phrase 'no whit abashed' might have been invented for him. But Christopher did now seem to be entertaining the conception of self-reproof. During the argument the opinions of Professor Said had been weighed, and this is what Christopher, in closing, wished to emphasize. The silence still felt like a gnat in my ear. - Well, he said. I'm sorry if I went on a bit. But Edward is a friend of mine. And if I hadn't defended him...I would have felt bad. - How d'you feel now? said Saul." And there's the hilarious (to me) moment where Amis fils observes papa Amis busily scratching through the newspaper crossword puzzle, crafted by a guy he knew from Oxford back in the day and who he clearly doesn't respect very much, furiously mumbling to himself "Oh, Thompson, that was so obvious, you, you swine ...." Gets me every time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Carolina

    La otra noche terminé de leer la autobiografía de Martin Amis aunque Martin Amis haya escrito su autobiografía como a los 45 años y aun este vivo. Al final el libro resultó bastante largo y un poco repetitivo a ratos, pero nunca decepcionante. Me quedan muchas cosas de ese libro, muchas cosas y profundas, vuelvo y digo que me siento realmente comprendida con las palabras, con las ideas con la historia y los sentimientos de este señor, comprendida en este punto de mi vida, vuelvo y digo que los l La otra noche terminé de leer la autobiografía de Martin Amis aunque Martin Amis haya escrito su autobiografía como a los 45 años y aun este vivo. Al final el libro resultó bastante largo y un poco repetitivo a ratos, pero nunca decepcionante. Me quedan muchas cosas de ese libro, muchas cosas y profundas, vuelvo y digo que me siento realmente comprendida con las palabras, con las ideas con la historia y los sentimientos de este señor, comprendida en este punto de mi vida, vuelvo y digo que los libros me llegan en los momentos precisos. A pesar de su dramática o triste historia, no se que vida no es triste, el libro es divertidísimo, juro que pase del llanto en un párrafo a la carcajada en el siguiente párrafo, literalmente. Martin Amis es lo suficientemente ingenioso para saber cuándo burlarse de algo y cuando no, para saber cuando las cosas se tornan muy tristes y ahí hacernos reír, y también sabe que hay cosas en las que simplemente el humor no entra, no es bienvenido, no cabe por la puerta, porque como el mismo lo dice “la burla es el fin del sentimiento” y hay sentimientos que la burla o el humor no puede matar. Debería haber más escritores o mas historias bien escritas que hablen de relaciones entre padres e hijos. Parece que las relaciones entre hijo (hombre) y padre, o hija (mujer) y madre, siempre han sido más conflictivas y difíciles que las relaciones entre los dos géneros opuestos, y no digo que el señor Amis haya tenido la mejor relación con su padre, pero al menos a mi me cambia la perspectiva de lo que pueden ser las relación entre padres e hijos. Me deja pensando en esa forma finalmente tan amorosa, comprensiva en que trata a su padre sin dejar de ser muy sincero, directo y honesto con el todo el tiempo hasta cuando se estaba muriendo, la sinceridad con su padre pareciera cruel, pero Martin Amis es solo como un niño que dice la verdad. Con respecto a la violacion y el asesinato de su prima, me parece valerosa la forma en que lo confronta y lo asume, me gusta como habla de temas tan delicados, innombrables en cualquier sociedad del mundo, puede que no haya hablado mucho al respecto en su libro, pero deja claro que en su vida confrontó en profundidad tal hecho asqueroso, y lo deja a uno pensando esa forma en que le pone la cara a la muerte, a la oscuridad, a lo no concebible, y tiene tanta pero tanta razón cuando dice que hay hechos en la vida que no se trata de aceptarlos sino de darles credibilidad, y se pasa la vida no tratando de aceptar un hecho sino de creerlo porque son tan atroces que cuesta demasiado creerlos. Son muchas las cosas de las que habla Martin Amis en su libro Experiencia, de los amigos, de los hijos, de las madres, de los padres, de la inocencia, de los antisociales, de la adolescencia, de crecer, de los libros, poco habla del amor y que alivio, ya muchos escriben del amor. Queda claro que según el titulo de este libro “la experiencia” es lo mejor que nos puede pasar, pero cuando Martin Amis habla de experiencia se refiere a vivencias duras, profundas, muy reales, de esas que cambian la vida y ya no lo dejan a uno igual jamás. Martin Amis se consolida cada vez mas como uno de mis autores favoritos sino el favorito, ya me compre uno de sus últimos libros La Casa de los Encuentros, única novela de amor escrita por el, y siendo la única de amor no se hará esperar mucho, dice Amis que nunca había sufrido tanto escribiendo un libro como ese. La otra vez leí que el New York Times lo calificaba como el escritor que escribe sobre historias miserables, como si las vidas miserables fueran algo tan lejano de nosotros, yo me rio, la gente se cree que no tiene vidas miserables porque es la cosa mas difícil de admitir en el mundo, además estamos rodeados de miseria humana, pero ese es el gran valor de Amis y de la buena literatura, que es capaz de ver, escribir y adentrarse en las miserias del ser humano.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lenore Beadsman64

    "E' tutta esperienza, dispiace solo che debba essercene così tanta" Martin Amis, scrittore postmoderno figlio di Kingsley Amis, a sua volta noto poeta, scrittore e critico letterario britannico, traccia un profilo dei suoi anni di gioventù fino alla maturità, racconto discontinuo sul piano cronologico è però molto avvincente su quello umano...Martin ha avuto una vita ricca di avvenimenti e di stimoli, alcuni piacevoli, come le frequentazioni di scrittori famosi e gli incontri con altri grandi del "E' tutta esperienza, dispiace solo che debba essercene così tanta" Martin Amis, scrittore postmoderno figlio di Kingsley Amis, a sua volta noto poeta, scrittore e critico letterario britannico, traccia un profilo dei suoi anni di gioventù fino alla maturità, racconto discontinuo sul piano cronologico è però molto avvincente su quello umano...Martin ha avuto una vita ricca di avvenimenti e di stimoli, alcuni piacevoli, come le frequentazioni di scrittori famosi e gli incontri con altri grandi del panorama letterario, altri terrificanti, come il coinvolgimento di sua cugina di primo grado tra le vittime di Frederick West, il mostro di Gloucester...le lettere che, con molta onestà, Martin introduce tra i paragrafi ci mostrano un giovane spocchiosetto sullo stile del protagonista di The Rachel papers, che arranca all'ombra di un padre ingombrante e pertanto deve farsi un'idea alla svelta dei grandi della letteratura prima di tentare l'esame per Oxford...curiosamente le sue lettere sono meno saccenti di quanto ci si aspetterebbe...come invece risultano quelle di Auster nella sua autobiografia...Martin è stato un giovane talento e non ha mai dubitato che avrebbe scritto per vivere, l'esempio del padre, famoso donnaiolo, lo spinge a far presto esperienza anche in quel settore e, seppure con garbo e senza grossi intenti pettegoli, Martin ci elenca le sue innumerevoli compagne, fidanzate, più un paio di mogli e tutto il dolore che i passaggi di mano tra l'una e l'altra gli hanno causato...la seconda parte è equamente divisa tra i tormenti dentari, di cui fu vittima per lungo tempo e per i quali è stato bersagliato assai dalla stampa scandalistica, e il racconto della fine di suo padre, che a seguito di una caduta si scopre essere vittima di Alzheimer, una forma di demenza degenerativa molto veloce a esito assai infausto...completano il quadro accenni ai suoi figli, la scoperta di una figlia illegittima e qualche caso di "sassolino nella scarpa" nei confronti del biografo di suo padre...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Casey

    I have always felt that Martin Amis is probably a giant ass. This opinion is only confirmed by my feeling of an increasing crankiness in each new book. I'm glad I read Experience. It's very easy to judge a total stranger based on interviews, but this memoir is an honest account of his untidy life, and it's told with genuine feeling. There's his huge jerk of a famous father, there's a missing cousin, there's a child he knew nothing of. With Experience, readers gain some sympathy for Amis, who tur I have always felt that Martin Amis is probably a giant ass. This opinion is only confirmed by my feeling of an increasing crankiness in each new book. I'm glad I read Experience. It's very easy to judge a total stranger based on interviews, but this memoir is an honest account of his untidy life, and it's told with genuine feeling. There's his huge jerk of a famous father, there's a missing cousin, there's a child he knew nothing of. With Experience, readers gain some sympathy for Amis, who turns out to be a real person, and not just some character you read about in Vanity Fair.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    The title, it turns out, is a caveat emptor. I went in expecting a look at MA's life as a writer in his twenties, thirties, and forties--the Granta/Booker heydays, nights out, friends, foes and lovers. You know, summer reading fun. I got perhaps fifty pages on tooth pain, tooth anxieties, trips to dentists, and ruminations on the dental problems of famous novelists. And discussions about a murdered cousin (and with it, the obvious hope that the weight of that terrible event would counterbalance the The title, it turns out, is a caveat emptor. I went in expecting a look at MA's life as a writer in his twenties, thirties, and forties--the Granta/Booker heydays, nights out, friends, foes and lovers. You know, summer reading fun. I got perhaps fifty pages on tooth pain, tooth anxieties, trips to dentists, and ruminations on the dental problems of famous novelists. And discussions about a murdered cousin (and with it, the obvious hope that the weight of that terrible event would counterbalance the triviality of the rest), plus schoolboy letters home and critiques of schoolboy letters home, glancing references to big events in Amis' life (you know, because it's assumed I would already know All Things Martin before I picked up Experience), and a handful of pages about Hitchens and Bellow, focusing mostly on where they met, what was worn and what was eaten. The only saving grace is that it's secretly about Kingsley Amis. But if you're looking for Marty, there's no way around it: Experience is an underwhelming read. I can't even say it's for fans only.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Yes, Amis is self-satisfied. And yes, he writes more -- much more -- about his teeth than about his wives. But he's just so CLEVER, it's hard not to enjoy it. And he turns out to be unexpectedly sensitive when writing about sad or tender moments. Demerits: the book lacks structure, and runs on a bit. A third of the way through, I thought it would be one of my favourite recent reads; two-thirds of the way through, I'd run out of steam and had to take a I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Yes, Amis is self-satisfied. And yes, he writes more -- much more -- about his teeth than about his wives. But he's just so CLEVER, it's hard not to enjoy it. And he turns out to be unexpectedly sensitive when writing about sad or tender moments. Demerits: the book lacks structure, and runs on a bit. A third of the way through, I thought it would be one of my favourite recent reads; two-thirds of the way through, I'd run out of steam and had to take a break. But then the last third, in which Kingsley died, was just phenomenal. One caveat: if you're not British, you might find this book hard going. Amis makes a lot of passing allusions to British news stories, etc., particularly ones involving coverage of himself (Amis was so regularly savaged by the British press in the 1990s that as a teenager I gathered, without yet having read a word of his own writing, that he was Someone To Be Despised). If you don't understand those, the book may be boring.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    An autobiography as Amis can write it. At first it seems like a mess but it all makes sense. It's also a bare all autobiography, detailing the relationship with his father, his cousin being murdered by Fred and Rose west and the child he sired and met 20 years later. Plus some tidbits of other authors such as Rushdie and Saul bellow. Excellent and heartwarming.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mel L-C

    I'm reluctant to give this book even one star, as it doesn't deserve THAT, in my humble opinion. I seldom excoriate books I've read, but this one is so self-important and trumped up that I feel obliged to warn other readers away from its pretentious pages.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eveline Chao

    OK I am officially moving this from "currently reading" to "read" because I have abandoned it & don't think I'll ever finish. I found this totally boring but probably just don't know who enough of the semi-famous people involved are for it to be juicy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sariah

    Read to page 204 and just couldn't take it anymore.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cailin Deery

    Amis starts and ends by criticising life as an inherently poor story. “The trouble with life is its amorphousness… thinly plotted, largely theme-less, sentimental and ineluctably trite. The dialogue is poor, or at least violently uneven. The twists are either predictable or sensationalist. And it’s always the same beginning; the same ending…” He believed writers write far more penetratingly than they live. He also repeatedly recalls a phrase Kingsley once said to him (whether or not he also subsc Amis starts and ends by criticising life as an inherently poor story. “The trouble with life is its amorphousness… thinly plotted, largely theme-less, sentimental and ineluctably trite. The dialogue is poor, or at least violently uneven. The twists are either predictable or sensationalist. And it’s always the same beginning; the same ending…” He believed writers write far more penetratingly than they live. He also repeatedly recalls a phrase Kingsley once said to him (whether or not he also subscribes isn’t clear): “life without a woman is only half a life.” This memoir really isn’t for the women (the many women, it seems) in Martin’s life, but for his father Kingsley, his ‘twin peaks’ (Nabokov and Bellow), Christopher Hitchens, his mother Hilly, brother Philip, and his cousin Lucy Partington. Experience was published in 2000, partly in reflection of his father (passed in 1995), and also in response to the discovery – decades later – of his cousin Lucy’s remains among the many victims of Frederick and Rosemary West (1994). Although he never mentions it, this is Martin Amis’ Song of Innocence and of Experience*. The majority of authors I read distance themselves enough from their work to at least give the impression of author removal. Somehow, Martin Amis is different. Before Experience I might compare him with a kind of ‘mean friend’ that the child within you desperately hopes to please. I was a reluctant fan of the man before (wholehearted of his writing, though, I should make clear) but this memoir brings me into the fold. He’s a flawed character, but he’s clearly decent, private, and self-aware. As ever, his writing is excellent. He acquaints you with the literary and intellectual giants he grew up surrounded by, addresses the many scandals and tragedies in his life with elegance (at least with humanity), and although his explanations and justifications are often parenthetical, he is more mindful than ever of his reader and kind in his clarification. Some of the episodes he describes, I must say, seem astonishingly unlikely. I suspect a little conceit is at play, for example, in this ‘sincere recollection’. (Amis flags a cab and asks to be taken to Notting Hill.) Taxi driver: “Notting Hill? I thought you lived in Camden Town.” “Not yet.” “I was reading somewhere you live in Camden Town.” “I’m moving next month.” This is only one of several episodes where Amis is apparently extremely recognizable and everyone is clearly familiar with his life as well as his future plans. I am a fan of Amis, for sure, but even I wouldn’t necessarily recognize the man if I saw him out of context. He mentions Nabokov and Joyce throughout Experience, first for what he perceives as a physical fraternity (all three had to have all their teeth removed. This is at once unbearable and incredibly comic), but also for his colossal admiration. His adulation of Saul Bellow is in an entirely different dimension. Although Martin and Saul are 40 years apart in age, their bond is remarkable. When Kingsley dies, Martin calls Saul. (Saul is also the one who said: ‘Death is the dark backing a mirror needs if we are to see anything.’) “You’ll have to be my father now. As long as you’re still alive I’ll never feel entirely fatherless.” Saul to Martin, “Well I love you very much.” A thing like that! Wonderful. (Forgive me while I now just share some of my favourite passages with you) Kingsley, like Martin, is a wonderfully flawed, brilliant genius. I loved the performance and friction that seemed to define their relationship. Kingsley, in Martin’s words, was ‘energetically old school.’ If you pronounced sine qua non sinny-qua-non he would yodel it back to you in music-hall Italian. He also had a lot of love for HRH and was even knighted. After hearing about his knighting ceremony on the radio, and when he came to Martin’s for Sunday dinner (he did every Sunday), the front door swung open to reveal Martin’s boys “accoutred in various plastic breastplates, gauntlets and Viking moose antlers, and slowly raising their grey plastic swords. In silence Kingsley went down on one knee, there on the doormat, and the boys, also silent, and unblinking, dubbed him in turn with a touch of the blade on either shoulder.” Another favourite passage from Experience is a recollection of a very tense dinner clash with Salman Rushdie. Of course, it bears repeating: Martin to Salman: “So you like Beckett’s prose, do you? You like Beckett’s prose. “ (Having established earlier that he liked Beckett’s prose, he neglected to answer.) “Okay. Quote me some. Oh I see. You can’t.” (No answer: only the extreme hooded-eye treatment.) “Well I’ll do it for you. All you need is maximum ugliness and a lot of negatives. ‘Nor it the nothing never is.’ ‘Neither nowhere the nothing is not.’ ‘Non-nothing the never.’” (By this stage Salman looked like a falcon staring through a Venetian blind.) *considering how often Amis talks about experience and innocence counterbalancing each other, it is a little odd that he never once mentions Blake

  19. 5 out of 5

    F.R.

    To be honest I’ve always preferred the novels of Amis Sr to Amis Jr. Although I haven’t dipped as extensively into Martin’s work as some of my contemporaries, nothing I’ve read so far has matched – say – ‘Lucky Jim’. Indeed I think the younger Amis’s books would benefit from him taking a page at the beginning to write: “My name is Martin Amis and I am very clever.” Once those two facts have been clearly established he wouldn’t need to bang on about them in the prose and we’d no doubt have much m To be honest I’ve always preferred the novels of Amis Sr to Amis Jr. Although I haven’t dipped as extensively into Martin’s work as some of my contemporaries, nothing I’ve read so far has matched – say – ‘Lucky Jim’. Indeed I think the younger Amis’s books would benefit from him taking a page at the beginning to write: “My name is Martin Amis and I am very clever.” Once those two facts have been clearly established he wouldn’t need to bang on about them in the prose and we’d no doubt have much more insightful novels. But I digress. Having taken KA’s ‘Memoirs’ from the library, I thought that, in the interest of fairness, it was only right I also borrowed MA’s ‘Experience’. Reading them back to back has been an interesting diversion (not least because father and son have vastly different styles), but one which shows the strengths and limitations of both men. Kingsley Amis’s book is a collection of essays, wherein our author looks back over various periods of life and reminisces about various writers he’d met. As such we learn about his time in Oxford, Swansea and America; he talks about his friendships with Philip Larkin and Anthony Powell; and gets to settle scores with the likes of John Wain and Roald Dahl. The format of the book might make it a volume to dip into rather than read all at once, but all his hallmarks are here – pomposity, booze, a fear of the modern and – cringingly at times – sexism. Reading it I imagine that to have a drink with the older Amis would be to enter a world where the cantankerous had been made flesh. However, it’s impossible to deny that he was a witty old bugger and there are some genuinely laugh out loud lines. The problem with it as an actual book is that it’s a collection rather than an actual book. There are themes that reoccur, there are dramatis personae who reappear, but in the main it’s a series of vignettes – some more comic than others. Furthermore, as the author makes clear in the preface, he is trying to focus on others rather than himself, so we end up with this odd affair where KA as a narrator remains somewhat unknowable (and certainly unexamined). As such I can’t help thinking that it would have been better to frame a lot of these incidents as fiction and let the author run wild with a narrator who is present for the reader. Yes, there are a lot of good things in this book, but as a whole it’s not the enjoyable read his best novels are. Now focusing on one’s self is something that Martin has never had a problem with. As such I was expecting a more personally welcoming affair, and for the most part I wasn’t disappointed. We find out about Martin’s family in these pages, and as such more about Kingsley Amis’s family than we do in Kingsley’s Amis’s book. Martin does provide some very touching and real moments, and it is the more emotional of the two, but the flaws I’ve always found in Martin’s writing are still in evidence. Firstly, the self absorption. Okay, this is an autobiography and so the writer is allowed to bang on about himself. Perfectly true. Martin writes really well on the death of his father and the disappearance of his cousin Lucy Partingdon (who fell victim to serial killer Fred West) but we also get pages of prose given over to the author’s dental problems. Yes, toothache is painful and the dental procedures MA went through sound horrific even to someone whose read a lot of horror, but does anyone really need a 100 pages on it? Secondly, there’s the style. At one point Phillip Larkin accuses Martin of “over-writing” one of his novels. This is strikes me as a perfectly valid criticism and one that holds true for this book too. It is frustrating that this autobiography can veer from tender descriptions of family and loss, to lengthy – and wordy – paragraphs of po-faced pretension. (The young MA is quoted describing Keats thus: “All right when he’s not saying ‘I’m a Poet. Got that?’” The same criticism can be levelled at him as a writer.) The format also lacks focus, and veers off in some quite odd directions – for example, an interview the author did with John Travolta is mentioned again and again for no discernable reason. This is certainly an area where KA wins out, as his book is designed to concentrate on one individual – and sometimes one anecdote – at a time. Martin is something of a ghost in the text of his father’s book. For the most part he is fleetingly mentioned, so if you didn’t already know that he was a novelist you might just mistake him for an enthusiastic literary reviewer. (Although Kingsley does take the time to administer a kick to two of his son’s literary idols – Saul Bellow and John Updike.) His father however looms large in Martin’s book, and is far more of a real person than he is in his own volume. I have given both books three stars. Kingsley’s book is fragmentary and episodic in design, but the prose is crisp and the text is genuinely funny; while Martin’s is incredibly touching in parts and more emotionally honest, does contain the same literary ticks that disturb me in his fiction. However, if you have an interest in either man and want a book to read from start to finish, then the son’s is the one to go for.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    This book has a certain brilliance to it unrivalled by its fellow memoirs or autobiographies. Amis ignores the fact that a memoir is a recollection of his life and instead decides to throw in essential fragments from his life at you randomly throughout the novel, whilst working in a linear narrative by contrasting them with another moment. Amis manages to construct his yarn through constant use of letters sent to his father, Kingsley, and stepmother Jane during the late teen and young adult era This book has a certain brilliance to it unrivalled by its fellow memoirs or autobiographies. Amis ignores the fact that a memoir is a recollection of his life and instead decides to throw in essential fragments from his life at you randomly throughout the novel, whilst working in a linear narrative by contrasting them with another moment. Amis manages to construct his yarn through constant use of letters sent to his father, Kingsley, and stepmother Jane during the late teen and young adult era of his life, also his feelings and memories regarding the disappearance and murder of his cousin Lucy, his emotions regarding his eldest daughter Delilah Seale, and the superior event, the year 1995. This year was momentous for Amis and he gives an intricate and detailed account of all the losses but manages to make the reader feel joyous at the end when he takes you to the birth of his daughter, Fernanda. Amis' prose is as per usual original and articulate, the emotion can be felt with each passing sentence. Never once did I feel Martin Amis wrote without soul in this book, each word is either an expression of anger, joy, sorrow or simply life. Life is breathed through Amis, and he manages to recreate his father not as a heartless Tory or an ignoramus adulterer, but as a father who happened to follow a few selfish exploits and had less than common political mantras to uphold, but in the end was still a good father whom Martin, Philip and Sally could all respect and love. This unbiased account of a controversial man so close to his heart is an achievement that I feel Amis worthy of unadulterated praise for.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I've read a couple of Martin Amis' books and several of his dad's. Somehow, after London Fields, I decided there was something about him I didn't quite care for. But then a review of another biography compared it to this one and said how good Amis's was and so I put it on my Kindle and read it at the writers' retreat. I found myself laughing out loud quite often (always a good thing)and I enjoyed his thoughts about writing and literature especially in the first part. The second part is mainly ab I've read a couple of Martin Amis' books and several of his dad's. Somehow, after London Fields, I decided there was something about him I didn't quite care for. But then a review of another biography compared it to this one and said how good Amis's was and so I put it on my Kindle and read it at the writers' retreat. I found myself laughing out loud quite often (always a good thing)and I enjoyed his thoughts about writing and literature especially in the first part. The second part is mainly about his father's dying and increasingly I realised this was more a biography of dad than of Martin, perhaps to show dad's biographer that he hadn't always got it right and that the son knew far more. This was rather confirmed by the postscript about his relationship with the biographer. Why do people write autobiographies, I wondered. Certainly to make a point - and he's doing that; and also vanity - and there's some of that too, carefully covered with humour; and sometimes to correct an impression they feel is false - and that's an important reason here. He clearly wanted to show that he wasn't the spoilt brat the press had described and he didn't have all that dental work done for vanity. I was left with a strong feeling of the unreliable narrator, but I really enjoyed the book: for making me think about these reasons; for introducing me to some fascinating literary ideas - and for making me laugh.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    I love the themes from minutiae to magnificent, as coexisting subjects of experience - writing, adolescence, children (being a child and having them) and guilt, sex, problematic teeth, travel, marriage, troubles with friendships, pleasure in friendships, struggles with close family members. He writes at one point that his dentist 'after a particularly gruelling session, wrung his hands and told his mother "it's a mess in there"'. He also writes of the coincidence of things that happen to familie I love the themes from minutiae to magnificent, as coexisting subjects of experience - writing, adolescence, children (being a child and having them) and guilt, sex, problematic teeth, travel, marriage, troubles with friendships, pleasure in friendships, struggles with close family members. He writes at one point that his dentist 'after a particularly gruelling session, wrung his hands and told his mother "it's a mess in there"'. He also writes of the coincidence of things that happen to families, where the intimate and the worldly overlap, and where life exists in an absence of information. His cousin went missing - was one of those 'missing people' - and it was discovered years later that she was abducted by Frederick West. Amis does not 'deal with' or build a motif around this issue, but simply discloses it - it comes to light, but remains a shadow over their family's sense of stability and predictability - all things are incomprehensible, as experience itself when it happens - and life is only a continual contemplation of incomprehensible and incongruous experience.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maurizio Manco

    "Il guaio della vita (secondo il romanziere) è il suo essere amorfa, la sua ridicola provvisorietà. Basta osservarla: intreccio esile, povertà tematica, sentimentalismi, ineluttabili luoghi comuni. Il dialogo è scadente, o per lo meno di una violenta discontinuità. Le svolte si dividono in prevedibili e sensazionalistiche. E poi, sempre lo stesso incipit; e la stessa fine..." (pp. 8, 9) "Ecco cos'è la scrittura, non comunicazione, ma comunione. Gli altri scrittori ti danzano intorno, come amici, "Il guaio della vita (secondo il romanziere) è il suo essere amorfa, la sua ridicola provvisorietà. Basta osservarla: intreccio esile, povertà tematica, sentimentalismi, ineluttabili luoghi comuni. Il dialogo è scadente, o per lo meno di una violenta discontinuità. Le svolte si dividono in prevedibili e sensazionalistiche. E poi, sempre lo stesso incipit; e la stessa fine..." (pp. 8, 9) "Ecco cos'è la scrittura, non comunicazione, ma comunione. Gli altri scrittori ti danzano intorno, come amici, pazienti, intimi, infaticabilmente accessibili nei secoli. Questa è la definizione di letteratura." (p. 255)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    find out about Martin's relationship with his dad, and about his teeth. Or not if you don't want to, I wouldn't blame you.. (2006 notebook: stuffs chocolate like Martin Amis's dad in the memoir. Picture Kingsley his cheeks full of fat and sugar taking ten minutes of concentrated mastication before he can clear his mouth enough to reply.)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Louise Dean

    We forever play the same records over and over again but so rarely re-read books. It is now 15 years since I read this clever memoir which has been staring at me from the book shelf. Ti's time to dig into la vita Martin again. Remember admiring and loving the first outing, can not remember much of the story. See you later, only on page 64 now. "Liking it Rob?" "Yes, so far yes!"

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carmel

    I absolutely love this book. The quality of the writing along with Martin Amis' insights are touching and enlightening. It's triggered some interesting ideas for a series of figurative paintings, and plenty of leads to some interesting writers to research. Love it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    I'm a big fan of Martin Amis so perhaps this memoir isn't for everyone, but his insights and shared experiences of love and loss helped me cope with my own grief experiences.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    The footnotes drove me absolutely nuts! I had to stop reading it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    This autobio could have been named "My Famous Father and Me". He spent a lot of time on the relationship with his father and also talking about and citing other famous people’s work. It wasn't uninteresting, it’s just that there was more about Martin’s own life that I would rather have learned about - his sister, his relationships, more insight into his own novels and writing process. The chronology was pretty loose so I did have a little trouble keeping track of where we were at any given time. This autobio could have been named "My Famous Father and Me". He spent a lot of time on the relationship with his father and also talking about and citing other famous people’s work. It wasn't uninteresting, it’s just that there was more about Martin’s own life that I would rather have learned about - his sister, his relationships, more insight into his own novels and writing process. The chronology was pretty loose so I did have a little trouble keeping track of where we were at any given time. My favorite parts were the letters that he wrote home to his dad and dad’s wife while he was away at school. So funny and very brave of him to include them.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diann Blakely

    EXPERIENCE begins with Martin Amis’s cranky resignation to the limits of the genre he has chosen: memoir. He knows, of course, that fiction presents its own incorrigible limits, ditto life itself—or at least life when viewed as a structural principle. For novels, Amis points out, warp “reality experiences”—a term with particular resonance after a season of "Survivor II" and "Temptation Island"—because novelists inevitably fall prey to the “addiction to seeing parallels and making connections.” O EXPERIENCE begins with Martin Amis’s cranky resignation to the limits of the genre he has chosen: memoir. He knows, of course, that fiction presents its own incorrigible limits, ditto life itself—or at least life when viewed as a structural principle. For novels, Amis points out, warp “reality experiences”—a term with particular resonance after a season of "Survivor II" and "Temptation Island"—because novelists inevitably fall prey to the “addiction to seeing parallels and making connections.” On the other hand, life, in addition to being “thinly plotted, largely themeless, sentimental, and ineluctably trite,” the author complains, contains bad dialogue and always uses “the same beginning; and the same ending.” All quite true, but most sophisticated readers still insist on beginnings and endings, even as these same readers groan with irritation when the dull plod of overdetermination becomes audible. Amis sought to defeat the latter problem by preserving what he calls “collateral thought,” those swerves and interruptions that are essential to good storytelling. But, he wondered as he began Experience, how many times can a reader have a story interrupted and still preserve a sense of its track? Infinitely many, several leading fiction writers have discovered, as long as prose conventions permit the use of footnotes. The device has been used with great ingenuity and cleverness by Rick Moody and by the late David Foster Wallace, but they adopt the footnote largely as a means of ironic commentary on the text itself, whereas Amis views what is literally subtext as essential to any writer’s stringently examined life. Some readers will be surprised to learn that Amis’s footnotes aren’t extrapolations on his decision to leave one agent (who happened to be the wife of his quondam friend, Julian Barnes) for the notorious, high-rolling Andrew Wylie, nor are they a public means of trashing novelist A.S. Byatt, who denounced Amis in the British TIMES, suggesting that the move was occasioned by his wanting money to have his crooked teeth cosmetically updated. Instead, while EXPERIENCE partially springs from the author’s understandable desire to set certain records straight, far more important is Amis’ subtle insistence on memoir as a means of examining ourselves vis-à-vis the relationships that life extends to us. One might even argue that tone, which embodies writers’ attitudes toward their subjects, becomes the most important structural aspect in EXPERIENCE. Amis’s, distinctive but wide-ranging, has been deeply inflected by his historical and literary identity, an identity that makes the gap between the postwar English and American experiences seem like a galaxy-wide black hole. The most famous voice of that era arguably remains Philip Larkin's--“deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth"--and thus Amis's appreciation for the work of his famous father's friend is of little wonder, even if has recently become news in the Anglophone literary world (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/9601ae...). The ’50s in England differed from the Blitzkrieg years primarily in the absence of Hitler’s bombs, but most Americans have little knowledge of the dreary and pinched circumstances that lingered for years after victory’s afterglow faded and Amis's countrymen were left with the exploded ruins of buildings, a staggering debt incurred by the national defense, and a grim sense that shortages of butter, sugar, gas, and tobacco would never ease. Postwar Britain’s predominant tones imparted a sense that history is more real than psychology, that irony is ultimately classical and tragic, and that fate shapes our lives as surely as free will. As an example of the last, Amis compares the different reactions of his American wife and himself when his father becomes critically ill: we Americans rush for specialists at Hopkins or Mayo, comparative tests, and third and fourth and fifth opinions, he says, while Brits tend to accept a dire diagnosis and ask merely which queue they should join. Amis’s sense of humor is singular and droll, and he’s hardly incapable of joy—his descriptions of his children, especially the birth of his second daughter, are rapturously smitten. Yet his refusal to dodge life’s darker truths is finally what distinguishes his memoir from the dozens of others published each year. That, and, of course, the presence of Amis, Sr.—who spent a year as a visiting writer at Vanderbilt. “I thought it very representative of your integrity,” the younger Amis graciously wrote to his father in 1967, “to warn me of the defficiencies [sic] of Nashville.” A footnote to this letter quotes directly from Kingsley’s description of Nashville—“known, unironically I suppose to some, as the Athens of the South”—and his experiences with a novel-writing Vanderbilt colleague who apparently said, more than once, “I can’t find it in my heart to give a Negro or a Jew an A.” (originally published in the NASHVILLE SCENE / Village Voice Media)

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