Monday, November 10, 2003

Famous Amis

As expected, the Martin Amis reading was good fun. Can't get enough of that sharp British wit. And not surprisingly, a disconcertingly well-behaved Christopher Hitchens did indeed show up to watch his friend read. He stayed out of the way and snuck out for cigarettes and harassment by college kids the moment it ended.

I found Amis to be refreshingly forthright and open in his responses to the informed and sometimes uncomfortably direct questions from the audience (one respondent kept harping on the "vicious" "miserable" reviews that Yellow Dog was receiving, wondering how Amis coped with the overwhelming "negative energy" directed at him.)

Amis mused on the nature of the contemporary novel, and his opinion that authors (including himself) were returning to the idea of narrative plot. Whereas 10-20 years ago, people wanted to be challenged and writers were subverting conventional forms, today, people do not want difficult books anymore. "We don't want Ulysses," Amis said. "You don't want to go home and curl up with a 600-page crossword clue."

One audience member asked if Amis would comment on the writers he admired, especially any younger writers that the audience might not be familiar with. "Younger writers?" Amis barked, affronted. "It's almost a point of pride not to read younger writers. You don't want to see those little bastards coming."

An especially bold questioner, having noticed Mr. Hitchens standing off to the side, asked if the public row between Amis and Hitchens following the publication of Amis' Koba the Dread had been detrimental to their friendship. "Hitchens was saying," the questioner noted, "that your entire thesis was basically shit." Martin Amis responded that their friendship had actually deepened, and was anyway in no real danger at all. "When I ask him, 'Do you want some? Do you want some bother and some argument,' it would not be like the Hitch to say 'No thanks.'"


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