The War Against Cliche: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000
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Is there anything that Martin Amis can’t write about? In this virtuosic, career-spanning collection he takes on James Joyce and Elvis Presley, Nabokov and English football, Jane Austen and Penthouse Forum, William Burroughs and Hillary Clinton. But above all, Amis is concerned with literature, and with the deadly cliches–not only of the pen, but of the mind and the heart.
In The War Against Cliché, Amis serves up fresh assessments of the classics and plucks neglected masterpieces off their dusty shelves. He tilts with Cervantes, Dickens and Milton, celebrates Bellow, Updike and Elmore Leonard, and deflates some of the most bloated reputations of the past three decades. On every page Amis writes with jaw-dropping felicity, wit, and a subversive brilliance that sheds new light on everything he touches.
a schoolchild, crouched under your desk, hoping it would protect you from the end of the world. How people arranged their lives around this moral void, with its exorbitant terror and absurdity, is DeLillo's subject. Perhaps it always has been. The new novel, at any rate, is an 827-page damage-check. Underworld surges with magisterial confidence through time (the last half-century) and through space (Harlem, Phoenix, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Texas, the Bronx), mingling fictional characters with
when Humbert uses his 'pet' for the play of his wit and his prose: this is the laughter we hear (not too often, I hope) when we recognize the outright perfection of our moral sordor. 'Sordid' is a word largely conspicuous by its absence in Humbert's tale. Its one self-directed appearance, I think, comes (in brackets) at The Enchanted Hunters, when he concedes that the sleeping-pill business is 'a rather sordid affair, entre nous soit dit'. The mock-genteel French tag is an important constituent
Eliot's helpfully conjunctivitic eyes to see them through. The story is brisk enough, and Snow tells it in his effortful but competent style. Seven provincial subversives, who call themselves the 'core', manage to frame a Shadow Minister via a local case of Rachmanism. But there's a leak (a traitor in their midst, etc.), one of them dies misadventurously, prosecution looms, their plans and aspirations disintegrate. This is all very well, and doubtless The Malcontents will be noticed quite
contentedly absorbed in the 'display' rituals he so admires. To pick up a book like The Way Men Think: Intellect, Intimacy and the Erotic Imagination, a sober, chatty, palliative study of gender differences, is to be transported into another — dramatically blander — world; but it is the civilized world, the modern world, the real world. Bly's Utopia is as remote in time as the story of Iron John, and can be recreated, now, only as a Rockwellian fantasy - the gruff dads, with their tools and their
would always come up with something to get him down. His biographers generally give Coleridge a hard time, and with Norman Fruman's recent sniping at the work (Coleridge, the Damaged Archangel) it seemed that Coleridge was due for one of those ominous (and pointless) 'reassessments'. But William Empson's compassionate essay, introducing his and David Pirie's selection of the verse, should restore stability to the critical stock-exchange; and now we have a sympathetic, if uninspiring, view of the