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Experience - Leather Bound Limited Edition Hardcover – Special Edition, 18 May 2000

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (18 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224061259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224061254
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 4.7 x 25.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,069,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martin Amis is the author of ten novels, the memoir Experience, two collections of stories and six collections of non-fiction. He lives in London.

Product Description

Amazon Review

At one point in this remarkable book, Martin Amis refers to a phrase he coined in a 1983 newspaper piece on Saul Bellow. "Higher autobiography", intended to convey a fork taken by late 20th century literature, lingers on the palate long after the final page, awash with pictures of his various children. He is no longer "the kid", as Bellow puts it to him after the death of father Kingsley in 1995, and this generational shift is sharply in evidence within the quietly smouldering pages of Experience. Shunning orthodox chronology for more satisfying linearity, Amis explores the issues that have dogged his life and his reputation for too long. Though he is angry--mostly with the English media--the tone of the book is one of patient memorial and reconciliation, with most obviously Kingsley, and his own manifestations, but also with his "missing"--the cousin, Lucy Partington, a victim of Fred West's "prepotence", and the daughter, Delilah, by an earlier relationship. Gossip column titbits are confronted head-on: divorce, the change of literary agent, the falling-out with Julian Barnes, the row with Kingsley's biographer Eric Jacobs and, of course, the Teeth (actually deserving of a full set of capitals; the hardest heart would flinch and whimper at the reconstructive surgery he endured, ignorantly disparaged as "cosmetic").

The revelation of the book, however, lies in the body of the book, in its weave and stitching. Copious footnotes adorn most pages, not digressive but novelistically collusive to a self-defeating desire to "speak without artifice". A book of love, it is also one of the funniest books ever to wear the cloak of death and mortality so constantly. Money was a novel, says Amis, about "the fear that childlessness will condemn you to childishness". This volume, about how many people leave a room compared to entering it--to quote a recurrent theme--exorcises that particular fear, and a more general dread that has perpetually haunted his prose. Experience, pitched between his splendid journalism and his fiction, is a wake-up call to those who have too easily dismissed his work. It is a considerable, haunting work. --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A scrupulous and candid writer" (Guardian)

"His memoir is dazzling, provocative and mordant" (Arthur Smith The Week)

"Funny, sad, moving and absolutely riveting" (Daily Telegraph)

"On virtually every page there is a phrase that is blissfully funny and ingenious...never less than compelling" (Mail on Sunday)

"Three times in the reading of this book, the courage, compassion and simplicity of Amis's writing brought me to tears. As a portrait of sustaining love between a father and a son, Experience stands alone among the testaments" (The Time) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ian Shine VINE VOICE on 8 Jan. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I have not always found Amis' fiction to my taste, I still feel compelled to read him. With many other authors, if they had written books as poor as "Yellow Dog" or "Dead Babies", I would never have picked them up again. So why have I continued with Amis? Because for every moment of cringey dialogue that he comes up with, there is always a moment of poetic brilliance.

So, in my dedication to the man and his works I picked up a copy of "Experience" and was blown away. There is all the usual brilliance here with none of the cringe. It is of course memoir rather than fiction, but this is far from the usual recounting of events found in most memoirs. A lot of the book is about his father and their relationship, while the rest of it focuses on other family and a few non-family relationships. Amis makes some incredible observations on growing up and moving from innocence to experience, reflecting his life through the lens of his children and parents. The observations on love and recovery from it are beautiful (the moment when his son says something like 'I hate love' after Amis' divorce, and what Amis has to say about it, stands out), as well as his comments on the fading away of life and our attitudes to death, in which he talks about his father, Larkin, Bellow, and his cousin who was a victim of Fred West.

This is a moving book, particularly the last 100 pages, and I am very much looking forward to picking up a copy of the sequel, "Koba the Dread".
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Oct. 2001
Format: Paperback
I borrowed this book from the library and am now buying it because I want it on my bookshelf. I'm one of those readers who trips over themselves trying to get to the end of the paragraph before finishing the beginning. Consequently the footnotes and dense prose of this book had me working very hard indeed but it was so worth it. I found it extremely moving and surprisingly humble. Perhaps he bangs on about his teeth too much but, as someone who has experienced the trauma of extensive dental work, I can understand how it can permeate all conscious thought and experience.
I've always been very fond of both Martin & (more so) Kingsley Amis' work but have been slightly uncomfortable about their more hard-boiled attitudes and their misogyny. However, I can generally forgive people most things if they make me laugh and this book is also very witty. Like his father, Martin Amis' writing can make you cackle/snort out loud and, most importantly, forget the tedious tube/train journey you're taking.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Aug. 2000
Format: Hardcover
A man approaches fifty and looks back gratefully on the blessings he has enjoyed - his children, his friendships, his parents, his interesting career - while ruing the ills he has suffered - failed marriages, deaths, physical pain and notoriety. But with the touch of Martin Amis, this standard stuff becomes the core of a hilarious and moving memoir, which flashes brilliantly from subject to subject, and is consistently fine from start to end.
"Experience" is like a buffet, chock-a-block with dishes, not all of them congenial. But oddly, many reviewers have focused on only one dish: Amis's talk of teeth, which is deemed an "obsession." While this is a frequent subject, his hilarious stories about his bad teeth and gums function as an amusing surface that connects to some deep and grievous pain in his life, which includes the grisly murder of his young cousin, and his own marital estrangement. The funny mortifying stories about tooth loss just make it easier to engage when Amis circles around to contemplate these and other truly horrible experiences.
The structure of this book is unique. There are eighteen chapters, each centered on a broad subject (Women and Love, The Problem of Re-Entry). Between each chapter is a letter the young Martin wrote to his parents, mostly while he was at Oxford. Then, each page jumps with footnotes, where Amis treats the reader to brilliant narrative-enriching clarifications and anecdotes. The effect of all this activity? The book has a sparkling quality, with bright thought packed beside hilarious story, as the writer moves deftly from subject to subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Heales on 10 July 2008
Format: Paperback
Whilst Amis has self-consciously forgone detailing all but the bare bones of his inter-personal relationships, he has sought to compensate for this by focusing on his relationship with his father, his reaction to the death of his cousin at the hands of Fred West and his battles with his appearance (his weight as a child and teeth as an adult). But the tabloid editor's loss is our gain as he uses these and other reminiscences as fodder for grand reflections on his life up to middle age. As someone with only a couple of Amis novels to my name, I found this a terrific, affecting read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. M. A. Reed TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
I know this has been out ages, but something this big takes time. "Experience" is the closest thing that Martin Amis gets to an auto-biography, presenting instead an anti-biography. Conventional details such as birthdates, middle names, weddings, children all go by the wayside, and instead Amis presents us the most non-linear autobiography ever, instead detailing the inner monologue and concentrating on some huge themes and preoccupations as opposed to anything about himself.

Still, if there is one thing you can say about him - he's a writer. He manages to make the most tedious subjects sound interesting. Whole chapters are spent on the differences between dentists in the US, dentists in the UK, and the terminology they use. Most of the rest of the 400 or so pages Amis offers are variations on the theme of absence, his father - Kingsley - painted between the lines as a bit of a drunken womaniser is portrayed, faults intact, as only a son can. He's flawed, human, and yet somehow, you can't help but warm to him.

The other main theme, and one that Amis veers off into for huge stretches, is the murder of his relative Lucy Partington at the hands of Fred West. Whole pages are devoted to analysing how she may have died, and Fred's appearance at hospital just a handful of days after her disappearance bearing unusual scratches and wound - the implication being that Lucy was a fighter. The information here is really only scratching the surface of detail Amis unflinching, but reluctantly, touches upon. (and dealt with in more depth in Gordon Burn's "Happy Like Murderers", a disturbing portrayal of Britain's most unusual marriage).

Still, its testament to his ability as a writer that he makes anything sound interesting, even if it initially doesn't appear to be so.
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