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.
"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