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Lionel Asbo: State of England Hardcover – 7 Jun 2012

86 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (7 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224096206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224096201
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.9 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,459 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

Review

"Martin Amis's Lionel Asbo made me laugh (as any novel driven by incestuous relations with your grandmother should) and then feel ashamed for that laughter (as any novel driven by incestuous relations with your grandmother should)." (James Kidd Independent)

"It's a Big Mac made from filet mignon… It is a book of lovehate. It is a powershake. And the biggest joy is that Amis seems to find himself (and finds us, by extension) loving the thing he loathes... So let's give thanks that Martin Amis was bad enough and brave enough to write it" (Nicola Barker Observer)

"This is still a Martin Amis novel, full of tense, fugitive moments…had me roaring with laughter." (DJ Taylor Independent)

"Being an Amis novel it’s not without the odd good joke, and he is, of course, incapable of writing and inelegant line. (It’s almost as if he alone can sense both the golden ratio of a sentence, and its perfect rhythm: it’s like he’s Michelangelo and Keith Moon)." (David Annand Sunday Telegraph)

"As soon as you begin this novel, it is clear that Amis does indeed love his monstrous invention, Lionel Asbo. Lionel is a fantastic brute… Amis’s delight in the incorrigible is genuinely Dickensian… This is a verbally inventive comedy…to be enjoyed in the same spirit as Little Britain… It’s a hoot." (David Sexton Evening Standard)

Book Description

A modern fairytale from one of the world's great writers

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Frum on 7 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback
I got about half way through this wearisome yarn before abandoning it. In my judgement Amis has produced nothing worth reading since "London Fields" and "The Information". "Lionel Asbo" sustains the decline. There are a few decent jokes but overall there is nothing to sustain interest. The principal characters never convince and if there's anything resembling a plot, rather than a lurching series of set-pieces, I didn't manage to stay awake long enough to discover it. And there's something distasteful about Amis' unconvincing impersonation of underclass life.
Garbage.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Well, well, well. Lionel Asbo has certainly caused something of a stir amongst the Amazon reviewing community. For what it's worth - and this review will be so far down as to never be seen - I found it to be Shamelessly enjoyable.

Film and tv viewers of such programmes as Shameless are certainly inured to seeing (hmm, how shall I put this?) the underclass (if that would be acceptable?) portrayed on the screen. But in a book, not so much. Martin Amis clearly had fun writing this and why should he not? We all have the right to write what we like these days so I really don't see why he should be decried for doing so. Why the fuss?

Bad luck for Amis, though, that the publication of this book more or less coincided with the government's announcement of a proposal to replace ASBOs with a "criminal behaviour order" (nicknamed "crimbo" in the media). Thus, the moment the book came out, it appeared to be immediately behind the zeitgeist. Timing is everything. But it doesn't really matter whether the book is relevant to our times or whether it tells us anything about the state of the nation. The question is: is it a good read? For my money, the book is a blast.

Others have covered the plot but it bears repeating that the main protagonist, violent, amoral Uncle Li, lacks a single redeeming quality; you have to be prepared for the fact that there are no concessions to likeability here. Then there's his mum who has a penchant for young boys and the Telegraph cryptic crossword. His long-suffering, academically brilliant nephew Des, the moral heart of the book. Plus sundry other unsavoury characters whose names are a hoot (as you'd expect from Amis). And then there are the dogs.

Jokes, when they come, are laugh out loud funny and the writing is glorious. Exuberant, even. The thing about Martin Amis never writing a cliché has, in itself, become a cliché. Oh, the irony.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rogerzilla on 21 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One gets the feeling that Martin Amis has spent the last 25 years trying to recreate the genius of "London Fields", one of the best novels ever written. So we get Lionel Asbo, a reincarnation of Keith Talent from the former novel, but he's not very funny and not in the least bit sympathetic (Keith's constant failures made you root for him, even if only in the darts matches). Baby Cilla is basically Kim Talent. The novel only focuses on the life of one dysfunctional family and doesn't head off into the metaphorical world situation and astrophysics like the older novel, which gave it its power and depth. The "shock" event at the end is an anticlimax (Amis is obviously mellowing with age) unlike the delicious twists at the end of "Money" and "London Fields". And anyone who quotes Baha Men in the part-titles is getting a bit desperate.

There isn't a whole lot of plot; Des, a nice guy through and through, goes through the novel unscathed and pretty much unaffected by wehatever Lionel gets up to, as does his partner Dawn. Lionel spends a lot of money but makes a lot more; the worst that happens is that his unhealthy lifestyle starts to catch up with him. The minor characters aren't especially well-drawn, although I liked Grace's ability to talk in cryptic crossword clues. As usual with Amis' work, the odd character names are a barrier to believability although he goes to some lengths to explain them in this novel.

What the novel shows is that Amis can still write well but he seems to have lost touch with the world about which he's writing. For "London Fields" he apparently spent ages playing darts in local pubs. Maybe he should have hung around with Michael Carroll, the original "lotto lout".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Abe Ayre on 11 May 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
After reading Money I became an Amis fan but am still waiting to read London Fields. The blurb on the back of Lionel Asbo suggested as simple a concept as the original, Money. Entertaining scumbag wins the lottery about summarises it.

Indeed money is pivotal to this book and those satisfied by "Money", should be well served here. I found the book more accessible as, although set in London, it is "Diston", the worst sink estate in England that provides the environs. While easier for big city types, accessibility is promoted through simply imagining a rough council estate near you. Diston is full of strange, extreme, desperate people and Amis describes them succinctly enough for the busiest, most distracted, reader to really care.

Asbo is a monster. The central charm of the novel is how his young charge, Des Pepperdine, shapes his own path. The classic "nature vs nurture" debate with a modern consideration of class mobility. I won't spoil the story but I enjoyed seeing this done without fabulous amounts of money, despite what the abstract might first have you imagine.

Upon reading other reviews I thought it wise to address the labelling of Amis as a bigot etc, by the national press. Asbo is not representing the working class, though he has/had a career in crime this does not qualify him as working class. I don't want to qualify the reasons and distinctions with the underclass, but that is what Asbo is, senseless and insensible to danger, living only for the moment, as shallow as a TV villain. While his "friends" and relatives are not strangers to honest labour, we can form no such judgements about them, only that they have the misfortune to know such a character as Asbo.
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