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Lionel Asbo: State of England Hardcover – 7 Jun 2012

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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 (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 232,780 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


"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.
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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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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful By D. Rodriguez on 25 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To write about the Underclass, a writer must surely have some knowledge or experience of it, even if all it amounts to is a week or two hanging out in some low-life pub. I'm not going to give a summary of the plot: there are some excellent ones here already. I'll just say that the plot is an engaging one, and Amis a consummate storyteller. Where he falls down, in my opinion, is that he doesn't make me believe in his characters. It's not clear whether he intends them to be outlandish caricatures of benefits scroungers, thugs and teenage mothers. (David Cameron and George Osborne may have picked up their ideas from the same sources.)"Lionel Asbo" is also full of anachronisms. For example, at what sink comprehensive were boys wearing shorts and purple blazers as recently as 2006? Surely a 15-year-old has a mobile phone, even if s/he has nothing else? (Most of the 8-year-olds I know have them.) The book sometimes reads like a poor, contrived pastiche of Dickens, funny surnames, street names and all. Where Amis excels is in his ability to convey a character's physical features in a small number of words, and his beautiful use of simile and metaphor: the sun, in one passage, is fixed in the sky like a gilt tack. "Lionel Asbo" is an enjoyable read, but that isn't enough. I failed to engage with his characters; they seemed rather pathetic, and in the end I didn't really care what happened to them.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By M. READ on 27 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a genuine question. My first reaction--clearly shared by many other reviewers--was that he has completely lost the plot. Unlike Amis, I live in central London, and until recently worked with adolescents. The portrayal of characters and social context bear no relationship to reality--or rather, a grossly distorted one. This horror of working class urban life seems to run through Amis's work--perhaps he ought to try living somewhere really tough!

and yet....I didn't throw the book aside in disgust, though I was tempted to after fifty pages or so. His plotting and writing are sufficiently engaging to keep the reader interested. It appears to me that he's attempting a Dickensian approach: social satire by exaggeration and caricature. There are three reasons why this doesn't work:
1) although a lively and inventive writer, he's no genius
2) Dickens did at least know the world he depicted at first hand
3) Although Dickens is marred by sentimentality, this at least suggests some generosity of spirit, which Amis (or his authorial persona) seems mostly lacking in.

That said, it's not a waste of time. Over the past few years, there's been a lot of Amis-baiting, but at least he writes lively and accessible novels that don't play safe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Raymond C. Hodgkinson on 30 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lionel Asbo is an oik and although he wins the lottery he remains essentially the same in and out of prison. He wins a lot of money and the floodgates of wealth open, but the style and behaviour of the past rear the ugly heads. He is just able to indulge his vendettas on a grander scale using fear and prostitution to meet his own ends. Nobody seems able to escape his malign influence. Not even Desmond and Dawn with their university degrees, parental skills and careers.
Before reading it I had hoped for some kind of insight into the underclass, some sort of grid reference beyond the expected drunkenness, aimless violence and pornography. After all Martin Amis has deigned to write a novel about it and I thought he might throw up some redeeming half light, some forgotten truths perhaps. But he is able to evade that responsibility, that particular challenge, by letting Asbo win the lottery. From then on the task of the novellist is easier, the theme of mispent wealth overtakes and smothers the theme of coping and managing in a misbegotten and downtrodden place like Diston Town.
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