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Understanding Martin Amis (Understanding Contemporary British Literature) [Paperback]

James Diedrick

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Book Description

31 Jan 2004 Understanding Contemporary British Literature
Understanding Martin Amis is a comprehensive reader's guide to the novels, short stories, and nonfiction written by one of Britain's most highly acclaimed and controversial authors. Building on the first edition, published in 1995, James Diedrick draws on personal interviews, reviews, and criticism, as he maps the distinctive features of Martin Amis's imaginative landscape-the sociosexual satire of Money and Yellow Dog, the bold experimentation of Time's Arrow and Night Train, and the provocative blend of autobiography and cultural analysis in Experience and Koba the Dread. Diedrick illustrates how Amis has reshaped the British literary landscape, expanding the stylistic and thematic range of fiction while creating forms adequate to the unsettling experience of postmodernity.

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At the turn of the millennium, Martin Amis surprised nearly everyone. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction to Martin Amis available 15 Jun 2004
By Nick - Published on Amazon.com
Diedrick has written an extremely helpful guide to the work of Martin Amis that should satisfy both academics and casual readers who are looking to deepen their understanding of Amis' often highly allusive fiction. Diedrick's writing is crisp and insightful, and the many strands of Amis' thought are followed with a thoroughness that captures the complexity of his novels without oversimplifying them. So deftly written are Diedrick's discussions of each novel that just about any of the paragraphs could easily warrant a book-length treatment on its own. Students will have much to plunder.
As a longtime reader of Amis', I enjoyed the thoughtful discussions of complex novels like "Money", "London Fields" and "The Information". The attention to the structure of these novels is a great help in unraveling their mysteries, as are the passages outlining Amis' dialogue with nineteenth century luminaries like Dickens and the Romantics. The early books are not overlooked; "The Rachel Papers", one of my favorites, turned out to be a little trickier than I'd thought, while "Other People"-- undoubtedly the most maddeningly convoluted of all the novels-- was made less obscure. (Alas, even Diedrick cannot make me a believer in the insipid "Dead Babies".)
Of special interest is the running examination of Amis' view of masculinity. Amis is often carelessly dismissed by many critics as the father of "lad lit", a smirking mysoginist beyond reconstruction, and I was pleased to see that Diedrick cut through the "bad boy controversy" to illuminate Amis' multivalenced depiction of the modern male (particularly in the new fine new chapter on "Yellow Dog"). This is one of Amis' primary subjects, and almost all of his books deal with the problem of masculinity in some form or another. Diedrick shows that on this topic Amis is hardly as simple as he seems, and certainly less risible.
Importantly, Diedrick's studies also draw on Amis' other writing, such as his journalism and criticism, which is often the best starting point for deciphering the novels, as artistic and philosophic themes move freely between his fiction and non-fiction. The comprehensive use of secondary writing to explain the novels is unsurprising, as Diedrick edited Amis' volume of criticism, the excellent but rather unfortunately titled collection "The War Against Cliche".
If Amis is truly trying to "cover the world in fiction", as one of his book jackets proclaims, Diedrick has provided a learned, engaging and, indeed, indispensible road map.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Assiduous and Entertaining 15 Jun 2004
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
James Diedrick is described in the Introduction to Amis's 'The War Against Cliché' as an 'assiduous' editor. Amis, with one eye constantly on his place in history, already has many good reasons to thank Prof Diedrick, and this update of the definitive guide to Amis's work is another one.
Critical appraisals of other writers are always a balancing act: between subjective opinion and bland objectivity; between an appreciation of the subject's skills and the desire to demonstrate one's own; between academic assiduousness and an accessible message. Understanding Martin Amis gets the balance right in all areas. Any fan (or adversary) of Amis will get a great deal from the book: apercus they hadn't spotted before, confirmation of their pet theories, (relevant) biographical background, and a shared sense of the fun to be had from Amis's fiction at its peerless best. When the Amis backlash has finished its tedious course (when wasn't there one?), this book will serve as a useful reminder of why he was, and will be, so lionised as a novelist.
A contemporary review of Ian MacDonald's superb 'Revolution In The Head: The Beatles Records and the Sixties' stated that the acid test of any work of criticism is whether it makes you want to revisit the work filled with greater insight and enjoyment. I can give no higher praise than to state that Understanding Martin Amis achieves this objective every bit as successfully as MacDonald's book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for any serious Amis scholar. 3 Nov 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
If you are doing research on Martin Amis, this is a book you will have to consider. Terrifically written.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best available critique of Martin Amis's work to date. 24 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Prof. James Diedrick has written a great study of Martin Amis's work for both the general and scholarly audience. Complete in its scope, this book is a must for anyone studying Martin Amis's work.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astoundingly Insightful 26 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
The author has provided an insightful and concise portrait of Amis and his work. I can't imagine that Amis himself could have done better. Diedrick really knows his subject.
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