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Visiting Mrs. Nabokov and Other Excursions [Hardcover]

Martin Amis
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Oct 1993
These essays by Martin Amis provide portraits of contemporaries and mentors: Larkin and Rushdie, Burgess, Ballard, Nicholson Baker and John Updike. From across the Atlantic, he exposes the double-think of nuke-speak in Washington and the dementia of a Republican convention in New Orleans. And then there is sport. Checking out darts' disastrous attempt to clean itself up, Amis sneaks tips from the world number one, and witnesses the sad and sudden decline of Keith Deller. An account of dirty tricks in world chess reveals, "It's not an art. It's a fight." And so it is when he takes on the snooker savvy of Julian "Barometer" Barnes, or indulges in some brisk, but vicious poker with Al Alvarez and David Mamet. "Sex" without Madonna, expulsion from school, the Notting Hill Carnival, a Stones gig that should have been gagged - it's all here, as well as on set with Robocop or set-down with Sabatini. Martin Amis is the author of "The Rachel Papers", "Success", "Other People", "Dead Babies", "The Moronic Inferno", "Money", "Einstein's Monsters", "London Fields" and "Time's Arrow".

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; First Edition, First Printing edition (7 Oct 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224038249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224038249
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 884,827 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

"This collection reminds us of Amis's distinction and originality as a stylist" (James Wood Times Literary Supplement)

"Amis can out-sentence practically anyone. The firecracker returns of phrase are not just audacious, they're also accurate... Like Nabokov, Amis makes writing seem fun, serious fun" (Geoff Dyer Guardian)

"Amis is as talented a journalist as he is a novelist, but these essays all manifest an unusual extra quality, one that is not unlike friendship. He makes an effort; he makes readers feel that they are the only person there" (Rachel Cusk The Times)

"A superb journalist... It is Amis's jaunty, appalled and always avid watchfulness that makes in this collection true and truly enjoayable... Visiting Mrs Nabokov is a suitcase full of treats" (John Banville Irish Times) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

'Amis is a fantastically fluent decoder of the modern age - he is also one of its funniest' Independent (2004-06-24) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars neat 17 Mar 2003
By I. J. Mclachlan VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
a neat rebuttal to the argument that journalism is prose that's only meant to be read once, this book demands frequent consultation. i spent a lot of it wondering how typical Amis is of his generation. by his late twenties, he's on amicable terms with sex, drugs and rock and roll, but is still mildly scandalised by naked sunbathing and 'too old' to enjoy a Rolling Stones concert (which is wittily trashed). in a postscript, we find that an older Amis isn't bothered by naked sunbathing, so something's changed there then. he's very worried about nuclear weapons and seems to spend a lot of time morbidly brooding over them. later generations barely give them a thought, i think - or maybe they are a constant presence in the subconscious mind, underpinning the pessimism of the age. he's in touch with his macho feelings - the flush of the poker victory and the snooker conquest - in touch with them enough to amusingly undermine them. for Amis, winning at sport matters, but not so much that he doesn't have time to acknowledge his own (relative) crapness at sport - check out some of those 'live at the Crucible' break totals. interviews with other writers always contain a refreshingly large concentration on the writer's work - in contrast to the spirit of the age, for Amis, it's the writer's work that matters, not his private life. overall, Amis's cool, observant voice drags journalism out of skim-reading terrain and into the realm of serious thought. anyone who enjoys intelligent, urbane, amusing conversation will enjoy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cultural Insight and Modern Despondency 12 July 2013
By s k
Format:Paperback
The fans of Martin Amis tend to divide themselves into two factions: those who prefer the fiction, and those who prefer the essays. If pushed, the present reviewer would place himself in the latter camp, although Visiting Mrs Nabokov is a rather average collection. In his 'Introduction and Acknowledgments', Amis admits the book is 'an attempt at order and completion', and that 'Getting out of the house is the only thing that unites the pieces': it shows. But, this being Amis, the prose redeems the book, the articles a repository of laughter and laddishness, cultural insight and modern despondency: in short, Amis minus the fictional baggage.

Unsurprisingly, it is the literary interviews that hold most value. Whether sharing a lunch with Graham Greene or downing gin-and-tonics with Anthony Burgess, Amis is a shrewd literary critic, his conversation devoid of sycophantic backscratching. And he employs this no-nonsense approach when re-evaluating V.S. Pritchett's tales of the quotidian, Isaac Asimov's polymathic industriousness, and J.G. Ballard's 'faintly ludicrous, bizarrely logical and deeply haunting' novels. Most interestingly, though, Amis reveals what life was like for the post-fatwa Salman Rushdie, a period when his friend 'vanished into the front page'.

Although Amis claims 'much has been left out', there should have been more. Short articles such as 'Carnival', "Frankfurt", 'Poker Night', and 'The Rolling Stones at Earls Court' achieve little, while 'Phantom of the Opera: The Republicans in 1988' and 'Nuclear City: the Megadeath Intellectuals' were already dated at the time of publication. Nevertheless, the nuclear issue helps expose the main flaw in Amis's argumentation, i.e. his recourse to hyperbole.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Entertainment 6 Dec 1999
Format:Paperback
This is one of my favourite offerings from Martin Amis. His short writings are his forte and he really is terribly amusing. I used to read his novels avidly but they started to grate after a while. This collection of writings shows where his strengths are: short, snappy, witty prose with acute observation1 and humour. Read it and enjoy!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Husband chuffed 16 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought for my husband for Fathers day gift from our son's he was very pleased. Book came quickly and was well packaged.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Subway Reading 30 April 1999
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Moderately amusing collection of 33 articles culled from various magazines and newspapers. Many of these are interviews with authors like John Updike, Salman Rushdie, and other such literary luminaries. While these are likely of interest to the well-read, I found the more entertaining essays to be the non-interviews. In this vein are those railing on Republican politics, the darts scene, judging a short story competition, the Frankfurt Book Fair, an English soccer team's tour of China, and playing pool with a good friend. The essays are all fairly short, so it's a good book to pick up and put down constantly.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars neat 17 Mar 2003
By I. J. Mclachlan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
a neat rebuttal to the argument that journalism is prose that's only meant to be read once, this book demands frequent consultation. i spent a lot of it wondering how typical Amis is of his generation. by his late twenties, he's on amicable terms with sex, drugs and rock and roll, but is still mildly scandalised by naked sunbathing and 'too old' to enjoy a Rolling Stones concert (which is wittily trashed). in a postscript, we find that an older Amis isn't bothered by naked sunbathing, so something's changed there then. he's very worried about nuclear weapons and seems to spend a lot of time morbidly brooding over them. later generations barely give them a thought, i think - or maybe they are a constant presence in the subconscious mind, underpinning the pessimism of the age. he's in touch with his macho feelings - the flush of the poker victory and the snooker conquest - in touch with them enough to amusingly undermine them. for Amis, winning at sport matters, but not so much that he doesn't have time to acknowledge his own (relative) [awkwardness] at sport - check out some of those 'live at the Crucible' break totals. interviews with other writers always contain a refreshingly large concentration on the writer's work - in contrast to the spirit of the age, for Amis, it's the writer's work that matters, not his private life. overall, Amis's cool, observant voice drags journalism out of skim-reading terrain and into the realm of serious thought. anyone who enjoys intelligent, urbane, amusing conversation will enjoy this book.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Talent to Spare 2 May 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you are a young and struggling writer and you want to learn how to be "deep" without coming as pretentious (really the only challenge offered by postmodernism), read these charming, effortless and brilliant essays. Amis redefines the word "wit" for a tired era.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inconsistent 17 Jan 2011
By Paul Rooney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is another collection of occasional articles, a follow up to - The Moronic Inferno.

This also consists of reviews and interviews of the famous and not so famous. There are also a couple of travel pieces thrown in as well.

This collection does not have the consistency of the previous one and some of it has a " scraping the bottom of the filing cabinet " feel. As in - Cannes - where he rambles on about topless beaches, he even apologises in a new preface for the standard of the article.

Most unforgivable of all he does a very disparaging review of a Rolling Stones concert. This is a mortal sin.

When he is good Amis is excellent as in - Chess: Kasporov v Karpov - on the world of chess. I found out it that cheating has been rampant in chess for hundreds of years, not out and out stealing of pieces, but very heavy gamesmanship, fascinating stuff.

This is still worth the read but not as good as other articles that he has put together, but not a bad Sunday filler.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Style and themes have dated 18 May 2009
By Sirin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was looking forward to delving into this book, long time fan as I am of Amis's fiction, but aside from a few essays such as a magesterial, witty and humane portrait of Philip Larkin - a longime friend of Kingsley Amis, which perfectly captures the gallows humour of Larkin's life and lines: 'Give me your arm, old toad, Help me down Cemetery Road', I found this was a rather dated voice from the past.

Amis's prose style and voice is always highly ironic, archly intelligent. And though he tries to put on the swagger of the American hard-baller stylists he so admires, that annoying English middle classness keeps tripping him up (for example when he plays poker with David Mamet he admits to feeling intimidated, he is perturbed by the sight of topless sunbathing in Cannes) and his snooker sessions with fellow novelist Julian Barnes have more than the whiff of overgrown two little boys with two little toys about it as he describes their snooker cues, brought for them by their respective wives.

The problem with Amis's style is that the world has moved on since the 1980s, and Amis's voice has not proven timeless. I think it has something to do with the fact that then it was still just about possible to write about the baseness of many aspects of Western Culture with the ironists voice, knowing you were addressing a knowing and highly educated readership.

Now that luxury cannot be had by writers, and some contemporary journo/novelist combos such as Will Self have realised this (though many of them haven't). No longer can an accepted bed of cultural knowledge be assumed, nor can one assume that the individual conscience of the writer is particularly privileged (something to which Amis still holds fast, witness his recent collection of articles 'The Second Plane'). The way for this type of writer - the cultural commentator, rather than the diagnostician - to survive now, I reckon, is to make like Will Self and be a brisk hack like creature, with a clever knowing style that does not come across too manufactured with sillicone injected metaphors like Amis's style. The spoken word is vital too now, in order to rack up the book sales now, and even literary writers (especially literary writers?) have to busk their comedy to reach an audience, rather than painstakingly craft pieces of journalism which - like many in this collection -can easily end up beached when the tide goes out.
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