2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Lionel Asbo: State of England (Paperback)
This is the third Martin Amis novel I have read and I have enjoyed reading it as much as the other two.
Martin Amis' style seems to me a strange concoction of highly erudite and wonderfully earthy. This book is no exception. The title character Lionel Asbo is a tabloid stereotype, an uneducated lumpen chav who lives a life of petty criminality who views the imposition of an anti social behaviour order as a badge of honour rather than a mark of shame. He was the youngest of 7 children born to a woman who was a child herself when she started having children. He lives in a fictional district of London called Diston which is likened to a third world city with low career ambitions, short life expectancy, lack of respect for the law, and high birth rate.
Tabloids love to publish tales of awful people from such environments with benefit fraud, single mothers and criminality etc. In many ways this novel seems to revel in it but it also satirises society's obsession with celebrity.
The story revolves mainly around Asbo's £140 million win in the lottery while he was on remand awaiting sentence for his part in a riot at a hotel wedding reception. He begins a "Lotto Lout", spending the money with almost criminal abandon but somehow calms down when he meets a glamour girl turned poetess called Threnody and between them they become national treasures probably with the help of their savvy PR assistants.
Lionel Asbo is seen through the eyes of his nephew Desmond, who, unlike his uncle who does at least have some educational aspirations and who eventually becomes a journalist on a national newspaper.
These are the bare bones of the story but what makes it come alive is Martin Amis' fantastic way with words and erudition - there are plenty of allusions to Shakespeare, Dickens and Fielding in the book.
The book is also very funny and entertaining. I laughed a lot at Lionel Asbo's almost genius stupidity. The thing that struck me was that his idiotic comments often contained sentiments showing real wisdom. However much of a monster Lionel Asbo was, the reader is ultimately made to have some sympathy for him.