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Experience Paperback – 5 Apr 2001
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"Remarkable." (Laurence Coupe Times Higher Education)
"A scrupulous and candid writer" (Guardian)
"His memoir is dazzling, provocative and mordant" (Arthur Smith The Week)
"Funny, sad, moving and absolutely riveting" (Daily Telegraph)
"On virtually every page there is a phrase that is blissfully funny and ingenious...never less than compelling" (Mail on Sunday)
'Martin Amis is a seriously good writer, and never on better form than now. Experience, the book of his life, may be the book of his life' Daily TelegraphSee all Product description
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I bought Kingsley Amis's "Memoirs" at the same time as I bought "Experience" - autobiographies of father and son together - that won't happen often! I read Kingsley's "Memoirs" first, and it is very good indeed, but less about himself than an autobiography would normally be. He actually tells us in the preface, that he is deliberately writing about his life as reflected through people he met or knew, rather than about his personal story, which he claims would make for dull (!!) reading, and also that it would risk hurting people that he loves, or had loved. And he sticks to that fairly well. Martin Amis's "Experience" is where one reads about the real Kingsley Amis (KA), or a least a much more revealing account, although I am fairly sure that a lot has still been held back, because apart from being a magnificent writer, Martin Amis (MA) clearly loved his father very much, even though they disagreed on almost every issue possible, and KA hurt a great many people indeed (as I'm sure many of us have in our time), and he certainly did not lead a dull life.
MA's book is not chronological,moving about a lot in time and location, and there are a lot of footnotes, with possibly half as much content as is in the main text. None of this is in any way disconcerting or boring or difficult to read. I would say that three main threads knit the story together: 1 > His father KA, 2 > The death of his cousin Lucy Partington at the hands of Frederick West, and 3> (somewhat bizarrely, yet very effectively), the saga of his own massive dentistry work in the US. These themes run through a kaleidoscope of memories, anecdotes, literary references, friends, influences, opinions and reflections. It is a story which is often very sad, always appearing to be brutally honest, and often uproariously funny, told in wonderful language by an obviously highly intelligent man who almost anyone must surely wish that they could call their friend. Well done Martin Amis, and thank you for adding something important to my life. This book can change the way one thinks about oneself.
So, in my dedication to the man and his works I picked up a copy of "Experience" and was blown away. There is all the usual brilliance here with none of the cringe. It is of course memoir rather than fiction, but this is far from the usual recounting of events found in most memoirs. A lot of the book is about his father and their relationship, while the rest of it focuses on other family and a few non-family relationships. Amis makes some incredible observations on growing up and moving from innocence to experience, reflecting his life through the lens of his children and parents. The observations on love and recovery from it are beautiful (the moment when his son says something like 'I hate love' after Amis' divorce, and what Amis has to say about it, stands out), as well as his comments on the fading away of life and our attitudes to death, in which he talks about his father, Larkin, Bellow, and his cousin who was a victim of Fred West.
This is a moving book, particularly the last 100 pages, and I am very much looking forward to picking up a copy of the sequel, "Koba the Dread".
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