- Amis, Martin
born Aug. 25, 1949, Oxford, Oxfordshire, Eng.British writer and critic.The son of writer Kingsley Amis, he graduated from Oxford University in 1971. He worked for the Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman before becoming a full-time writer. His worksincluding the novels Money (1984), London Fields (1989), and Night Train (1998) as well as the short-story collection Heavy Water (1999)feature inventive word play and often scabrous humour as they satirize the horrors of modern urban life. Amis also published an acclaimed autobiography, Experience (2000), and an idiosyncratic volume centred on Joseph Stalin, Koba the Dread (2002).
* * *▪ 2001The publication in May 2000 of Martin Amis's long-anticipated memoir, Experience, was greeted with enthusiasm by most literary critics on both sides of the Atlantic. Hitherto, few had questioned Amis's stature as a writer of brilliance and biting satire, but some had found his prodigious cleverness lacking at times in emotional depth. Most reviewers agreed, however, that the pages of Experience resounded with a new candour and thoughtfulness. As an autobiography and a riveting portrait of an unusual family—particularly, the depiction of his close relationship with his late father, novelist Kingsley Amis—the book was hailed as not just “entertaining” and “gossip-rich” but also “fine,” “affecting,” and “profound.” Amis himself explained that he always knew he would be compelled to commemorate his father, who had leapt to international fame with the publication of Lucky Jim (1954) when Martin was five: “He was a writer and I am a writer; it feels like a duty to describe our case—a literary curiosity.”Martin Louis Amis was born on Aug. 25, 1949, in Oxford, Eng., and was the godson of poet Philip Larkin. Despite having had literary influences, Amis was dismissed from school; his intellect was termed “unexceptional.” He went on, however, to graduate from Exeter College, Oxford, in 1971 with first-class honours in English. After a brief stint as a book reviewer, Amis joined the Times Literary Supplement, and he soon became its fiction and poetry editor. He then moved to the New Statesman, where he became literary editor. His first novel, The Rachel Papers (1973), won the Somerset Maugham Award and was followed by eight more novels and several short stories.Amis, the father of two sons by his first marriage to American philosopher Antonia Phillips and of two daughters by his second marriage to writer Isabel Fonseca, discovered in 1995 that he had a third daughter, Delilah Seale, from an affair two decades earlier. In Experience he describes meeting his 19-year-old daughter for the first time: there were “hugs and kisses for the girl with my face.”His life, magnified by his extroverted nature, was much documented by the press. He acknowledged the rancour with which some fellow writers and journalists judged his glittering career: “I'm like the son of the lord of manor, in that I took over the estate . . . by right of birth, whereas everyone else has had to struggle.” His style had been frequently imitated but rarely matched. Such novels as Other People (1981), Money (1984), and London Fields (1989) showcased his virtuoso storytelling technique but also revealed a dark side. Amis's characters inhabited a frightening world, where selfishness and avidity had caused humanity to teeter on the edge of disaster. Regardless of his birthright, Amis's continuing reputation as a doyen of English letters had been secured with his endlessly inventive, highly readable prose.Siobhan Dowd
* * *▪ British authorborn August 25, 1949, Oxford, Oxfordshire, Eng.English satirist known for his virtuoso storytelling technique and his dark views of contemporary English society.As a youth, Amis, the son of the novelist Kingsley Amis (Amis, Sir Kingsley), thrived literarily on a permissive home atmosphere and a “passionate street life.” He graduated from Exeter College, Oxford, in 1971 with first-class honours in English and worked for several years as an editor on such publications as the Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman.Amis's first novel was The Rachel Papers (1973), the tale of a young antihero preoccupied with his health, his sex life, and his efforts to get into Oxford. Other novels include Other People (1981), London Fields (1989), and Night Train (1998), as well as Time's Arrow (1991), which inverts traditional narrative order to describe the life of a Nazi war criminal from death to birth. In Amis's works, according to one critic, “morality is nudged toward bankruptcy by ‘market forces.' ” His short-story collection Einstein's Monsters (1987) finds stupidity and horror in a world filled with nuclear weapons. The forced-labour camps under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin are the subject of both the nonfiction Koba the Dread (2002) and the novel House of Meetings (2006).Among Amis's volumes of essays are The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America (1986) and The War Against Cliché (2001), both collections of journalism. Experience (2000), an autobiography that often focuses on his father, was acclaimed for an emotional depth and profundity that some reviewers had found lacking in his novels.Additional ReadingNeil Powell, Amis & Son: Two Literary Generations (2008).
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