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Experience: A Memoir Paperback – Jun 12 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada; Vintage Canada ed edition (June 12 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676973140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676973143
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 440 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #24,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The big book on this new publisher's first list is an occasionally combative but more often sweet-natured account of a literary life with an extraordinary father. Even by English standards Kingsley Amis, whom his son rightly sees as the finest comic novelist of his generation, was a highly eccentric figure: a man who loved women in the flesh as much as he appeared to disapprove of them in principle, an alcoholic who managed to create a large body of clear-headed work, a man who couldn't bear to be alone in a house at night, but whose mastery of invective was second to noneAa difficult man to live with, it would seem, yet here recalled by Martin in the most fond and generous terms. The book revolves around a small group of seminal figures in Amis's life: his father; Saul Bellow, whom he seems to have adopted as a father figure; his young cousin Lucy Partington, who disappeared in 1973 and was later found to have been a victim of child-killer Frederick West; and longtime friend Christopher Hitchens. The controversial elements in his life aren't glossed over: the so-called cosmetic dentistry, about which the press so gloated at the time of Amis's parting from his previous agent for a larger book deal through Andrew Wylie, is shown to have been an attempt to correct, with extensive and painful surgery, a long-neglected condition of his teeth and jaw. His belated discovery of a previously unknown daughter is described with eloquent sweetness, and the account of the squabble with Kingsley's biographer, Eric Jacobs, over an account of the novelist's last days he gave to English newspapers is rendered more in sorrow than anger. There seems no doubt that a certain pugnaciousness in Amis has led to perplexingly hostile behavior toward him by the English press; it will be interesting to see how this candid, often funny and far from arrogant book will be treated there. B&W photos. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Following in the steps of Christopher Dickey (Summer of Deliverance; LJ 7/98) and V.S. Naipaul (Between Father and Son, LJ 1/00), Amis offers another portrait of the sometimes troubled, often poignant relationship between a writer son and his writer father. The younger Amis (The Information) chronicles father Kingsley!s (Lucky Jim) drunken debauches, his parents! marriage and subsequent remarriages, and the grimness of Kingsley!s final days. But Amis also weaves into his narrative accounts of his own failed first marriage, relationships with his children, friendship with Saul Bellow, and coming to terms with the disappearance and death of his cousin. In addition, Amis details his well-publicized dental nightmares and his falling out with novelist Julian Barnes. Though passages describing his relationship with his father are very moving, the rest of the book descends into a sophomoric and sometimes self-important exercise in namedropping and name calling. The book will appeal to fans of father and son and is recommended for large libraries and libraries where the two are popular."Henry Carrigan, Lancaster, PA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By sweetmolly on July 30 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a memoir structured like none you have ever read. You don't read about Martin Amis' life, you "experience" it. The occasional letters home written while he was in school anchor the structure. The letters are bracketed by his fierce criticisms of his own past writing styles.
Mr. Amis has brilliance, humor and intellect, all bursting like fireworks off the page. He also has quirks that he freely indulges. You have to get past his obsession with his teeth. (Yes, teeth.) He can start on any subject and get waylaid by dental experiences he has had. You almost forgive him these tirades, as he describes them so vividly. No one who has served a sentence or two in a dentist's chair can help but agree "the drill, capable of making your vision shudder." Then there is the issue of his phantom obesity. He continually worries about the past, present and future size of his "bum," yet every single photo in the book depicts a slim boy/youth/man called Martin Amis.
One of the strongest areas in the book is his loving tribute to his family, particularly his father, the renowned Kingsley Amis. The family is eccentric-twenty years after his parents' divorce, Kingsley moves in to the upper story of his happily remarried ex-wife's residence where she cares for him the rest of his life. The reason for this move is Kingsley does not and will not stay alone at night. His sons take this as an absolute given and grown up Martin and brother Philip discuss whether they will have to move in with Dad to quell the night frights.
Mr. Amis' descriptive powers are a marvel as they drop effortlessly through his narrative, such as, "There is a slushy crush outside the British Airways terminal.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. J. GOLDING on June 24 2001
Format: Paperback
I'm not really a fan of Amis's novels. There's something cool and smart about them. But this memoir shows a grasp of literary technique and sensibility which outstrips most of his contemporaries. It's also painfully honest - in parts - while in others, frustratingly elliptical and bemusingly discreet, particularly about the women in his life, and relations with (living) contemporaries. Never mind: there's fantastic stuff here on a unique father/son literary relationship, and a rare insight into the importance of taking literature seriously in a world whose pleasures are mostly effervescent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Sept. 18 2009
Format: Paperback
There are a number of aspects of Martin Amis' memoir, "Experience" that make for both a difficult and terrific read. One, the structure is multi-layered. It covers parts of his life as parallel strands that require close following and working out together over time. As one can well imagine, Amis's life is not easy to follow, given the complexities of his famous father's life. His issues with his dad (Kingsley), money, death, friendship, love, children, and his career are constantly presently new faces and challenges at every turn in the road of life. Two, his use of copious footnotes to back up the storyline is often daring and puzzling. While they allow the reader a unique glimpse inside the Amis mind, they disrupt the potential momentum the book has going for it. It is almost as if Amis wants his readers to chug through this book in tedious fashion to fully appreciate the painful moments in his own life. Three, the scope of this work is enormous, breath-taking and filled with all kinds of little half-finished rabbit chases that are picked up unexpectedly at some later point in the story. I found that Amis started to hit his stride only when enough of the pieces of his life fell into place and he began to discover what he calls the Joycian inadvertancy of life. There is no set plan or pattern as to how one's life is meant to look except that which is formed by living and experiencing both its fortunes and outrages. This study is a very persistant attempt to undertand the metaphysical forces that shape life and prepare us inevitably for our own mortality. I enjoyed immensely Amis' effort to bring into play a wealth of personal connections he had with literary giants like Larkin and Leavis.Read more ›
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By A Customer on July 23 2001
Format: Paperback
I am probably a bigger fan of Martin Amis than I am of his brilliant and too-imitated father. I often wish more writers, particularly American writers, took his verbal verve as inspiration. I've always loved the way MA broke all the rules of the "how to write" school -- his brazen use of adverbs, etc. When I started reading Amis in my early twenties, he gave me hope.
I devoured book after book. But as I grew up (i.e., entered my thirties) it began to dawn on me that he had a brilliant style, with nothing to say. I kept thinking -- God, he ought to be writing copy for Mercedes or something, what a waste of talent to the advertising community. Because despite advancing age, he clearly lacked the insight and maturity to write about women, violence, nuclear fear, the Holocaust.
The early books, I thought, were about something. The Rachel Papers was about self-regarding first love, Success about growing up and putting our childhood heartbreaks behind us, though it might mean losing our souls in the process. Other People fascinated because I lived through something like the protagonist. How did this guy tap into my experience? I was deeply impressed.
Then came the big books that made him famous and rich: Money, London Fields, The Information. In which characters became less real, too cartoonlike, too cliched to move the reader to indentification, the books themselves too long, wearing out attention span and killing their own too-grand themes. Night Train and Time's Arrow brief, merely clever style exercises full of what we already know. The world is bad and scary. So what else is new?
It's amazing that Amis's next book is called Against Cliche, because for all his brilliant word combinations, his characters and situations are nothing but cliche.
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