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Experience: A Memoir [Paperback]

Martin Amis
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 12 2001
Martin Amis is one of the most gifted and innovative writers of our time. With Experience, he discloses a
private life every bit as unique and fascinating as his bestselling novels. He explores his relationship with his beloved father, novelist Kingsley Amis, and examines the life and legacy of his cousin, Lucy Partington, who was abducted and murdered by one of Britain's most notorious serial killers. Experience also dissects the literary scene, and includes Amis'portraits of Saul Bellow, Salman Rushdie, Allan Bloom, Philip Larkin, Robert Graves, and Ian McEwan, among others. Not since Nabokov's Speak, Memory has such an implausible life been recorded by such an inimitable talent.

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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

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild Ride July 30 2001
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Notes From a Frustrated Fan July 23 2001
By A Customer
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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4.0 out of 5 stars A money book July 30 2001
Looking thorugh the last few reviews I feel more than a little sorry for Martin Amis. (Not that with the size of his advances - or indeed the rave reviews he gets in the papers - he needs much sympathy.) I just read Experience, my first Martin Amis book, and thought it bloody good. It's both thoroughly well written and completely engaging; all the narratives (perhaps with the exception of the stuff about Lucy Partington) gripped me and gave me lots to enjoy and think about. The stuff about Sir Kingsley is tops and a wonderful insight into the great old curmudgeon, and Mr. is remarkably moving about Sir K.'s death. I expect real Amis fans get a lot more out of it but you don't have to be a diehard to enjoy his navel gazing, it's not self-indulgent (well, maybe a little) it makes sense and it's interesting and if little Martin was worried about the size of his bum well, I was glad to hear about it. Plenty to get your teeth stuck into here.
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2.0 out of 5 stars What's it all about, Martin? July 25 2001
I greatly admire Martin Amis's skillful pen. I wish I could write half as well. But the subject matter of 'Experience' (Amis, himself) makes me think I lead a more interesting life. If I was setting out to write my memoires, I think I'd leave my teeth out of it (even though they've given me some trouble). Or maybe a paragraph, maximum. If I wanted people to know about the things that struck me emotionally, I would almost certainly include girlfriends/lovers - not dead relatives whom I hardly knew.
Most of the interesting parts of 'Experience' are the quotes from Martin's father, Kingsley. So who wants to read second-hand quotes? This book is full of explanatory footnotes that could easily have been included in the main body of text, and would probably have been more interesting for being so.
It was a struggle to finish.
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