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Heavy Water and Other Stories [Paperback]

Martin Amis
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 31 2000
From the author of NIGHT TRAIN and LONDON FIELDS, a collection of short stories which includes THE JANITOR ON MARS, CAREER MOVES, LET ME COUNT THE TIMES, HEAVY WATER, STATE OF ENGLAND, THE COINCIDENCE OF THE ARTS and STRAIGHT FICTION, in which everyone is gay, apart from the beleaguered straight community.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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From Amazon

These nine stories span a period from 1975 to 1997 and are a good reflection of the range of Martin Amis's writing, which is always skillful and consistently seductive--sometimes irritatingly so. Amis lures his reader into an intense interest in his characters, and then, in some unsettling way, encourages us to patronize or disparage them. It's an odd strategy, but it holds our attention. By making us uncomfortable about our own less admirable attitudes, he focuses us intently on his story line.

In "Coincidence of the Arts," the targets are the feckless painter Sir Rodney Peel and his black doorman, aspiring novelist Pharsin Courier, who turns to him for artistic encouragement. When Peel embarks on a curious affair with a black waitress, it is sheer coincidence that she should happen to be Pharsin's wife. The consequences reflect well on neither man. In "State of England," we smirk knowingly at Big Mal, a bullshitting East Ender trying to sort out his life at his small son's sports day, but we are nevertheless compelled to find out what will become of him. Familiar stories about obsessive bad sex such as "Let Me Count the Times" have not stood the test of time, and Amis's tales of literary agents, aspiring novelists, and spoiled bestseller writers may only interest an inner coterie. Still, when he is on form, Amis's work is as deeply alluring as it is amusing. --Lisa Jardine, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Amis is an ingenious short story writer, and this collection of tales, three of which have not been seen here before, offers a good sampling of his range. This includes, of course, tone-perfect mimicry, which is evident in "State of England," about a disco bouncer with a son at a posh English boys' school, and "What Happened to Me on My Holiday," told in the misspelled, petulant voice of a hurt child. Then there is sharp, edgy comedy based on the notion of role reversal. In "Career Move," much admired when it appeared in the New Yorker six years ago, poets swagger around Hollywood in an atmosphere of big movie deals and heroin-fueled script conferences, while screenplay authors attend eager readings of each other's work and vie desperately for publication in ephemeral little magazines that never pay. "Straight Fiction" supposes that the world is predominantly gay but that outposts of heterosexuality remain in areas like New York's Christopher Street and San Francisco's Castro, exerting a malificent influence on the predominant, comfortable culture. "The Coincidence of the Arts" has an aristocratic and evasive English artist in New York trying to avoid reading an ambitious novel thrust upon him by his black doorman. "The Janitor on Mars" is a satirical science fiction yarn. Amis's work is wonderfully clever and often extremely funny, but there is no escaping a certain steely-eyed coldness at the heart of it. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Clever stuff, if sometimes too clever Sept. 20 2000
Format:Paperback
Heavy Water is Martin Amis' second collection of short stories. He's really better at novel length, but the stories included here a still enjoyable reading. As we expect from Amis, the prose is very stylish, very clever, very self-aware. A story like "Let Me Count the Times" isn't very "deep" at all, but it's neat just to see Amis ring all the changes he can on his main subject. Even a nominally more serious story such as "Straight Fiction", about a world in which gays dominate and heterosexuals are oppressed, is mostly interesting for the careful inversion of the language.
I was most impressed by "The Coincidence of the Arts", in which an aristocratic English painter takes up a mysterious affair with a silent black woman, a beautiful Amazon. Amidst the jokes and the cleverness Amis builds to a subtle and telling moral about race and class.
This isn't a collection of great stories, or a great collection of stories, but it's consistently fun and involving, and every so often it's even better.
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Collection by a Talented Writer Aug. 19 2000
Format:Paperback
What's up with all these negative reviews? This is a strong collection that certainly does not deserve these pans. Each story in Heavy Water contains an interesting premise that Amis runs with and makes a successful story out of. For instance, in Career Move, the pop culture value of poems and screenplays have been reversed. It's an interesting idea and a funny story. The last piece, What Happened to Me on my Holiday is narrated by an 11 year old who is hard to understand. I think Amis did it this way because he did not want the story, a heartbreaking tale of the sudden death of a young boy, to be taken lightly, to be breezed over. This is an interesting collection. Give it a try if you are at all interested in Amis' work
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believe the hype Feb. 17 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
People talk about this Martin Amis as though he's the be-all and end-all of modern literature, like he's the Michael Jordan of fiction (only not retired). Well, guess what? They're right. It's hard to imagine anyone thinking they were truly in touch with literature today not having read Amis. He does push the envelope, the very limits of the form, dazzling with every page. But what, I would ask detractors, is wrong with that? Isn't that what great writers are supposed to do? And, this collection is no exception, showing Amis to be, for the most part, in top form. In fact, some of the pieces in the collection, such as the moving and funny 'State of England', in which a yob struggles to find his place in modern England, rank among his best work in any format. Not to mention, 'What Happened to Me on My Holiday', 'Coincidence of the Arts', and 'Janitor on Mars'. All great great great. Don't think, either, that Amis is all about the writerly pyrotechnics he so handily summons. As other reviewers have noted, Amis' writing lately is displaying a lot of, well, heart. There is empathy and compassion in these stories, mixed in with all the brilliance. Any one who thinks otherwise has probably not actually read them. You might even be a little moved by some of them, in between bouts of being dazzled. Imagine that. Highly recommended. You'll no doubt want more of Amis, so go from HW to 'Money', 'London Fields', 'The Information' and 'Times' Arrow'.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spans The Range June 12 2001
By taking a rest - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The first story is clever and witty until it is repeated in an altered form later on. And the final story will be passed over by some readers, as it is at best annoying and at worst worthless. Mr. Martin Amis clearly is talented and quick with clever prose and he demonstrates this in his book, "Heavy Water And Other Stories". In between these extremes there are a variety of works than taken as a whole are quite good, however these are interrupted by other stories that are not up to the company they keep.
"Career Move", is the first and one of the better installments. The Author takes an aspect of life that everyone can relate to, changes it into an absurdity, and delivers a very funny and clever piece. "Straight Fiction", is a variant on the theme, and it not only seems familiar it diminishes the first story as well. The latter of the two is a bolder change of society, as we know it, for only the heterosexual need to be concerned about their being "outed". Not only does the Author tread a familiar path in his own book, but many others have played the what if game with major demographic changes at the center of their work. The issues are also quite real, and as such require a much more delicate touch, more sardonic than caustic.
"What Happened To Me On My Holiday", is a complete mystery to me. If torn from the book nothing would have been lost from this reader's experience. It may be there is an event that the story was associated with at the time it was published that would decrypt why it should amuse rather than annoy. If there is I am unaware of it.
I will read more of this writer's work but it will be as I find it, not as I spend the days searching.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever stuff, if sometimes too clever Sept. 20 2000
By Richard R. Horton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Heavy Water is Martin Amis' second collection of short stories. He's really better at novel length, but the stories included here a still enjoyable reading. As we expect from Amis, the prose is very stylish, very clever, very self-aware. A story like "Let Me Count the Times" isn't very "deep" at all, but it's neat just to see Amis ring all the changes he can on his main subject. Even a nominally more serious story such as "Straight Fiction", about a world in which gays dominate and heterosexuals are oppressed, is mostly interesting for the careful inversion of the language.
I was most impressed by "The Coincidence of the Arts", in which an aristocratic English painter takes up a mysterious affair with a silent black woman, a beautiful Amazon. Amidst the jokes and the cleverness Amis builds to a subtle and telling moral about race and class.
This isn't a collection of great stories, or a great collection of stories, but it's consistently fun and involving, and every so often it's even better.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A pretty good yard sale Feb. 15 1999
By stmartin@charlotte.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio Cassette
Short stories aren't Martin Amis' thing. It's just impossible to compare Heavy Water to London Fields, Money, The Information and all those other muscular big-budget novels that I find myself dipping into when I need a bit of a lift. Amis' two books of non-fiction are more entertaining. Still, to the dedicated Amis fan, Heavy Water proves that even his cast-off stuff is better than most writers' best; the book displays a tremendous elasticity of style from the hilarious role reversal of the poet and screenplay writer in the first story to the somber and technical science fiction of the 'Janitor on Mars.' Heavy Water is worth the cash outlay, but after this and Night Train, I'm ready for another meaty five hundred pager marinated in the BO of Keith Talent or BS of John Self. And I probably speak for most Amis fans.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable satires April 21 2005
By Sirin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Much of Amis' work makes the reader feel uncomfortable. The adjectives vain, lazy, narcissistic, slobbish, violent often apply to his characters. In Heavy Water, an interesting collection of shorts from a writer more accustomed to the novel form, the grottiness is familiar to experienced Amis readers.

The best stories are 'State of England' and 'Coincidence of the Arts' which focus respectively on a thuggish disco bouncer with a son at an expensive boarding school and a feckless New York painter who becomes embroiled with his black doorman, his novel, and (separately), his wife.

In these two stories in particular Amis' jazzy style, perceptive social comment and dagger wit are on full display.

The other stories are less successful. His earliest two, 'Denton's Death' and 'Let Me Count the Times' palpably flag against his more developed material.

Also, although these stories seem wide ranging in terms of theme and subject matter, they actually are quite narrow. Most of them focus on either desperate, loser males or struggling artists. Amis writes about the petit bourgeoisie and the intellegensia in urban England and New York. He is masterful over his chosen terrain. But it is a narrow one.
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