Essays by Amis



Essays by Martin Amis,
1977-Present (annotated)

"My Oxford." My Oxford. Ed. Ann Thwaite. London: Robson Books, 1977. A brief autobiographical account of Amis's undergraduate career at Exeter College, Oxford.

"A Tale of Two Novels." The Observer (19 October 1980): 26. Amis's account of his discovery that Jacob Epstein's novel Wild Oats (1979) plagiarized significantly from The Rachel Papers.

"The Sublime and the Ridiculous: Nabokov's Black Farces."In Vladimir Nabokov: A Tribute. Ed. Peter Quennell. New York: William Morrow, 1980, pp. 73-86 (originally published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1979). Amis analyzes four of Nabokov's novels, which he categorizes as "black farces": King, Queen, Knave, Laughter in the Dark, Despair, and Lolita. A superb essay, full of indirect commentary on Amis's own fictional preoccupations and procedures.

"Oh, the Enterprise is Sick." The Observer (29 July 1984): 22. Amis occasionally substituted for Julian Barnes as television critic for The Observer; here he reviews an ITV program about "Crime, Inc.," which "is, of course, a story about the great disorders formed by money." In the column, Amis also discussed Captain Kirk, Al Capone, and a program called "Cricket: The Fourth Test."

"Inside Charles's Marriage." The Observer (27 October 1985): 29.

"Broken Lance." The Atlantic 257 (March 1986): 104-106. Ostensibly a review of the reissue of Don Quixote (translated by Tobias Smollett), this is the first in a series of essays for The Atlantic in which Amis reconsiders classic works of literature.

"Ronbo and the Arms Habit." The Observer (13 April 1986): 28.

"Teacher's Pet." The Atlantic 258 (September 1986): 96-99. Amis uses the occasion of a new edition of James Joyce's Ulysses to reconsider the status of Joyce's most famous novel. Excellent on Joyce's greatness--and excesses.

"Updike's Version." The Observer Review (30 August 1987): 15-16. Half-interview, half essay, in which Amis takes the measure of Updike's achievement and literary status.

"Miss Jane's Prime." The Atlantic 265 (February 1990): 100-102. A reconsideration of Pride and Prejudice that manages to say something new about Austen's best-known novel while articulating Amis's view of the artist's social role.

"H is for Homosexual." Hockney's Alphabet. Drawings by David Hockney. New York: Random House, 1991, pp. 23-24. A short (two page) rumination on homosexuality, emphasizing Amis's own evolving attitudes.

"Lolita Reconsidered." The Atlantic 270 (September 1992): 109-120. Reprinted as the Introduction to the Everyman edition of Lolita (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), v-xxiii. One of the best essays yet written about Nabokov's masterpiece, which also happens to be Amis's favorite novel. Full of insights into Nabokov's art--and Amis's.

"Don Juan in Hull." The New Yorker (12 July 1993): 74-82. Acute analysis of the politics of Philip Larkin's reputation.

"The Heat of Wimbledon." The New Yorker (26 July 1993): 66-70. Professional tennis as an aspect of the human comedy: an account of the 1993 Wimbledon Tennis Championship.

"At the Wide-Open Open." The New Yorker (4 October 1993): 173-8. Here Amis does for the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament what he earlier did for Wimbledon.

"My Imagination and I." In Power and the Throne: The Monachy Debate, ed. Anthony Barnett (London: Vintage, 1994): 79-80. Amis's four-paragraph contribution to this anthology of political and cultural commentary on the monarchy contains a "sex dream" he had aboutthe Duchess of York.

"Blown Away." The New Yorker (30 May 1994): 47-49. A discussion of movie violence and concerns about its relationship to the real thing.

"Travolta's Second Act." The New Yorker (Feb. 20 & 27 1995): 212-17. Ostensibly a profile of the actor John Travolta, the real subject of this essay is the representation of contemporary masculinity in the work of David Mamet, Elmore Leonard, Quentin Tarantino--and Martin Amis.

"Buy My Book, Please." The New Yorker (June 26 & July 3, 1995): 96-9. Amis takes The Information on the road for his American book tour--during the O.J. Simpson trial.

"The Games Men Play." The New Yorker (14 August 1995): 40- 47. This time Amis focuses on the men's game, and the leading players of 1995: Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Thomas Muster, Pete Sampras.

"Tennis Personalities." The New Yorker (5 September 1994): 82. A short, stinging critique of the cult of "personality" in professional tennis. A slightly revised version of this essay was published in the 29 June 1997 Observer.

"A Chicago of a Novel." The Atlantic Monthly (October 1995): 114-27. A long appreciation of Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Auggie March in which Amis sets out to defend his opening claim: "The Adventures of Auggie March is the Great American Novel."

"Jane's World." The New Yorker (8 January 1996): 31-5. A loving tribute to the imperishable art of Jane Austen, posing as a rumination on various film adaptations of her novels.

"My Ad." The New Yorker (9 September 1996): 98. A one-page "Shouts and Murmurs" column about Amis's alter-ego: "The Tennis Monster."

"Unembarrassable." The New York Times Magazine (8 June 1997): 44-5. As part of a cover story "How the World Sees Us," Amis is quoted on the American love of personal disclosure. "I'm as puzzled as everyone else over here about the American habit of seeking advice on every aspect of one's private life. In England, we thrive on our own inhibitions; they're all we can truly call our own. Among the English, it's considered self-pitying to air difficulties, but Americans are unembarrassable" (14).

"The Sporting Scene." New Yorker, 16 June  1997: 38. A one-page "Talk of the Town" piece about the profound handicap overcome by the British tennis player Tim Henman: "he is the first human being called Tim to achieve anything at all."

"The Mirror of Ourselves." Time Magazine, September 15, 1997. An essay on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales ("She takes her place among the broken glass and crushed metal, in the iconography of the crash, alongside James Dean, Jayne Mansfield and Princess Grace").

"Books I Wish I'd Written." The Guardian (London), 2 October 1997: T18. This essay contains important information about the reading that shaped the imaginative landscape of Night Train: Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy, and David Simon, whose non-fiction book Homicide Amis calls a "masterpiece, . . . a 600-page cathedral of illumination: investigative sociology taken to its highest level, and rendered with unfailing intelligence and panache."

"Of Cars and the Man." The Republic of Letters 3 (January 1998): 2-4. "How miserabaly revealing it is that there's no standard topic-sentence beginning with the words 'Men drivers.'" If there were, the result might resemble this essay on "Road Rage." (Click here to go to the web site of The Republic of Letters, the journal edited by Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford).

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