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Is Martin Amis a Blogophobe?

By Julie PH Last edited 111 months ago
Is Martin Amis a Blogophobe?
Second Plane.jpg

Blogophobia: an irrational fear, intolerance of, or aversion to the blogosphere. Martin Amis has been accused of far worse, but after hearing him talk at RADA yesterday evening, this was the only accusation we felt it safe to lodge against him.

The offending remark came early in the evening when, during his reading from the recently published The Second Plane, Amis effectively dissed Londonist and its ilk as “semi-literate windbags of the blogosphere”. Gauntlet, thrown down. (Admittedly, the example he cites, a comment on Blair and his ties to the Bush administration, is notably cringe-worthy: “So! The poddle of Downing Street once agian feel’s the tug of his masters leish!” Eek.)

Given the considerable backstory and controversy surrounding Amis and this book, it might come as a surprise that the discussion wasn’t more contentious. The past year has seen Amis involved in a public catfight with Marxist critic Terry Eagleton, in which Eagleton compared Amis to a “British National Party thug” for the latter’s statements on Islamism and later added:

I have no idea why we should listen to novelists on these matters any more than we should listen to window cleaners.

Let’s take this argument to the schoolyard, boys.

If only the stakes weren’t so much higher than that. The Second Plane, which collects into a single volume many of those statements for which Eagleton and others decry Amis, has been greeted by largely mixed reviews and has been denounced by some for being “disturbingly bigoted” and for possessing a “strong whiff of racial prejudice”.

The conversation at RADA last night (clocking in at an hour, which led us to wonder whether Amis was getting paid £3,000 to be there) never strayed far from the familiar tropes and themes on display in The Second Plane. Indeed, “conversation” might be a misnomer, as interviewer Anthony Holden, of the Observer, did little more than propose questions to Amis, without pressing him on any particular points or challenging any of his claims.

And so the audience was basically treated to highlights of the book: questions of whether writers have a duty to engage in political thought (Amis’s response, in a word: no); his objection to the use of the epithet 9/11 to refer to September 11 (the former is a “glib, lifeless Americanism”); difficulties with ideology (“indefensible by the mind alone”) and religion (“the trouble with God is he’s a bloke”); whether, as a writer, whose role it is to engage with the Other, he could empathise with jihadists (his retort: “it strains my imagination to a twang”); and his appeal that Islamism be considered troublesome if from no other angle than that of feminism.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Amis (and there are plenty of reasons to find his opinions problematic), we found ourselves reflecting that much of what can be found objectionable in his statements may also be said to embody the plentiful contradictions with which the West grapples following September 11. We may be letting him off the hook a bit, but in the end, we suppose we were just grateful to have Amis contributing to the dialogue.

However, we really do take issue with the anti-blogger slur. Martin, shall we settle this in the schoolyard?

Last Updated 28 February 2008

DeanN

It's sad really that one of Britain's finest prose writers is becoming nothing more than a flaccid windbag pumping out the banal, cliched, reactionary views that he greasily disgorges in this book. He's the epitome of the insta-expert who knows everything about Islam, irrespective of the fact that his essays read like the work of a man whose research involved a lot of Wikipedia and very little face time with the groups he professes to explain.

I'm half certain that his newfound angle as the (very) poor man's Christopher Hitchens is all just a ploy to remind people of his continued existence, after recent novels - Yellow Dog I'm thinking of principally - were greeted with such indifference.

dePfeffel

"Half certain" is a bit like "a little bit pregnant", innit.

I do wish everyone beating up on Amis could at least land the occasional blow on the perpetrators of atrocities committed in the name of Islam. Just the odd slap. I suppose it's easier to beat up a sozzled old writer than take on some rather angrier, younger guys who might actually come and get you (rather than debate with you on the Guardian letters page)if you deign to question their fascistic, misogynist, antediluvian pathologies. But hey, if you're comfortable with who you’ve chosen to kick, then by all means keep kicking…

Amis is getting on. Maybe he’s frightened. Unless you subscribed to the "It was a controlled explosion/the CIA and Mossad did it/All the Jews working at the WTC got a call telling them to stay home" view of what happened in New York (in which case I'd like you to meet these gentlemen in white coats) then you must accept that an element of Islam has embarked on a rather scary confrontation with the West. Amis is reacting to this, and for doing so he is of course labelled...."a reactionary".

And maybe he’s getting it wrong, I don’t know. But although not reacting seems like an easier option (and these attacks on Amis and others for wondering how to confront a global death cult are just a form of not reacting) I’m afraid the problem won’t just go away, sonny.