scenes from the writing life: martin amis on meeting his fans


"My queue is always full of, you know, wild-eyed sleazebags . . ." 

AMIS: Judging by everything from reviews to letters I receive, I find that people take my writing rather personally. It’s interesting when you’re doing signing sessions with other writers and you look at the queues at each table and you can see definite human types gathering there.

INTERVIEWER: Which type is in your queue?

AMIS: Well, I did one with Roald Dahl and quite predictable human divisions were observable. For him, a lot of children, a lot of parents of children. With Julian Barnes, his queue seemed to be peopled by rather comfortable, professional types. My queue is always full of, you know, wild-eyed sleazebags and people who stare at me very intensely, as if I have some particular message for them. As if I must know that they’ve been reading me, that this dyad or symbiosis of reader and writer has been so intense that I must somehow know about it.

—from The Paris Review, Issue 146, Spring 1998. Interviewed by Francesca Riviere.

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martin amis on nabokov’s the original of laura

Nabokov composed The Original of Laura, or what we have of it, against the clock of doom (a series of sickening falls, then hospital infections, then bronchial collapse). It is not “A novel in fragments”, as the cover states; it is immediately recognisable as a longish short story struggling to become a novella. In this palatial edition, every left-hand page is blank, and every right-hand page reproduces Nabokov’s manuscript (with its robust handwriting and fragile spelling – “bycycle”, “stomack”, “suprize”), plus the text in typed print (and infested with square brackets). It is nice, I dare say, to see those world-famous index cards up close; but in truth there is little in Laura that reverberates in the mind. “Auroral rumbles and bangs had begun jolting the cold misty city”: in this we hear an echo of the Nabokovian music. And in the following we glimpse the funny and fearless Nabokovian disdain for our “abject physicality”: 


  

“I loathe my belly, that trunkful of bowels, which I have to carry around, and everything connected with it – the wrong food, heartburn, constipation’s leaden load, or else indigestion with a first installment of hot filth pouring out of me in a public toilet . . .” 


 

  

Otherwise and in general Laura is somewhere between larva and pupa (to use a lepidopteral metaphor), and very far from the finished imago. 

  


—from Martin Amis, “The Problem with Nabokov,” The Guardian, Saturday 14 November 2009