Candid, chippy conversation between Mark Steyn-hating/diet Coke drinking Johann Hari and great "diet coke is the least cool of all drinks" novelist Martin Amis in The Independent this morning here. Hari, after countless irritating references to the author’s well known smoking habit (good guys don’t inhale?), concludes that Amis’s brain is at war with itself, and wonders "if the Steyn-hugging round-’em-up impulses will deliver a knock-out blow to the other Martin: the nuclear-disarming multiracialist who remembers his Muslim girlfriends with a sweet smile."
As I’ve said before, Amis’s public musings strike me as coming not from a racist, as many thought-thugs seem so keen to label him, but from a brilliant writer who is honestly grappling with a serious, sensitive topic that demands intelligent public debate.
Not that the impetus is necessarily entirely pure. Martin may just be bored, as this, the best passage in the piece, suggests:
"Yet there are other descriptions of Kingsley that keep flickering past my mind as possible explanations for Martin’s metamorphosis. Kingsley’s closest friend, Philip Larkin, suspected that Kingsley "felt nothing deeply". One of Larkin’s girlfriends said: "Kingsley wasn’t just making faces all the time, he was actually trying them on. He didn’t know who he was."
This seems like a working hypothesis, at least: that Martin has always been a great prose writer with nothing to say, casting around for a transcendent cause. He has flicked through the moral Rolodex of the concentration camps (with his novel Time’s Arrow), environmental destruction (London Fields), nuclear weapons (Einstein’s Monsters) and the Gulags (House of Meetings), and now alighted on the rubble of the World Trade Centre. Could it be this numbness that draws him time after time to apocalyptic scenarios? Is the global jihad just the latest apocalypse to lend gravity to his burning but hollow prose?"