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Where your Head’s at Reading Martin Amis’s Second Plane

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As novelist, Martin Amis possesses that same ‘single inestimable virtue’ he finds in John Updike the literary journalist: "having read him once, you admit to yourself, almost with a sigh, that you will have to read everything he writes."

And so it was that, even though it’s not a novel, I read The Second Plane last Spring. Not with a sigh, or a whimper, but, rather, for the first time ever, with a break. For the first time ever, I had to lay an Amis book down.  Hampered by the fact that much of what is contained at least in the book’s first half — I’d read before, along with scrolls of screen filling commentary on what I’d already read. Mostly found on the Guardian’s website.

I’d had my fill, and was bored.

Amis’s prose, though crackling with its patented wit, unexcelled metaphors and alert phrase making — seemed tired, and strangely flippant in front of such a horrific event.

The book consists mostly of previously published chronologically arranged essays. I got to September 2006, then as mentioned decided to give it a rest. This one simply didn’t hold.

Several weeks ago however, prompted by coverage of the Hay Festival, I picked the Second Plane up again. Very glad I did too. It read much fresher; I especially enjoyed Marty’s ride around London and the globe with Tony Blair; a bit of alright it was; back to expected form. Of course, it hadn’t changed. I had. Which says a lot I think about reviewing. So much depends upon where your head happens to be at when doing the actual reading.

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One Response to “Where your Head’s at Reading Martin Amis’s Second Plane”

  1. Judith Fitzgerald Says:

    Mr. Amis uses the term, "horrorism," a term I coined 20 September 2001 following the WTC catastrophe, in using the screen name "Zoe" but signing my comments with JF or, the important one, the second one, with my full name.  I think it is important that you consider "interesting phrase making" in this context, Nigel.  And, I thank you for doing so:

    Whew.  Thank you for allowing me to get this off my (admittedly) flat chest :) .  G’Night, Bright Eyes.  Back to the reviewagon . . .

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