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In our pages: Martin Amis

May 10, 2010 |  8:23 am

Martinamis_2006

Martin Amis, one of Britain's best-known novelists, is familiar with controversy. Recently discussing the pressures of an aging population, he quipped that there should be euthanasia booths on street corners, causing some consternation. There was even more outcry when he said in 2006 that "the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order"; in later comments, he said Muslims societies were less "evolved" than others. Why does he make a habit of stirring up controversy? "I don't do it on purpose," he told the Los Angeles Times.

How can you be controversial on purpose? Our media culture is shot over here. It is one aspect of national decline. And I'm in a peculiar position -- much of it has to do with my father. I write the books I want to read -- don't think much about the reader, which doesn't mean I don't want to give my readers pleasure. A novelist goes off when he falls out of touch with his readers — like James Joyce and Henry James. First it's separate beds, then separate rooms, then separate apartments.

Amis is the son of the novelist Sir Kingsley Amis, and has been publishing novels of his own since "The Rachel Papers" when he was 24. Amis' most recent work, "The Pregnant Widow," is out this week in the U.S. In the novel, a 20-year-old and his friends summer at an Italian castle in 1970, filled with sexual tension, boozing and books. At one point, Amis had said this novel was autobiographical, but, he tells Susan Salter Reynolds, that ended up not being the case. Read the complete interview here.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Martin Amis in 2006. Credit: Isabel Fonseca

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