I’m slightly scared of Martin Amis

I feel the same way about my dad, they say what they are thinking without filter, no matter how much it shocks or hurts feelings, and with barely a passing nod to modern, politically correct sensibilities. Amis has more controversial quotes on the internet that you can shake an outraged fist at, such as recently ‘Only a brain injury could make me write for children.’

And while a lot of intimidatingly intelligent writers would cause my tongue shrivel up like a dried cranberry if I ever met them, at least Will Self has written the odd column on the price of designer burgers, artisan baked goods and gardening. If only Virginia Woolf had moaned about having the in-laws over or wrote about how much she loved Shetland Ponies, I’d be far less scared of her.

On Christmas day afternoon, which one of these would you least want to ask to join in a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos?

I’m reading Amis’ ‘Time’s Arrow’, a second world war novel, told backwards. We begin with Tod, the protagonist, dying, and then his life playing in reverse, while a detached and powerless observer sits in his head taking note. A lot of the observations are engaging, such as

A child’s breathless wailing calmed by the firm slap of the father’s hand, a dead ant revived by the careless press of a passing sole, a wounded finger healed and sealed by the knife’s blade:

and my favourite

Rounding it all off with a cocktail, we finish our meal and sit there doggedly describing it to the waiter, with the menus there to jog our memory.

It’s also quite sad when he wonders what happens to children, how they get smaller, cry more as if they sense what is to come, until they are taken to the hospital as tiny babies by their mothers, and then disappear forever. It’s wrongly amusing when he speaks of the kindness of pimps and how they generously visit prostitutes to give them money, and alarming (and similar to something that happened in a South Park episode when backwards digestion struck) when he talks of the reverse morning visit to the toilet.

I enjoyed the book, it must have been very hard to write, and ends with Tod as a young man in the war, and gets very dark and disturbing with the reverse events of the concentration camps. However, the form does get a little tiring after a while, and I’m glad it’s a short book as I was ready for it to end when it did.

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