John Haffenden

Domestic Burlesque

Interview: Martin Amis

Some journalists, it seems, like to see in Martin Amis the public bumptiousness they find in his father, as though they can hardly bear to believe in his filial attack of major literary talent. When I met him, he was sighing with disbelief at the shamelessly silly profile that appeared in a recent issue of Time Out.

He lives with his girlfriend Antonia, but runs a working pad – a flat in a solid and gabled Victorian edifice – in Westbourne Park, that outland of North Kensington, a crow’s mid-course between Wormwood Scrubs and Paddington. Outside the front door a small but thriving fig-tree obtrudes Martian-green tongues; upstairs, the flat has the appearance of having been burgled (‘I paid my cleaning lady £70, and she’s gone off on holiday’). An ‘Eye of the Tiger’ pinball machine rears in a corner of the kitchen; the curtainless sitting-room houses a wall of hardback novels, TV set, video, a scroll-armed sofa, the heavily and nearly revised typescript of a new story entitled ‘The Thin Sickness’, and here and in the study a transport of working books and papers (others bulk in the bidet). Local kids scream in a playground next door: ‘Riot lessons,’ my host jokes, and fetches me coffee and a generous drop of the hard stuff. He is kitted out for tennis, and after all too short a time, virtually in mid-sentence, rushes out to his car – a small, black, beaten-looking model – to meet the match suggested by his gear; so the interview takes two afternoons, not one.

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