Experience by Martin Amis - review by A N Wilson

A N Wilson

His Best Book Yet, But Written For Americans



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This is probably Martin Amis's best book to date. It is miles better than the newspaper extracts conveyed. Yes, it is at times overwritten, strained to the point of self-parody. 'I had a cigarette in my mouth. It pleaded, it yelped to be torched.' It is hard to remember whether these risible sentences occur in Craig Brown's inspired parody in Private Eye or in Experience itself. Perhaps in both? But here the title of a Martin Amis book for once conveys what is inside the covers. Here are some real experiences, some of them pretty awful, and they are conveyed with great cunning. There is far less boasting than the extracts suggested. Take the girlfriends, for instance. The Guardian made a full-page montage of Emma Soames, Julie Kavanagh, Mary Furness, Claire Tomalin and the rest of them, as if they were the heads of tigers in a nabob's entrance hall. Martin's affairs with these women, however, happen offstage, or in footnotes, as far as this narrative is concerned. This is not My Life and Loves - rather a pity in a way, but perhaps that will be the subject of a further volume of autobiography? At several points in the book, Mart worries his pretty (still very pretty in spite of all the dentistry) head about why the press are so beastly about him, and why the hacks and hackettes are so sour. The simple reason is that he is attractive to women, a quality which brings with it many pleasures, but which provokes aching hatred and jealousy in the rest of the human race. No one except communists and sourpusses begrudges him his huge advances or his famous friends: it's the chicks, as Larkin would have called them, that infuriate the critics, particularly since so many of them are glamorous and posh.

You will have read enough reviews of the book already, many of them bilious and imperceptive, to know that the central theme of the story is that

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