To discuss a Martin Amis book, you must first discuss the orchestrated release of a Martin Amis book. In London, which rightly prides itself on the vibrancy of its literary cottage industry, Amis is the Steve Jobs of book promoters, and his product rollouts are as carefully managed as anything Apple dreams up.
I don't know why I wanted a girl,' he says, as if to himself. 'I mean, I wouldn't swap Louis, but when they said, 'It's a boy!', I thought: 'Oh, well.' Everyone else was incredibly pleased that it was a boy – grandparents are always very pleased when it's a boy for some reason. Another one's on the way, and I hope it's going to be a girl. After that, I'll stop. I think it can be a real mistake to sort of plug away for a particular sex … you end up having millions and they're all boys.
Language leads a double life - and so does the novelist. You chat with family and friends, you attend to your correspondence, you consult menus and shopping lists, you observe road signs, and so on. Then you enter your study, where language exists in quite another form - as the stuff of patterned artifice.
A writer’s life is half ambition and half anxiety, and there has to be both. It is no good writing a novel and feeling fine, and it is no good writing a whole novel feeling miserable. It has to be both, that mixture of anxiety and ambition, and you get that with every novel, but more so when you write about these epics of human suffering. I felt that just as much when I wrote about the Gulag. Every writer knows what that is. The process goes… you have to think: ‘This novel I am writing is no good.’ Then you have to think: ‘All my novels are no good.’ And then, when you reach that point, you can begin.
I think novelists are in the education business, really, but they're not teaching you times tables, they are teaching you responsiveness and morality and to make nuanced judgments. And really to just make the planet look a bit richer when you go out into the street.
The middle class is doing fine in fiction. But it's not what gets me going. I love the working class, and everyone from it I've met, and think they're incredibly witty, inventive - there's a lot of poetry there.
You know, I wouldn’t have done this a month ago. I wouldn’t have done it then. Then I was avoiding. Now I’m just waiting. Things happen to me. They do. They have to go ahead and happen. You watch – you wait… Things still happen here and something is waiting to happen to me. I can tell. Recently my life feels like a bloodcurdling joke. Recently my life has taken on *form* Something is waiting. I am waiting. Soon, it will stop waiting – any day now. Awful things can happen any time. This is the awful thing.
On page 605, Blumenthal says that 'I made friends with Hitchens's friends the novelists Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie.' True in its way. I particularly remember the occasion when he called me up and invited me to dinner with Dick Morris, but only on condition that I brought Rushdie (who was staying in my house) along with me. No Rushdie: no invitation. So I never did get to meet Dick Morris.
Only in art will the lion lie down with the lamb, and the rose grow without the thorn.
The first thing that distinguishes a writer is that he is most alive when alone.