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Visiting Mrs Nabokov Fuelled by innumerable cigarettes Martin Amis provides dazzling portraits of contemporaries and mentors alike Larkin and Rushdie; Greene and Pritchett; Ballard and Burgess and Nicholson Baker; John Updike warts and all Vigorously zipping across to Washington he exposes the double think of nuke speak; in New Orleans the Republican Convention gets a going over And then there's sport he visits the world of darts and its disastrous attempt to clean itself up; dirty tricks in the world of chess; and some brisk but vicious poker with Al Alvarez and David MametSex without Madonna expulsion from school a Stones gig that should have been gagged on set with Robocop or on court with Gabriela Sabatini this is Martin Amis at his electric best Martin Amis is one of my favorite writers but this collection of non fiction just kind of sucks I don't give a fuck about nukes Enjoyable pieces written by Amis in the 1980s and 1990s The best articles were the ones about Salman Rushdie Saul Bellow Issac Assimov and Martin's visit to Vera Nabokov What a brilliant title so inspired and inciting this book has got The contents however were a little bit disappointing a hurry scurry of places games people whose only connection was as the author himself says in the Introduction “getting out of the house”And these “excursions” outdoors imply not only visits to some famous widows but also going to concerts flying dangerously accompanying sport teams watching games and politics and of course interviewing authors in order to write articles for British and American newspapers And given the specific characteristic of journalistic genre it is expected that some be extraordinary some of limited interest and others simply outdated I glean randomly some clever impressions gathered during these trips Most of them concern of course writers since these were the articles I was most interested in “Never content just to be America is also obliged to mean; America signifies hence its constant and riveting vulnerability to illusion”“you cannot read writers like Saul Bellow; you can only reread them I have read the new one — and you haven't Not even Saul Bellow has read it Oh he has peered at the typescript he has agonised over the proofs He has written it But he has not read it as I have”“On the way I bought an evening paper Its banner headline read EXECUTE RUSHDIE ORDERS THE AYATOLLAH Salman had disappeared into the world of block caps He had vanished into the front page”“Preferring Paul McCartney nm to John Lennon nm was like preferring Cliff Richard to Elvis Presley or Donovan to Dylan”“His Englishness Philip Larkin’s nm was so desolate and inhospitable that even the English were scandalised by it” “It is said that Evelyn Waugh died of snobbery Philip Larkin died of shame mortal corporeal shame”“When Burgess met Borges they chatted in Anglo Saxon”“even Humbert Humbert realised that young girls don't really know whether they are willing or not The active paedophile is stealing childhoods Polanski you sense has never even tried to understand this”But the icing on the cake is this “Writing journalism never feels like writing in the proper sense” Never a sentence rang truer and that’s why I totally agree with a goodreader’s advice do not begin reading Martin Amis with this book not because it is not worth reading in fact it is uite interesting but because it betrays little of the writer It only shows a gifted journalist He's at his best when he writes about other writers and their writings Greene Updike Ballard Naipaul Bellow Rushdie Larkin Burgess and of course Nabokov But there is no worst in this collection only less than best These are the pieces like RoboCop II Expelled and Cannes which though well done seem a bit too ephemeral to be put between the covers of a book Astonishingly well written always insightful by turns hilarious and deadly serious and with an admirable variation of topics Amis's essays are the best I've read since the peak of Vidal's career In other words he vies with his late friend Christopher Hitchens as the best essayist of the last twenty or so years This collection is a superb introduction to Amis's body of work and the pleasures it provides are constant and surprising Amis is amusing but not nearly as funny or original as I wish he was The best stuff is all about authors and their lives Graham Greene VS Pritchett John Braine Isaac Asimov the Nabokovs The worst is all about sports i feel sad that mrs nabokov had to put up with this guy in her old age My favorite passageJust before the 1978 Championship I interviewed Korchnoi in London at the Savoy At one point twisting powerfully in his chair he became silent and then grew dreamy With some wistfulness he confessed that he despaired of ever bringing home to people in the West the crawling sliminess the full suidgy horror of Anatoly Karpov 'You know in Russia we have a fish' he said 'called a karp A disgusting slimy fish You wouldn't eat it That's what Karpov is' I said 'We've got that fish too Called a carp' Korchnoi looked startled 'You have? Good Good' Anything with Nabokov in the title will get my attention and this collection of interviews doesn't disappoint The Nabokov essay is wonderful as are other literary meetings John Updike JG Ballard Salman Rushdie Anthony Burgess Phillip Larkin In the next collection Martin Amis how about some women? Surely you could find something to say about Hilary Mantel? Or Ferrante or Marilyn Robinson? Amis is shrewd kind funny perceptive sometimes mean other times kind on all of them He's not bad on Roman Polanski or Madona either The perfect collection to keep on your nightstand and to read when you only have half an hour or so or are in need of nibbling while in between books

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