BSS #101: Martin Amis


Author: Martin Amis

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Inveighing against Stalinistic safeguards.

Subjects Discussed: The relationship between Koba the Dread and House of Meetings, the Soviet experiment, the original format of House of Meetings, the critical reception of Yellow Dog, the effect of reviews upon Amis’s confidence, Time’s Arrow vs. House of Meetings, writing about the gulag in the splendor of Uruguay, comparisons between Soviet Russia and post-9/11 Western life, the unnamed protagonist in House of Meetings, parallels between Yakov Dzhugashvili and the protagonist, Joseph Conrad as model for House of Meetings, writing dialogue without quotes, social realism vs. the Martin Amis stylistic imprint, making light of Stalinism, second generation Soviet novels, responding to M. John Harrison’s observations about “the long way round to avoid a cliché,” settling upon a Russian patois, poetic references in House of Meetings, mythological references, the hangover metaphor, the protagonist’s uncannily resilient memory, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, the period of despair after Yellow Dog, and how Amis stocks up for future comic novels.


Amis: There were several very good reviews, but the bulk of them weren’t. And it wasn’t just the reviews. I mean, anyone who could hold a pen was queuing up to write some exultant piece about, you know, “Crawl away and die,” saying, “All we can do now is pity him” and all this and so over. Nice to have your pity, mate. I particularly value your pity. To feel such dislike centered on you and centered on your book. I mean, I’d been written about far from sympathetically for quite some time, but it was alright when they were just having a go at me and my character and my activities. But when they attack your book, in those terms, it’s much more painful. It’s like watching your child being scragged in the schoolyard. So, yeah, I think it wouldn’t have been human to have not felt that and felt it as a blow to your confidence, which is what it really is intended to be. I think Baudelaire said, if you’re a writer, all you have is your opinion of yourself and your talent and your reputation. And that puts food on the table. That’s your livelihood — it’s your opinion of yourself. So, yeah, I think my confidence was affected by it.


  1. Ed

    You are a blessing to us. Thanks for this, and thanks for all the other interviews and news you work so hard to bring us too.


    Suzy from London

  2. Hey Ed,

    Thanks for this excellent interview…Amis always extremely entertaining…particularly enjoyed you bringing up the reviews…

    …perhaps it was nerves on your part…but I would pay attention to all the kind ofs, and sort ofs…just a suggestion 🙂

    I’ve been blogging a bit lately on Amis…have posted a selection of quotes from London Fields on the site that you might enjoy skimming through. What a superb read.

    Bests Regards,


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