This Day In Writing History
On August 25th, 1949, the novelist and non-fiction writer Martin Amis was born. He was born in Oxford, England, the son of writer Sir Kingsley Amis. As a boy, Martin Amis attended 14 different schools, as his father gave lectures at colleges and universities all over the United Kingdom and the United States, taking the family with him.
Martin Amis was twelve years old when his parents divorced. He only read comic books until his stepmother, novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, introduced him to the works of Jane Austen, whom he credited as his earliest influence. As a teenager, Martin became a hippie and hung out at bars with the mod crowd. He later graduated from Exeter College, Oxford, with a Congratulatory First in English, which he described as "the sort where you are called in for a viva and the examiners tell you how much they enjoyed reading your papers."
In 1973, Martin Amis' first novel, The Rachel Papers, was published. The semi-autobiographical comic novel told the story of Charles Highway, a bright, bookish, 19-year-old wannabe intellectual making the transition from adolescence to manhood. Nasty yet moral, calculating yet able to love, Charles falls for the lovely Rachel, executes a carefully planned seduction of her, then abandons her even though she may be pregnant with his child. The absurdly conceited Charles doesn't realize how much he has in common with his father, whom he detests.
The Rachel Papers, which was adapted as a feature film in 1989, won Martin Amis the Somerset Maugham Award - the same award his father had won for his 1954 novel, Lucky Jim. Unfortunately Sir Kingsley Amis showed no interest in his son's work and often derided it. Martin's next novel, Dead Babies (1975), a black comedy, has been described as a cross between the works of P.G. Wodehouse and the Marquis De Sade. It's set in a bleak future where excess has become the norm, as the characters engage in orgies of sex and drugs. Dead Babies was adapted as a feature film in 2000, released in the United States under the title Mood Swingers.
Some of Martin Amis' best known and most respected novels were written in the 1980s and 90s, including Money (1984), London Fields (1989), Time's Arrow (1991), and The Information (1995). In Time's Arrow, which was nominated for a Booker Prize, the novel is the autobiography of its main character, an ex-Nazi doctor accused of torturing Jews during the Holocaust. Amis employs an unusual narrative technique: time runs backward during the entire novel, to the point that the characters even speak backward.
In addition to his novels, Martin Amis also wrote short story collections and non-fiction. Some of his most memorable non-fiction books include The Moronic Inferno And Other Visits To America (1986) - a collection of satirical essays about all things American, from fashion to the religious right, and Koba The Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million (2002), about the horrors of Stalinism. His most recent non-fiction book, The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom (2008) offers scathing attacks on both Islamic fundamentalism and the Bush administration's response to it.
Martin Amis' latest novel, The Pregnant Widow, is due for release in February, 2010. He teaches creative writing at the University of Manchester. He lives with his second wife, writer Isabel Fonseca, and their two young daughters. In 2008, he became a grandfather when his daughter Delilah gave birth to a son.
Quote Of The Day
"When success happens to an English writer, he acquires a new typewriter. When success happens to an American writer, he acquires a new life." - Martin Amis
Today's video is a four-part interview with Martin Amis. Enjoy!