"When I come back to Britain I see a pretty good multicultural society.... The only element that is not fitting in is Islam. Who else isn't fitting in?"
Aside from the fact that Islam is a religion, and therefore not a “who” (we call them “Muslims,” Mart), I’m pretty sure you could, were you to scour the English countryside, find a few other groups who don’t “fit in.”
I also liked this:
[Amis] also admitted having experienced a moment of "sanitary racism" on a recent long-haul flight.
"It was quite unsettling," he said. "I was sitting on an aeroplane with 349 Chinese, and it's really quite disturbing the way it comes round. You see them getting up or going to the toilet and you catch yourself thinking 'there goes another one'."
Sounds an awful lot like Amis’s father, Kingsley, describing for his scandalized son how it feels to be a “mild” anti-Semite:
"Well, when I'm watching the credits roll at the end of a TV program, I say to myself: 'Oh, there's another one.'"
Except that where Kingsley’s admission is honest, sad, and human, Martin inadvertantly reveals – as if the evidence of his recent novels was not enough – just how little he knows his own mind, never mind his grasp on human nature in general. This is why I never trust writers like Amis – self-consciously modern and rational and sensitized – when they write about racism or sexism or classism: they believe themselves to have evolved beyond what are basic, if unpleasant, human responses. When these responses inevitably become more insistent (it's called getting old), writers like Amis assume they must be new, and therefore somehow more legitimate and noteworthy than the boorish opinions of their elders. A writer like Kingsley knew he was a pig – born and bred – and never fooled himself into thinking his own sexism and racism was somehow different from or more nuanced than that of his father or his father’s father. Martin, on the other hand, is the type who would write a 3000-word essay for The Guardian because he got an erection at a strip club. ("And yet, her sad, spasmodic gyrations had a curious and unexpected effect on me...")
Also, though Kingsley got fat and old and lazy and gave in to toxic bigotry, he was still able to write a book like The Old Devils. At this rate, Martin will be lucky if he writes another Dead Babies.
In the slave labour camps of the Soviet Union, conjugal visits were a common occurrence. Valiant women would travel vast distances, over weeks and months, in the hope of spending just one night with their lovers in the so-called House of Meetings. Unsurprisingly, the results of these visits were almost invariably tragic.
Martin Amis’s new novel, The House of Meetings, is about one such visit; it is a love story, gothic in timbre and triangular in shape. Two brothers fall in love with the same woman, a nineteen-year-old Jewish girl, in 1946 Moscow, a city poised for pogrom in the gap between war and the death of Stalin. The brothers are arrested, and their fraternal conflict then marinates over the course of a decade in a slave labour camp above the Arctic Circle. The destinies of all three lovers remain unresolved until 1982; but for the sole survivor, the reverberations continue into the next century.
About the only thing in that description that is even mildly interesting is the fact that the book will be “triangular in shape.” When did Amis become a middlebrow Canadian novelist, raiding someone else’s history for thematic padding?
Sad, if not entirely unexpected.
* I freely admit that this description applies to the author of this blog as well. I will also admit there are many, many sentences and paragraphs in Amis's novels that I'd kill to have written – though not so many of the novels themselves.