Synopses & Reviews
A master not only of fiction but also of fiercely controversial political engagement, Martin Amis here gathers fourteen pieces that constitute an evolving, provocative, and insightful examination of the most momentous event of our time.
At the heart of this collection is the long essay Terror and Boredom, an unsparing analysis of Islamic fundamentalism and the West's flummoxed response to it, while other pieces address the invasion of Iraq, the realities of Iran, and Tony Blair's lingering departure from Downing Street (and also his trips to Washington and Iraq). Amis's reviews of pertinent books and films, from The Looming Tower to United 93, provide a far-ranging survey of other responses to these calamitous issues, which are further explored in two short stories: "The Last Days of Muhammed Atta," its subject self-evident, and "In the Palace of the End," narrated by a Middle Eastern tyrant's double whose duties include epic lovemaking, grotesque torture, and the duplication on his own body of the injuries sustained by his alter ego in constant assassination attempts.
Whether lambasted for his refusal to kowtow to Muslim pieties or hailed for his common sense, wide reading, and astute perspective, Amis is indisputably a great pleasure to read informed, elegant, surprising and this collection a resounding contemplation of the relentless, manifold dangers we suddenly find ourselves living with.
"These chronologically ordered essays and stories on the September 11 attacks proceed from initial bewilderment to coruscating contempt for radical Islam. Novelist Amis (House of Meetings) rejects all religious belief as 'without reason and without dignity' and condemns 'Islamism' as an especially baleful variant. Amis attacks Islamism's tenets as '[a]nti-Semitic, anti-liberal, anti-individualist, anti-democratic' and characterizes its adherents, from founding ideologue Sayyid Qutb to the ordinary suicide bomber, as sexually frustrated misogynists entranced by a 'cult of death.' He also takes swipes at Bush and the Iraq war, which he describes as botched and tragically counterproductive, if well intentioned, but scorns those who draw a moral equivalence between Western misdeeds and the jihadist agenda. Amis's concerns are cultural and aesthetic as well as existential: terrorism threatens a reign of 'boredom' in the guise of tedious airport security protocols, pedantic conspiracy theories and the dogma-shackled 'dependent mind' fostered by Islamist theocracy. As much as Amis's opinions are scathing, blunt and occasionally strident, his prose is subtle, elegant and witty and certainly never boring." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[An] important, lucidly written account of radical Islam's menace and our inability to fully understand or respond effectively to it." Hartford Courant
"The English language bows deeper to Amis than anyone else." The Daily Telegraph (UK)
"Amis may not make any friends among the PC set, but he makes clear and inarguable the fact that the Islamist enemy is an enemy of reason....His book fires a welcome, left-tending salvo." Kirkus Reviews
"Amis...writes with vehemence, daring, and verve because he schools himself in harsh truths, and because he cares." Booklist
"[A] weak, risible and often objectionable volume that the reader finishes it convinced that Mr. Amis should stick to writing fiction and literary criticism." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
About the Author
Martin Amis's most recent novel is House of Meetings, and his best sellers include Money, London Fields, and The Information, as well as his memoir, Experience. He lives in London.