Summer Reading Sale

Reviews From


Wednesday, November 5th, 2003


Yellow Dog

by Martin Amis

Martin Gets Messy

A review by Adrienne Miller

Maybe I wouldn’t have such a problem with Yellow Dog had an individual of my acquaintance not told me about a runner-up for the Most Offensive Halloween Costume Contest on the Howard Stern show. According to my acquaintance, a father brought his naked infant baby into the Stern studio. The baby’s legs were smeared with some kind of blood-looking substance. The baby’s "costume" (if you can call it that): rape victim.

In Martin Amis’s new comic novel, a man named Xeo Meo, a dream husband and Renaissance Man, suffers a head injury. When he wakes up, he finds himself having sexual thoughts about his four-year-old daughter, Billie, which is as far away from dream-husband-land as it gets. (Beware the particularly harrowing scene in which Xeo helps little Billie on the potty.) Now call me an old-fashioned moralist, but this does not seem to me to be a subject equal to Martin Amis’s fabulous talents. Its structure is also messy for the sake of messiness; Yellow Dog is a fractured narrative braided with the stories of 1) an embarrassing videotape of the chaste and barely pubescent English princess and the lowlife tabloid reporter who wants the video, 2) a pornographer named Joseph Andrews (who’s ultimately responsible for Xeo’s head-banging), and 3) a plane that’s flying to certain doom over the Atlantic.

To give Yellow Dog its due, however, it’s often witty, fun, and funny ("For the time being she looked like a thrillingly ardent woodland creature in an animated cartoon"), and Amis is still one of the best dialogue-writers around (" 'Seafood is bullshit. I want meat.' "). Yellow Dog contains plenty of amusing sentences, but it does not contain, I fear, that one thing that made Money and London Fields the august and classic novels they are: truth.

Click here to subscribeSubscribe to Esquire and Save 75%

Get 12 fantastic issues of Esquire magazine for only $8. The best culture, entertainment, style, financial advice, women and more delivered right to your door every month ? at an incredible 81% savings off the newsstand price! What could be better... or easier?

Click here to subscribe now!

  • back to top
Follow us on...

Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at