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Hatchet Job of the Day: Lionel Asbo


Had Martin Amis’s new book only received raves, it would be final proof that he was past it.  Peter Kemp in the Sunday Times thought the verbal antics in LIONEL ASBO needed a little more discipline :

Wildly remote from realism — at one point Lionel’s crude antics in a West End restaurant provoke “raised lorgnettes” — the would-be satire never achieves any purchase. And the retaliatory outrage stoking it backfires uncomfortably. What Amis most deplores about the “rich and famous” celebrity-trash he parades is that “none of them got that way by work of the mind”. But this novel, his latest work of the mind, hardly constitutes compelling support for this indignation.

The verbal dazzle exhilaratingly evident in his best book, Money (1984), has by now dimmed into near nonexistence. Devoid of it, his fiction’s shortcomings stand out starkly. Melodrama (“Death was awake, death was going about its business”) substitutes for menace; mawkishness (especially in the portrayal of Des’s angelic baby girl) fills in for warmth.

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