As author, reviewer, critic, and general literary celebrity, Martin Amis addressed the packed debating chamber at the Union on Wednesday night. Yet none of those who plied him with questions about his work, his family, and if he'd ever considered writing a Bond movie, asked him why he'd written 'Experience'.
For a man who once wrote, "[t]he narrative in human life is gone,' writing an autobiography might seem at first glance a strange thing to do. But casting an eye over Martin Amis's fiction - Money, Time's Arrow, and even London Fields - each is in some way the story of a life: of restless aspiration, domestic mundanity, and realisation.
In fact, the motivation
behind all his writing seems implicit in something he said about novels
as opposed to other kinds of writing: "You're the weather. You're
God." The drive to order experience, of which he says, "nothing
can compete with experience...so unanswerably authentic", seems
to mean reordering his own life, playing God with his admittedly rather
unique experiences as the son of a deeply literary family.
Perhaps the dance between life and art is best illustrated by his book jacket: a towheaded boy having what is almost certainly his first cigarette, icon of a 'first' experience; on the reverse, Amis himself, looking rather younger and more like his father than in real life, representative of the other end of the road. The role of the 'authoritative' voice is one he loves, and adopts both in relation to his own life in the memoir, and in real life before his listeners.
Amy Norton 31.5.00