Standing up to Martin Amis (2)

by Chris Bertram on November 21, 2007

In today’s Guardian, Christopher Hitchens defends Martin Amis from Ronan Bennett’s attack. Inter alia, he has this to say:

I am writing as a friend who also took issue with what he said, in unscripted conversation with a Times reporter, a short while after the ghastly assault by Muslim fanatics on our public transport system. (By the way, yes, I do think that the word “fanatic” requires that prefix in this case.) I wrote my article last autumn and it was published in the Manhattan City Journal last January, so Mr Bennett need not congratulate himself so warmly on being the only one apart from Eagleton with the nerve to raise the issue.

Here’s a link to Hitchens’s City Journal piece. Commenters will notice the characteristically robust way in which Hitchens condemns Amis. Or perhaps not.

{ 17 comments }

1

Andrew Brown 11.21.07 at 9:30 am

In particular, to defend Martin Amis from the charge of patheitc liberalism by using his Times quote to show that he really has the courage to agree with Mark Steyn may not entirely convince all _Guardian_ readers that Amis is not in fact an ignorant racist:

bq. Even five years ago, it would have been unthinkable to picture … [Amis] …using terms such as “deportation.” Mark Steyn’s book is essentially a challenge to the bien-pensants among us: an insistence that we recognize an extraordinary threat and thus the possible need for extraordinary responses. He [Steyn] need not pose as if he were the only one with the courage to think in this way.

2

Marc Mulholland 11.21.07 at 9:42 am

I’m glad Chris has unearthed this article again.

I thought that ‘The Dude’ got away with too much when this wasn’t picked up:

“When I read Sam Harris’s irresponsible remark that only fascists seemed to have the right line [regarding the “Islamist threat”], I murmured to myself: “Not while I’m alive, they won’t.””

In other words, fascists are admittedly correct on the narrow question of communal relations with Muslims, but that’s OK because so are stalwart liberals like Hitch. Liberals need only be careful not to be irresponsibly beguiled by the fascists’ sensible policy prescriptions re Islam (it’s not clear why – perhaps because the flip-side of fascist wisdom re Islam is their iniquitous tax policy or whatever.)

3

bad Jim 11.21.07 at 10:25 am

France is on its way to becoming part of the dar-al-Islam. It is leaving the dar-al-Harb (“House of War”), but without a fight.

Which is why one seldom sees anyone entering the Jardin du Luxembourg without a snout deep in a bifurcated baguette pairing twin thin slivers of ham and Emmentaler, and why they mandate Louis Vuitton veils in public schools. Right. Just so.

Why do so many professedly manly men incessantly insist the rest of us share their deepest fears? (Don’t answer that: the obvious question is, what sort of person could ever take them seriously?)

4

JamesP 11.21.07 at 10:38 am

Blood & Treasure had an excellent line, which I annoyingly can’t find, on how ten thousand years in the future cockroaches will still have a vague concept of Martin Amis as an important writer, but no idea why.

Seriously, what is it with the British press’ (well, mostly the Guardian’s) fellating of Amis, who hasn’t published a decent book in, oh, about fifteen years now? Christ, maybe more. Since he got hold of BIG IDEAS and IMPORTANCE, anyway.

5

des von bladet 11.21.07 at 11:22 am


What would Martin Amis have to do
in order to lose his reputation as a “major” or “important” writer? Is there literally anything that he could write which might make literary editors and critics say “actually this man is really rather untalented”? Or has he achieved a sort of event horizon of writerliness, at which his seriousness and density have become so great that there can be no escape? I suspect the latter; surely a reputation that has survived “Koba the Dread”, survived “Yellow Dog” and now survived this, must be indestructible. Long after the nuclear holocaust when we are all dead, the cockroaches that crawl through the ashes of Western civilisation will still take Martin Amis seriously, although none of them will know why.

6

Gaylad 11.21.07 at 1:37 pm

For me, the highlight of the Guardian piece is Hitchens’ definition of racism as the state of being unable to tell the difference “between a Jew and another Jew, or an Asian or West Indian or Chechen.”

This leads directly to the obvious (read: desired) conclusion that Amis cannot be a racist because to believe that you’d have to think “he can’t tell the difference between, say, one Irishman and another.”

As they say, YCMTSU!

7

bert 11.21.07 at 2:59 pm

The cockroaches may hang on for the bitter end, but I think a lot of people are deciding that Amis’ recent bouts of menopausal hysteria are reason enough finally to pull the plug.

It’s striking to see Chris Morris having a go at him, for one. Brass Eye’s scripts (a vigilante-beaten paedophile ending up “quadrospazzed on a life-glug”, etc) were very Amis – consciously so, I’d bet. In the six years since, the man has inexorably shrunk. His titchiness has gone beyond pitiful, and is now outright offputting.

8

nick s 11.21.07 at 3:15 pm

Stefan Collini, 2003:

… I would be sorry to think of one of the essayists I have most enjoyed reading in recent decades turning into a no-two-ways-about-it-let’s-face-it bore. I just hope he doesn’t go on one hunt too many and find himself, as twilight gathers and the fields fall silent, lying face down in his own bullshit.

Oh well. Hitchens rattles off so damn much that I doubt he even remembers what he wrote for the noxious City Journal, and isn’t quite aware that the internets have archives. As for this rambling back-of-a-barmat piece, it makes me wonder whether he and Mart are now on a race to see who best becomes Kingsley Amis.

9

Doctor Slack 11.21.07 at 5:47 pm

7: It’s sort of bleakly amusing that after having a bit of a go at Amis’ juvenility, Morris notes piously that “he must be allowed to speak as freely and as radically as he pleases.” Because obviously calling him out as the bigot he is constitutes an attempt to silence him.

10

bert 11.21.07 at 7:44 pm

That’s not Morris though.
It’s our correspondent from Spiked (formerly Living Marxism, formerly whatever the fuck it was before that).
She signs off by dismissing him as a member of “liberal medialand”. She is, presumably, decent – although it’s hard to tell given how careful she is to straddle the fence on Amis, as you point out.

11

Doctor Slack 11.21.07 at 9:30 pm

That’s not Morris though.

Whoops. Sorry about that.

12

bert 11.21.07 at 10:12 pm

Easily done.
More here from someone blogging at the Guardian, who bravely nails a double standard, then falls on her face trying to dodge it.

13

magistra 11.22.07 at 11:15 am

I don’t normally comment on people’s mental well-being, but is Hitchins now actually delusional (in the sense of being unable to tell the difference between reality and one’s own ideas)? At one point in the article he says:

One would have to have a capacity for fantasy of something like that order to believe in the Ronan Bennett universe of modern persecution where “those who point to the illegality of Israeli occupation are anti-semites. Those who protest against the war in Iraq are al-Qaida sympathisers and moral relativists.” In which known world is that happening?

Does he not know what rightwingers say about anti-war protesters? Can he not remember what he himself and his friends have written? Does he actually understand what he’s writing as he writes it?

14

Barry 11.22.07 at 7:29 pm

“Does he not know what rightwingers say about anti-war protesters? Can he not remember what he himself and his friends have written? Does he actually understand what he’s writing as he writes it?”

Posted by magistra ·

Yes, yes, and yes. Or rather, Hitchens would have a stronger allergic reaction to writing the truth than he would to a tablet of Antabuse.

15

Hedley Lamarr 11.23.07 at 11:53 pm

I think it is Alan Bennett in his “Untold Stories” who manages to get in a dig on Amis; out of nowhere he notes what a waste of time it is to read anything by Amis.

16

Pop 11.26.07 at 5:12 am

Interestingly, Martin’s father became a complete twit late in life (or showed his true colors) as well.

17

Ian R 11.26.07 at 2:05 pm

Chris Morris is a perfect representative of a left/liberal self-styled intelligentsia united by its smugness, insularity, arrogance and utter lack of any kind of discriminating intelligence. Amis is a pub bore, but some of his arguments deserve serious consideration. Retreating into the usual self-deluded liberal piety isn’t a satisfactory response.

Comments on this entry are closed.