Martin Amis Moves to Brooklyn, Sounds Like Jerk

by Belle Waring on June 25, 2012

The New York Times sometimes does things just because it can, as Drew Magary of Gawker noted in his nuanced, thoughtful “The New York Times Styles Section Profiled The Brant Brothers Because The New York Times Hates You.” (Really you should read it, even though you will find out who the Brant brothers are, and All Will Be Lost. Also, Faye Dunaway.) So maybe the New York Times was briefly diverted from its mission to reported on all the news and cetera, to do something just to mess with us.

Many of you may have worried that literary Brooklyn wasn’t macho enough, what with all the female authors, and the important female editors, and all the attention paid to ladyissues, and all those memoirs you heard about from those women who read comic books when they were kids in Brooklyn and then something something. Let me tell you: Martin Amis just pulled your fat out of the fire, who doggie! He’s mannin’ up the borough right and left! He gestures out the window of his brownstone “Out there, it’s Arcadian,” he said. “It’s prelapsarian. It’s like living in the ’50s.”

You know what I love about the ‘50s? The rigid racial apartheid. That’s the best part, seriously. Oh, shit, no—I messed up—the crippling sexism and hatred of homosexuality. No, no—goddamnit! I’m going back to the rigid racial apartheid thing I said just now. That’s the best. It’s like having 3 favorite flavors of evil! That’s why the ‘50s are so tempting and delicious: just far enough away to see recognizable humans betraying their dearest in the service of ideology, just close enough that you know they knew better.

Mr. Amis almost won my heart with his movie choices here in the middle of the article (for a literary festival): “Mr. Amis chose “The Godfather,” “The Wild Bunch,” “Raging Bull” and “Blade Runner,” and got things rolling by saying, in his opinion, no good movies were made before 1966.” I like ridiculous aesthetic judgments with a grain of truth.

One begins to think someone at the NYT has a bit of an inkling when they put this on the same page as a picture of the man playing tennis. (As a young man; they’re not being dicks.)

At a certain point Mr. Amis unwedged himself and slipped out to smoke a cigarette on the sidewalk, looking vaguely menacing under a street lamp. “I’ve sort of hung out with a few thugs all my life,” he said later. “I love thugs. I’m keen on them.”

It is more or less impossible to look manly playing tennis unless you are Rafeal Nadal and you are about to win at Roland Garros. I don’t fault Mr. Amis on this. I look like a fool when I play tennis, I’m pretty sure.

It’s also just a bad idea to love thugs. They hit people. In the face, even. Maybe especially in the face. It’s extra manly to show up at lunch with a black eye that you got in a drunken fight when you have an actual penis, but the ladies have to stay home till they look presentable. The close of the article is rather elegiac, if one is inclined to be particularly moved by the thought that death comes for Martin Amis, rather than for all of us, which latter is usually sufficient to sharpen the mind.

{ 109 comments }

1

Alex 06.25.12 at 10:49 am

Mr Amis has a new book out – it is about an English stereotype. I am sure this interview in which Mr Amis is deliberately provocative and acts like an english stereotype in order to generate controversy is entirely unrelated to this.

2

Bill Snowden 06.25.12 at 11:03 am

Experienced a brief but oddly intense crossing of wires reading that; deja lu? Was it Amis the Times spoke with, or Richard Tull?

3

Kieran 06.25.12 at 11:08 am

It’s reasonable that Amis would like to get back to a time when the average height of adult males was closer to 5’4″ than it is now.

4

Henry 06.25.12 at 11:23 am

Dsquared, back in the day.

Martin Amis: a philosophical conundrum

bq. After reading this piece in my Sunday newspaper, an interesting question occurred to me which I wonder if readers could help me with.

bq. 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.

5

Julian 06.25.12 at 11:59 am

There’s a term in poker – “pot committed” – which might be helpful in explaining Amis’ seemingly irrevocable srs writur status. Also, his dad.

You would think that pointless contrarianism would save the day once in while by occasionally creating criticism where it is appropriate, but not here I suppose.

6

Alex 06.25.12 at 12:14 pm

Can Amis really believe modern Brooklyn is anything like the UK in the 1950s? What an amazing statement…

7

JP Stormcrow 06.25.12 at 12:22 pm

Remember that it is unfair to judge Martin based on any words he might have spoken: To paraphrase and slightly adapt Vladimir Nabokov: I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished man of letters, I talk like an idiot.

8

Katherine 06.25.12 at 12:31 pm

Martin Amis is the archetype of the writer who writes Fond Memories of Vagina:

http://tigerbeatdown.com/2010/07/01/fond-memories-of-vagina-martin-amis-the-pregnant-widow/

How much more man-man-manly can you get?

9

Barry 06.25.12 at 12:36 pm

“Out there, it’s Arcadian,” he said. “It’s prelapsarian. It’s like living in the ’50s.”

That sums up so much of the right, doesn’t it?

10

Katherine 06.25.12 at 12:40 pm

And now I know who the Brant brothers are. Damn you New York Times/Gawker/Belle!

11

Daniel 06.25.12 at 12:54 pm

“The Wild Bunch” blows. So obviously contrived. Peckinpah revisited the same ground 5 years later and delivered a masterpiece: “Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia”.

12

bert 06.25.12 at 1:05 pm

Brooklyn and the Brant brothers meet and merge in ‘Girls’, particularly in the person of Jessa, played by Jemima Kirke.
Hilton Als swoons. I see your Faye Dunaway and raise you Katharine Hepburn. I guess it can’t be homophobic if it’s yourself you’re stereotyping.

Martin Amis is an increasingly threadbare patchwork of macho poses and midlife crisis. But there may be an inner thug in all of us. I’m ashamed to admit that part of what keeps me working my way through season one of ‘Girls’ is the hope that Jessa will be handed the educative beating she both needs and deserves. I suspect it won’t happen, and my better self, which I hope is closer to my core than my inner thug, knows that this is in fact a good thing. Even in the consequence-free fantasy land of TV.

13

DaveL 06.25.12 at 1:13 pm

Thank you. The Gawker piece made my morning, so I didn’t spoil it by following the Amis link.

14

Anon. 06.25.12 at 1:22 pm

You can keep your bigotry to yourself, please. Just because you happen to hate men and thus the male organ (and probably sex, too) does not mean it’s somehow OK to use it as an insult. It’s denigrating and disgusting.

15

kagiso 06.25.12 at 1:41 pm

Read and enjoy, compare and contrast:

The Arcades Project: Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games
http://www.themillions.com/2012/02/the-arcades-project-martin-amis-guide-to-classic-video-games.html

16

JP Stormcrow 06.25.12 at 1:44 pm

Martin? Is that you?

17

Belle Waring 06.25.12 at 1:46 pm

I’m a bigot because I noted men have penises? They do, you know. That statement is value neutral. Do you honestly believe I hate sex, men and penises, really? I assume you’re just pretending to, for effect. People are always saying this to feminists, and it’s just moronic. Why would we be out there bitching about the pill and easy-to-access abortions every minute of the day if we didn’t want to screw guys? Seriously, think about it. It makes no fucking sense. It’s our marquee issue, right, reproductive freedom? If we really hated men, penises, and having sex with men, we’d never need to use the morning-after pill, would we? Or get abortions? Or take the pill? Do you know how I blog on here about how I use an IUD and more people should consider it as a great form of birth control? Why the fuck would I do that when I could just not have sex with men and solve all my problems? Use basic logic, dude.

18

JW Mason 06.25.12 at 1:52 pm

Wait til he finds out how may Muslims there are in Brooklyn!

Anyway, it is my opinion that Money was a really good book, which deserves its reputation. From Success (which really belongs with the London trilogy) through The Information he pretty thoroughly worked through the whole Martin Amis thing — not just the style but the worldview, the zero-sum moral universe where winners win and losers lose and the energy comes from how horribly the characters contort themselves in pursuit of some meaningless token. Night Train was sort of the coda to that, in which he basically admitted that in Amis-world the only rational thing to do was to kill yourself.

The problem — besides him being a dick — is that since that project exhausted itself there hasn’t really been any point to Amis fiction. There’s no reason for it to exist. (He’s also lost his grip on the style, but I think that’s a secondary issue.) Since his old frenetic nihilism isn’t interesting any longer, you can see him flailing around for something to be serious about but the options are all painfully inadequate and almost comically conventional — the evils of Muslims, of communists, or of feminists. I haven’t read his last couple novels (and I was a huge admirer at one point) and nothing I’ve read about them suggests that’s a mistake.

Really, he had a good dozen years and wrote four or five genuinely good books. That’s a good run. He should have just hung it up a while ago.

19

Mitchell Freedman 06.25.12 at 2:13 pm

It is nice to know, sarcasm alert, that the NY Times is continuing its tradition of veneration of the rich and privileged. It goes back at least a century, as Upton Sinclair and George Seldes could have, and sometimes did, tell us.

Still, the Brand brothers sound an awful lot like at least one of them will follow in the footsteps of Martin Amis. I can just hear the literary Brand brother in 2052, sitting in his Shanghai apartment, with his second wife, and young children (even a girl among them), and saying, “You know, the excitement in the streets I feel today in Shanghai reminds me of Manhattan in the second decade of our still unfolding century….”

And yet the Brand brothers are an improvement over Paris Hilton, aren’t they? Doesn’t that sound like saying Obama is better than Romney? :-)

20

dilbert dogbert 06.25.12 at 2:18 pm

Sentences like this:
“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.”
Make me long for a daily shot of DSq’d with my morning coffee.

21

Matt McIrvin 06.25.12 at 2:35 pm

I’m just waiting for his next videogame strategy guide.

22

Barry Freed 06.25.12 at 2:42 pm

Matt beat me to it. That pic of him leaning on the Missile Command machine is full of win.

Also, Daniel (surely not D2?): “The Wild Bunch” is awesome. And yes, so is “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia”

23

Barry Freed 06.25.12 at 2:55 pm

Ugh, I just read both articles linked by Belle in the post and I feel like I either want to take a shower so I can feel clean again or going out and hunting something down and killing it, maybe myself. Horrible.

24

Peter K. 06.25.12 at 3:08 pm

“Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” is awesome.

Amis can be very funny. The title of his book of journalism on America is “The Moronic Inferno.”

From the stye piece:
” These days, he can’t take his eyes off the presidential race, in particular “the incredible convulsions of the Republican Party,” he said. “It’s completely fascinating. What a great time to be coming to America.
“Is Mitt Romney electable?” he continued. “On the face of it, he looks presidential and he’s not stupid. But he lets himself down hideously whenever he has a victory. He looks as if he’s had five grams of coke — he’s shaking with a power rush. And that was always the most impressive thing about Obama: how he didn’t let that happen to himself. As if he didn’t feel it.””

Barry Freed, check this out:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2001/mar/17/society.martinamis1

Also I’d love to go to party with Salman Rushdie, Robert De Niro and Isabella Rossellini but maybe I’m just superficial.

25

Patrick 06.25.12 at 3:12 pm

Belle, maybe you needed to do that for your own state of mind, I don’t know. If so, carry on. But urging Anon. to use logic is a little like urging a fish to ride a bicycle, isn’t it?

26

mds 06.25.12 at 3:22 pm

Let me tell you: Martin Amis just pulled your fat out of the fire, who doggie!

Good gods, the piece is titled “Literary Brooklyn Gets Its Leading Man.” Far below all the shrieking tumult, a tiny part of my brain wants to believe that this is actually meant as snark, but since it’s The New York Times, that particular tiny part of my brain isn’t winning many converts.

I’m a bigot because I noted men have penises? They do, you know. That statement is value neutral.

I suspect our deeply-dedicated-to-egalitarianism crusader for gender neutrality, the boldly-handled Anon., was referring to

(As a young man; they’re not being dicks.)

See? It’s the d-word, still hypocritically acceptable in a world where the c-word isn’t. (Yes, this particular analysis was inspired by Jack Lemmon in Buddy Buddy.) For shame, Ms. Waring. For shame.

27

rea 06.25.12 at 3:26 pm

“Out there, it’s Arcadian,” he said. “It’s prelapsarian.”

What the heck does that even mean?

“Out there, ’twas brillig,” he said. “It’s slithy.”

28

nick s 06.25.12 at 3:36 pm

Now that Hitchens is gone, it falls to Amis fils to take on the mantle of Amis père.

29

P O'Neill 06.25.12 at 3:58 pm

He’s the wrong side of the Verrazano Bridge.

30

MattF 06.25.12 at 4:12 pm

My nine-month-old grand-niece lives in Brooklyn and is very prelapsarian. She’s gotten to the ‘lunging for a cheerio’ stage, and we’re all pleased with that.

31

Dave 06.25.12 at 4:19 pm

Martin’s reputation remains intact, I suspect, because every profile of him recites the same facts. He made a splash with The Rachel Papers, he’s always had a keen interest in America, and he has been known to fuck women.

I’m starting to wonder if Martin Amis isn’t just a periodically refreshed illusion.

32

Substance McGravitas 06.25.12 at 4:40 pm

Now that Hitchens is gone, it falls to Amis fils to take on the mantle of Amis père.

Amis père was a fine writer as well as an asshole, so that doesn’t work.

33

Harold 06.25.12 at 4:44 pm

The NYT has constituencies they feel they have to please while generating content-free “buzz” to increase circulation and eyeballs. I feel sure their staff despises Brooklyn, having made it from there (or the Bronx, or surrounding suburbs or New Jersey) to Manhattan.

34

bianca steele 06.25.12 at 4:46 pm

I asked on the Valve once for a recommendation of Amis’s best novel and got The Information, which I actually picked up a year or two later, and I assume the commenters were pulling my leg. It’s nice to know his shrubberies are without sin, though.

I also think Belle might be daring people to find out the Style section printed her wedding announcement. (I was looking for information on John Holbo’s dad, honest.)

35

Henry 06.25.12 at 4:55 pm

bq. Amis père was a fine writer as well as an asshole, so that doesn’t work.

Also, at some level, Amis père _knew_ he was a prick – his books are mostly driven by self-loathing, while Amis fils’ books are driven by self-regard.

36

Anarcissie 06.25.12 at 5:05 pm

You could avoid the Horror by not reading the Times in the first place, you know. True, we would miss the thing about the cockroaches, and the Verrazzano Bridge, but are they worth the Horror?

37

Pascal Leduc 06.25.12 at 5:09 pm

“Out there, it’s Arcadian,” he said. “It’s prelapsarian.”

What the heck does that even mean?

Arcadian : to have the property of Arcadia, the fictitious utopian greek city.

Prelapsarian : to be as before the lapse, the fall from grace, when suffering and pain and loss entered the world.

I think one reason older intellectuals hate the internet and wikipedia is that it makes it incredibly easy to read through their bullshit.

And yes he is implying that Brooklyn, like the 50’s is a Utopia made real where there is no want or suffering.

After the Atlantic’s fawning Jason Blow piece I feel like I am swimming in elegiac articles about people stuck so far up their ass that they have looped around and become so kind of mobeus ourobouros.

38

Pascal Leduc 06.25.12 at 5:10 pm

oh yay Italic Fail :(

First two lines are from rea

39

js. 06.25.12 at 5:15 pm

no good movies were made before 1966

I’m fairly certain I’ve never read a more idiotic statement.

40

Harold 06.25.12 at 5:15 pm

He should move to Newark. That would be a noble thing to do.

41

Barry Freed 06.25.12 at 5:15 pm

And yes he is implying that Brooklyn, like the 50’s is a Utopia made real where there is no want or suffering.

Well it is. If you too have a 5,300 square foot brownstone in Cobble Hill.

42

Steve LaBonne 06.25.12 at 5:18 pm

Wake me up when Amis fils writes something 1/1000th as good as The Old Devils.

43

Simon 06.25.12 at 5:50 pm

Belle can you write a single post without swearing and being unnecessarily and repetitively sarcastic? Like, its impossible to read this and not roll your eyes.

44

Simon 06.25.12 at 5:52 pm

Like, seriously, what IS this piece!?

45

phosphorious 06.25.12 at 5:55 pm

“The Godfather” is not a good movie. Thread-jack, I know. . . but the thread is about Martin Amis, so a misdemeanor.

46

Skip Intro 06.25.12 at 5:56 pm

Crooked Timber has referenced Big Daddy Drew. I never expected those two facets of my life to intersect.

47

Lee A. Arnold 06.25.12 at 6:53 pm

I have never read any Martin Amis, but the whole thing sounds on his part like a gigantic leg-pull by someone who thinks as little of The New York Times as anyone else does. What concerns me more is Belle Waring’s comment that there is “a grain of truth” in Amis’ silly put-on that “no good movies were made before 1966.” This concerns me because I usually agree with Belle. You might even get me to admit that I worship her. So I would like to hear more about this strange opinion. Yes, we all have favorite recent entertainments (I even think Prometheus is good start to a great space opera, and I am guessing that the director’s DVD cut will be a lot smoother). But IMHO the truth is almost exactly the opposite: movies, as an art-form-in-progression, have almost stopped dead since 1966 (Au hasard, Balthasar), or maybe 1968 (2001: A Space Odyssey).

48

Nine 06.25.12 at 7:40 pm

JW Mason @18 – “not just the style but the worldview, the zero-sum moral universe where winners win and losers lose “

It’s been a while now but that’s not how I remember Amis’s characters at all – his winners are fakes who are just one scam away from discovery and downfall, likewise his losers are often ascending at the expense of the winners but thru’ no effort of their own virtue.
I know this is a minority viewpoint but “Yellow Dog” was pretty good.

49

JW Mason 06.25.12 at 7:46 pm

his winners are fakes who are just one scam away from discovery and downfall, likewise his losers are often ascending at the expense of the winners but thru’ no effort of their own virtue.

Yes, I agree completely — my summary was a little too compressed I guess. In Amis world, everyone is chasing after something inherently meaningless — “Success,” say, “or Money” — and who ends up with it or has nothing to do with virtue or effort or any kind of inner quality. The fun, such as it is, in watching them squirm as the wheel of fortune carries them up or down. What I meant by “winners win and losers lose” is that there is no further moral balancing — there’s no justice or compensation or any alternative scale of values to judge by except who comes out on top. It’s sort of a pagan worldview in that sense.

50

JW Mason 06.25.12 at 7:47 pm

… and yes, that’s definitely a minority view on Yellow Dog. But in this crowd, at least, it seems you and I are in the minority in liking any Amis at all.

51

Andrew Smith 06.25.12 at 7:59 pm

The person aside, “Success”, “Money” and “London Fields” are great novels.

52

rea 06.25.12 at 8:01 pm

Arcadia, the fictitious utopian greek city.

Arcadia, although a region and not a city, is a real place.

53

js. 06.25.12 at 8:04 pm

But in this crowd, at least, it seems you and I are in the minority in liking any Amis at all.

It’s been ages since I read it, but I loved Money. Night Train I found to be pretty annoying, for reasons that are suggested by your comment above. Haven’t read anything else by him and now I can’t bring myself to.

54

Both Sides Do It 06.25.12 at 8:09 pm

A link to a Drew Magary post in Crooked Timber raises my estimation of both Drew Magery and Crooked Timber.

Love it when that happens. If the UVA board wants a textbook example of how to leverage cross-market synergy into new paradigms, they have this free for the taking.

55

Both Sides Do It 06.25.12 at 8:16 pm

Skip Intro,

They should have Drew do a guest post. Fun with Peter King (R-NY).

56

sean matthews 06.25.12 at 8:19 pm

I’m sure that somebody here has already said this, but Martin Amis doesn’t need to move to Brooklyn to sound like a jerk. He’s been sounding like a jerk for years.

57

Steven 06.25.12 at 8:27 pm

Okay, first of all, if Marty likes hanging out with thugs, then he has no business living in Brooklyn. Or at least the Brooklyn that he calls Brooklyn. It is now a place where people fall to the ground like soccer players when they’re roughhoused.

Like a child who watches the same episode of Blues Clues for a week straight and never gets tired of it, it never ceases to amaze me how Brooklyn’s new class of multimillionaires think that living a few miles from some desperate poor people who harbor a few felons among them imparts some feeling of… authenticity? to their lives. Just get it over with and move to the Upper East Side or West Village. It’s more honest, and therefore, more respectable.

Although it takes time to abandon a research programme, the evidence is mounting: the Booklyn project has failed. It is time to close up shop and move on.

58

peter 06.25.12 at 9:22 pm

Presumably Professor Amis will fly first-class to commute to his lectures at Manchester – or will his students have to travel to Brooklyn?

As so often, I am reminded of the New Statesman competition of a few years ago asking for the most unlikely titles of autobiographies. One entry had Amis’ book titled: “My Struggle”.

59

Patrick 06.25.12 at 9:29 pm

I just encountered the Margery piece on Every Day Should Be Saturday, a smart-aleck college football blog. Truly, “If the UVA board wants a textbook example of how to leverage cross-market synergy into new paradigms, they have this free for the taking.”

60

FFredPalakon 06.26.12 at 12:59 am

Amis can be very funny. The title of his book of journalism on America is “The Moronic Inferno.”

The title is taken from a line in Saul Bellow’s “Humboldt’s Gift”, who in turn took it from Wyndham Lewis; Bellow might well be Amis’s favorite writer, while Lewis had a substantial influence on Bellow. Both Bellow and Amis gave open and proper tribute to where they first heard the funny and felicitous line.

61

Henry 06.26.12 at 1:34 am

bq. Belle can you write a single post without swearing and being unnecessarily and repetitively sarcastic? Like, its impossible to read this and not roll your eyes.

There’s a rather interesting selection effect going on in re: which CT posters get this kind of comment, and which don’t.

62

Belle Waring 06.26.12 at 2:19 am

There’s a rather interesting selection effect going on in re: which CT posters get this kind of comment, and which don’t.
Yeah, it’s eerie, I can’t put my finger on it…nope.

It’s obviously idiotic to say there were no good movies made before 1966. It’s just that people are probably more inclined to say there have been no good movies made after 1966, if they are feeling curmudgeonly, and that is false, because many good movies have been made since then. If you are inclined to put it strongly, then you just turn it around for effect.

It’s true that when John and I got married it was in the Style section, because the New York Times hated you even back in the day. Hey, you want to make my grandmother cry? She was already unhappy I didn’t submit a picture.

63

ajay 06.26.12 at 2:26 am

He’s the wrong side of the Verrazano Bridge

Given that Amis spends most of his time being deliberately provocative, the right side of the bridge for him to be on would presumably be the underside.

64

Belle Waring 06.26.12 at 3:06 am

There’s a big cloverleaf thing in Shaolin Land, he could be there.

65

Tom Hurka 06.26.12 at 3:11 am

Actually, several CT posters are unnecessarily and repetitively sarcastic and deserve that kind of comment. Sarcasm just isn’t very funny — it’s too easy to do. Irony, on the other hand …

66

Harold 06.26.12 at 3:13 am

I still think he should move to Newark. It would be good for them and for him.

67

Lee A. Arnold 06.26.12 at 3:17 am

#61 “It’s just that people are probably more inclined to say there have been no good movies made after 1966″ — Oh I forget this. I live in Los Angeles, which is the complete opposite. Most people you meet don’t know anything about movies before Star Wars. Actually it is one of the few things that keeps surprising me about this place — most people here have just about zero knowledge of older motion pictures.

68

Belle Waring 06.26.12 at 3:18 am

I mean, that thing is the most confusing…you’re on the Belt Parkway and then it looms up suddenly with insufficient lanes. I have to say, I registered way late and thus took the GRE on Staten Island, and I think I’ve used the toilet of a Staten Island gas station twice in my life, but otherwise I have ridden across the borough about 1 million times on my way from D.C. to East Hampton and never, ever been there.

69

Harold 06.26.12 at 3:25 am

It’s too bad they can’t return Staten Island and Bensonhurst to dairy farming as they were until not long ago.

70

Belle Waring 06.26.12 at 3:34 am

Oh, hi Lee, thanks for the kind words. I took him to be taking a somewhat unremarkable point to an extreme via inversion. Do the people whom you meet in LA really not know anything about old movies? I feel like the friends I had who moved there to be screenwriters and suchlike were all obsessive fans of Fred Astaire’s “Flying Down to Rio” and things like that. Or–what are those crazy British films, “Black Narcissus” or something? (Checking imdb, yes. And “The Red Shoes.” Damn “The Black Narcissus” is a crazy weird movie. “Needs more lush hothouse emotion!”) Writers in LA are just another variety of hipster; how are they not wanting to get into arguments about “The Sweet Smell of Success”? People love Tarantino, and even his schlockiest sentiments are packaged as love for a certain kind of movie–post 1966 movies all, though, I suppose. But why not be more hipsterish and love shlocky black-and-white movies with huge dance numbers and fountains of champagne?

71

Belle Waring 06.26.12 at 3:36 am

Tom: why don’t you spread your comments around where they’re deserved for a while, unless you decide to spend your time more usefully.

72

David 06.26.12 at 4:17 am

No good movies before 1966 doesn’t even have a nano-grain of truth to it. Perhaps he meant he never saw a good movie before 1966. Probably giving him too much credit.

73

Salient 06.26.12 at 5:21 am

“I love thugs. I’m keen on them” probably needs to find its way onto a novelty T-shirt.

…but… I probably can’t be too hard on Martin Amis and remain honest about it, ’cause quotes and snippets from him have probably caused more upset and refueled more writing projects for me than anybody else (e.g. coming across The distance between author and narrator corresponds to the degree to which the author finds the narrator wicked, deluded, pitiful or ridiculous, and realizing that was exactly the convention I was trying to break from, was really helpful).

Still, though. Some of Amis’ quotes are novelty T gems. “Pac Man: the dot-munching Lemon that goes whackawhackawhackawhacka.” With a picture of the Pac Man on it, looking all cool. We could make a whole product line of them, for all those thugs who shop at Hot Topic.

On the other hand, I’m keeping NYT Style’s “the well-spoken product of cross-pollination of the Übermenschen” all to myself, for use in the “professional summary” line of my aspirational résumé.

74

bert 06.26.12 at 5:33 am

He grew up around people telling him sexual intercourse began in 1963. He’s probably just working with bad information.

75

Belle Waring 06.26.12 at 6:01 am

“I love thugs. I’m keen on them” probably needs to find its way onto a novelty T-shirt.
I took it out of the post because it’s in poor taste to call for violence against real people, but what “I love thugs” really needs is a whack upside the head with a Louisville slugger. My parents had a lot of thuggish friends in the 70s and early 80s. You know what? Those guys were all a bunch of thieving, shiftless, no-account assholes who hit on my underage friends (and me, obviously). The Hell’s Angels suck. Seen both from near and afar, thugs are unpleasant, disloyal, and stupid. Wittering on about how you “love thugs” while under a NYC streetlight in the middle of the night is a plea to the gods of karma for a beatdown.

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R. Porrofatto 06.26.12 at 12:26 pm

Brooklyn is prelapsarian? Cobble Hill is a Starbucks franchise these days fer chrissakes. Besides, if it were true it would be “fucking prelapsarian.”

Dr. Strangelove. There’s one.

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Tim Silverman 06.26.12 at 12:48 pm

Pascal Leduc @37

Arcadia it neither fictitious nor a city! It was a poor, isolated, rural area of ancient Greece that somehow got identified and fictionalised as the sort of idyll where people lived innocent, simple, honest lives free of wicked city luxuries like nice clothes, stone buildings, or adultery. And “pre-lapsarian”—i.e. before the explusion from the Garden of Eden—conveys rougly the same kind of thing: people too innocent to even have knowledge of good and evil, living directly off nature’s bounty without the need for technology or more than the most rudimentary knowledge of anything.

So, yes, Amis is talking about a utopia, but a very particular type of utopia—rural, innocent, free of the vices and luxuries of civilisation or city life. This is obviously exceptionally bizarre when applied to Brooklyn, and he must know this, so I suppose there’s some kind of contrarianism or irony to what he’s saying, but what it’s meant to signify I have no idea.

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JP Stormcrow 06.26.12 at 12:50 pm

Wittering on about how you “love thugs” while under a NYC streetlight in the middle of the night is a plea to the gods of karma for a beatdown.

With the assailant repeating, “Still so freaking keen, Kenneth?”

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JP Stormcrow 06.26.12 at 1:34 pm

Also, I may have over-internalized New York real estate prices from afar or missed some nuance of its micro-geography, but was I the only one who was struck by $2.5M for a 5,300 sq. ft. brownstone on Cobble Hill as being pretty damn cheap? Maybe it’s a fixer-upper.

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Belle Waring 06.26.12 at 1:41 pm

I thought it was clear he thinks it’s Arcadian and prelapsarian because somehow he feels he’s able to exercise the prejudices of an earlier era without getting called on it. Hence his enthusiasm for the “guttural crowd” at Flushing Meadows; what’s so “guttural” about us crazy Americans? I’ll give you a hint: it ends with people and it starts with black. But when he wonders, below, about Britain’s confusion over America, he asks (rhetorically) “was it just a collection of Italians and Jews and Brits and Germans, or was it a nation with a soul and an identity?” Hello, black citizens? Yeah there on the left, waving? America comprises a lot of black citizens as well. To celebrate the concept of living in the ’50s in a pleased, prelapsarian way means there’s no feminism, there’s no civil rights, he’s the king of the castle and we are dirty rascals. Very straightforwardly wishing those societal changes away, that he was his dad, and of that era. An evil thing to wish.

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Data Tutashkhia 06.26.12 at 1:47 pm

Brooklyn to Amis is what Petushki is to Erofeev. This whole thing – the way of praising Brooklyn, sentimentality for Brooklyn thugs – all that is, clearly, a ripoff of Moskva-Petushki. And good for him, he’s plagiarizing a great piece.

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annie 06.26.12 at 2:00 pm

one good thing, title made paul and siri turn green.

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bert 06.26.12 at 2:07 pm

The Brooklyn of ‘Girls’ is entirely white, and it caught some flak as a result.
Gentrified Cobble Hill may be prelapsarian on this basis, as you suggest.
The frontier, shorn of red indians, offers unlimited promise.
I’ll shut up about ‘Girls’ now.

84

Doctor Slack 06.26.12 at 2:13 pm

65: Irony, on the other hand …

You do irony brilliantly, Tom. Although it’s ironic that you don’t realize it.

Martin Amis is a fount of hilarity as always. Is there anything more pathetic than an artist who actually says he “loves thugs”? Seems like there could be few plainer ways to declare to the world that, while you’ll never be a badass yourself, you’re thick enough to think that hanging out with them will add inches to your organ.

This is spot on, from 80:

Hence his enthusiasm for the “guttural crowd” at Flushing Meadows; what’s so “guttural” about us crazy Americans? I’ll give you a hint: it ends with people and it starts with black. But when he wonders, below, about Britain’s confusion over America, he asks (rhetorically) “was it just a collection of Italians and Jews and Brits and Germans, or was it a nation with a soul and an identity?” Hello, black citizens? Yeah there on the left, waving? America comprises a lot of black citizens as well. To celebrate the concept of living in the ‘50s in a pleased, prelapsarian way means there’s no feminism, there’s no civil rights, he’s the king of the castle and we are dirty rascals. Very straightforwardly wishing those societal changes away, that he was his dad, and of that era. An evil thing to wish.

Which incidentally should put him nicely in tune with the American conservative movement, pretty much 98% driven by exactly this. Amis ought to settle nicely into the “faux-sophisticant British wingnut” niche left vacant by The Hitch.

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Neville Morley 06.26.12 at 2:14 pm

Et in Arcadia Ego.

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Katherine 06.26.12 at 2:40 pm

I’ve got the impression/been told that “thugs” is quite often code for “black-young-men-who-we-think-are-trouble-because-they-are-black”. I don’t know whether, as a British man, he’d get that association, because as far as I’m concerned it’s not a thing in th UK, but given the contex, I’m not sure how much benefit of the doubt I’m prepared to give.

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Doctor Slack 06.26.12 at 2:49 pm

Katherine: Amis may also mean Cockney gangsters of the type Guy Ritchie used to be so obsessed with. Since he’s “keen on them” and seems to be sort of trying to imply that he hangs out with them Sinatra-and-the-Vegas-Mob style (or at least could do so), I’m guessing that’s closer to the mark.

Meh. “Thugs” aren’t even the real criminals these days anyway.

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bianca steele 06.26.12 at 2:51 pm

Oh, he wasn’t gesturing toward his garden when he said that (the one in the picture). It makes even less sense then.

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ovaut 06.26.12 at 3:00 pm

There’s a really good review in Reviewery where Ricks talks about a Kingsley Amis book that sounds from Ricks’ description rather like Lionel Asbo sounds from other critics’ descriptions

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Lee A. Arnold 06.26.12 at 3:03 pm

Belle, There are a couple of dozen old films of iconic status, often with great turns by great stars, that everybody in Hollywood sees, just as everyone else in the world does: Casablanca, Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Singing in the Rain, Breakfast at Tiffany’s… I too thought the film industry would be crawling all over with film buffs, but it ain’t so, their taste is for new middle-of-the-road stuff. I make it a point to ask people if they have seen any Ozu or Bresson, and they haven’t heard those names. They have seen maybe one picture by Welles or Fellini. You could argue with my choices, but I am going for the gold here, they were possibly the greatest artists in the medium. It’s like being a novelist but never having heard of Dickens or Austen. There are occasionally new things they won’t look at either. I saw Malick’s Tree of Life a day after it opened, in an EMPTY theatre. The picture is an experiment with a failed beginning and ending that, however, serve to bookend and create the style of a truly remarkable middle section about a small Texas family (Brad Pitt plays the father) that is unlike anything I have ever seen. This middle sequence is unique and beautiful, and I recommend it. I can’t find anyone yet who has watched Inland Empire, one of David Lynch’s best pictures, the feverish dream of a very young Polish wannabe actress who has just found out she’s pregnant and doesn’t know who the father is, or else doesn’t know if the father will marry her (the movie is subtitled “A Woman in Trouble”, and it is almost a love letter to women) but this premise is buried in another story that is played out allusively by her unstable dream doppelgänger, Laura Dern (in a great performance) as a famous Hollywood actress. Inland Empire doesn’t tell you this premise, you have to figure it out. It’s a beautiful picture but it was ignored. It is difficult, it was a underpromoted indy, it was never pushed onto their radar. This attitude is widespread. Part of it comes from lack of time and the “demands of the marketplace” I think. Movies here are really financial instruments, and nobody today bothers writing up medieval bills of exchange. There are some exceptions. There was a print interview with Jack Nicholson a few years ago and he was asked to name a great filmmaker. Nicholson replied: Ozu, but that no American would ever sit through one of his movies! So yes there are some knowledgeable people.

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JP Stormcrow 06.26.12 at 4:19 pm

Hence his enthusiasm for the “guttural crowd” at Flushing Meadows; what’s so “guttural” about us crazy Americans? I’ll give you a hint: it ends with people and it starts with black.

Your overall analysis rings true, but I’m not seeing this part for his experience with the US Open Tennis crowds at Flushing Meadows.

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mattski 06.26.12 at 4:40 pm

Well, “pre-lapsarian” sounds an awful lot like what a certain author of The Origin of Species was getting at. So in that sense maybe Brooklyn actually fills the bill.

93

Salient 06.26.12 at 11:07 pm

Very straightforwardly wishing those societal changes away, that he was his dad, and of that era. An evil thing to wish.

Yeah. Martin Amis is basically my favorite IRL model villain, partly because he’s so straightforward and unambiguous about being evil, but in the most faux-heroic way possible. He is the very model of a modern blackguard paladin.

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ajay 06.26.12 at 11:58 pm

93: you make him sound like Flashman.

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Substance McGravitas 06.27.12 at 12:00 am

Flashman wrote great memoirs. Amis not so much.

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Belle Waring 06.27.12 at 3:19 am

Hi Stormcrow: oh, black people not huge US Open fans, stereotypically? I guess it’s just native NY guttural ejaculations then. Like “fuck you,” for example, NYC is big on “fuck you.”
Flashman is accidentally involved in thrilling adventures which he backs into due to his native cowardice. Was being fast friends with Christopher Hitchens really as thrilling as all that? Flashman’s also exceptionally well-endowed. Amis–eh? I’m imaginatively uncharitable. Small hands, etc.

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Belle Waring 06.27.12 at 3:44 am

And god, wondering whether America is “a nation with a soul” and then you just happen to leave out black people? FFS.

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Belle Waring 06.27.12 at 4:06 am

Lee, you need valiant internet-commenter-at-large Bob McManus to come organize an Ozu film fest for you. It’s just funny because in San Francisco and Berkeley there are lots of obsessive old film fans, and places like the Pacific Film Archive or the Castro Theatre where you can hear silent movies with live music or have, well, Ozu film festivals. I figured they could hardly be less crazy about old movies in LA. But I guess it’s a company town.

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ajay 06.27.12 at 9:40 am

96: agreed that it would be a finer, better world if circumstances were different and we were all talking about “Flashman and the War between the States” or “Flashman and the Emperor of Mexico”. Losing “Lionel Asbo” a small price to pay for that.

100

Data Tutashkhia 06.27.12 at 10:11 am

Here’s one translation I found:
http://www.petuschki.net/englisch/epetuschki-3.php
“Petushki is the place where the birds never cease singing, not by day or by night, where winter and summer the jasmine never cease blooming. Perhaps there is such a thing as original sin, but no one ever feels burdened in Petushki. There, even those who don’t dry out for weeks have a bottomless, clear look in their eyes.”

That’s what he’s channeling, without a doubt.

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Alan Winston 06.27.12 at 3:02 pm

I grew up a rabid old-movie fan in Los Angeles. (I lived there until 1985.) At that time it was entirely possible to see silent movies with live organ accompaniment – okay, maybe you had to go down to El Segundo (by the airport) to the Olde Towne Music Hall for that, but we had revival theaters like the Nuart, the Fox Venice, and in Hollywood itself for a few years, the Vista. Despite having worked on the MGM lot for three years – as a computer programmer supporting motion picture and television budgeting and accounting – I wouldn’t venture to make a guess about what people in the Industry in general thought about old movies, much less what they think now. The few friends I have working in the industry now are in fact rabid old movie fans, but they’re writers, so they may not count. There’s definitely more access to live-music-accompanied silent films in the Bay Area (at the Stanford, the Castro, occasionally the Balboa (not on a mighty Wurlitzer, but with portable instruments) and the Niles Film Museum (on keyboard, not organ) than there was in Los Angeles. And that’s not even counting the Pacific Film Archive.

102

Steven 06.27.12 at 7:05 pm

“It’s too bad they can’t return Staten Island and Bensonhurst to dairy farming as they were until not long ago.”

Harold: I really thought you meant “everything but Staten Island and Bensonhurst,” but then I realized you were yet another tired classist asshole who doesn’t want immigrants and your maid to have an affordable place to raise their kids.

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Harold 06.27.12 at 7:44 pm

What? I live in Brooklyn. So far, my neighborhood, which is 99% immigrant and pretty affordable (touch wood), has escaped being gentrified.

My late neighbor used to tell me about how Bensonhurst used to be dairy farms, and I remember Danny Kaye as the milkman from Brooklyn in the movies. Borden Dairies was here and frankly, I don’t think modern Bensonhurst, though of late it has become a bit more diversified, is much of an improvement. It is lacking in parks, playgrounds , good quality architecture, and transportation; and the same can be said of Staten Island, though there are still some nice wild areas in Staten Islands (plus great shipwrecks).

You are wrong about Staten Island, incidentally. It was the first suburb that people ran away to to escape the kind of immigrants who live in my neighborhood.

104

Steven 06.27.12 at 8:11 pm

Harold, if you have accurately descibed your neighborhood, then it is my guess that you live in Sunset Park. Not much rides on me being wrong, so I’m prepared to make this guess.

Since it was built, Bensonhurst has always been a neighborhood for the most recent entrants to the city’s middle class. It used to be the Italians and Jews, now it is the Russians and Chinese, with Latino day laborers hidden in the cracks. Staten Island was where these Italians and Jews subsequently went to get their own (fully-detached) house with a small lawn, or where renters went to buy an ugly condo that they could call their own. There were tradeoffs: they had to move to the lesser important island that was pretty far from the more important one, and edure a long commute to work, but they did it for their families. It is a healthy cycle.

That you would rather have a dairy farm than an urban space because the homes there are not architecturally important and surrounded by nice parks suggests to me that you are out of touch with the reasons why places like Bensonhurst come into being. It is a place in huge metropolis that will probably never be gentrified, and probably never go back to being farmland. And thank god for both of these things.

Amis, for all of his love of thugs and blah blah blah will probably never visit Bensonhurst, one of the very areas that gave Brooklyn the “authenticity” that served as a catalyst for all this sad borough has now become.

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Harold 06.27.12 at 9:07 pm

I was not seriously contemplating dispossessing the people of Staten Island or Bensonhurst. However, even they, as well as the people of Staten Island, deserve such decent amenities as parks and transportation I happen to think that having small family farms nearby, such as existed in my childhood, is also a valuable amenity, especially for children.

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Harold 06.27.12 at 9:10 pm

Addendum: affordable? You need a car to get around in Bensonhurst and Staten Island.

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Harold 06.27.12 at 10:00 pm

Why don’t we have affordable middle class housing in NYC? It is a good question. The answer comes down to politics.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.30.12 at 7:09 pm

Festivals are fun, I remember seeing nice new prints of all the Fleischer Supermans at Pacific Film Archive in the late 1980’s. For people who are past the dating age, DVD rentals make it far easier, and so the prevailing ignorance is inexcusable, though what else is new.

Well what’s new, peeps, is that Ozu is now DVD rentable, thanks to the Criterion Collection. Film lovers can immediately appreciate, in the quiet and comfort of their own homes, his later, unique post-war style.

Ozu uses a very simple formal camera, either of the whole proscenium, or else inserted directly between the actors in two-person conversations so that each looks almost directly into the camera at the other. At the same time, these are very complex screenplays, almost novelistic, about normal everyday life, and you won’t immediately sense the lead characters; everybody gets equal weight.

There are no fights (I think a son punches his father in “Floating Weeds”), usually nobody even raises a voice–the characters just go through the universal little dramas that we all go through. Yet at the end of each movie, the entire world has shifted under their feet. It is an astounding artistic accomplishment. I think Ozu is one of the very greatest artists, in any medium, in the 20th century.

The way to approach Ozu is “Tokyo Story” (1953), a quiet tale about an aging couple and their children.

Then watch the first 30 or 40 minutes of the drama “Floating Weeds” (1959), a late-style remake of his own “Story of Floating Weeds” (1934, which you can omit for now; Criterion packages them together.) Then, rewind the film before finishing it, and watch the same 30 minutes again with Roger Ebert’s extraordinary voiceover accompaniment. Then continue to watch the rest of the film as usual.

Next, look at the color comedy “Good Morning” (1959). It may not be apparent at first, but in the opening, the school children are having a farting contest on the way to school–apparently they are eating filings of pumice stone at night, to help this occur better–but one little boy always soils himself in the effort, and always has to turn around and go back home. The main plot concerns two other little boys who go on a strike until the family buys a television. Along the way, Ozu shows with his usual scientific accuracy the four or five different reasons–economic, sociological, emotional–exactly why the lower middle class Japanese bought TV sets. At the end of the movie, you will not see the father smile at his two boys, because Ozu’s rule is never to go backward in time for reaction shots. Thus Ozu’s plastic form makes a rather simple moment to be suddenly poignant, then charming.

Great artists are of course (a) masters of their craft and (b) emotionally profound. But the greatest artists are also (c) intellectually developed and (d) in possession of a new audience effect, the most unusual thing of all. Ozu is up there with Shakespeare, Beethoven, van Gogh. Our age is so loud and noisy that he has been temporarily drowned out, but I think that a hundred years from now, his will be among the few 20th century films that will be watched.

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Eleanor 07.01.12 at 2:44 pm

Three comments.

(1) Another ‘wonderful’ thing about the 1950s was Joe McCarthy and the witch hunts. The red baiting era did profound harm to American politics and culture long-term, and it was amazingly mean and stupid. It belongs with racism, sexism, and homophobia as a reason to loath the 50s.
(2) Is Martin Amis drunk all the time? He sounds as if he is.
(3) Potemkin. Modern Times. The General. Shoot the Piano Player. Alphaville (1965 and just barely under the wire, but I love that movie).

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