Amis Unfiltered (Guernica Magazine)
Late one Saturday morning last November, Martin Amis strode across the stage of a half-filled auditorium at the Miami Book Fair. Squinting as the light struck his face, Amis took a seat at a lonely table with a copy of his most recent work, Lionel Asbo: State of England.
Stern-faced, he commended the audience after a brief greeting. “You avoided electing a president who looks like a religious porn star, one much respected in the industry,” he said. “You avoided the presidency of a man who a few months ago sat in Jerusalem next to Sheldon Adelson,” he continued. “You’d have to rack your brains to find someone, anyone as disreputable as that. Perhaps if he’d had Larry Flint sitting on the other side of him…” The official schedule described the event as a reading, but Amis, often referred to as the Mick Jagger of literature by the British press (“Why isn’t Mick Jagger known as the Martin Amis of the rock world?” he’s joked), chose to start with a short speech on American politics and religion. “[Romney] is a hick,” he said alluding to Romney’s Mormonism, a religion, which, in his opinion, didn’t deserve discussion, given its short and somewhat ridiculous inception.
“I was just amazed that the election was so close,” he continued. “The Democratic Party represents the American brain, and the Republicans represent not the American heart, or soul, but the American gut. The argument between brain and bowel, everywhere else in the Free World, has been decided long ago in favor of brain. But Americans still—it still divides the nation, this question, here in America.”
Amis is well versed in provocation, but he hasn’t always shown a significant interest in politics. Early in his career he was largely seen as a literary playboy, avoiding the political scuffles that his late friend and colleague Christopher Hitchens ardently pursued. In recent years, however, Amis has taken on a wide range of culturally sensitive subjects, including communism, the press, and Islam. Throughout numerous interviews, he has managed to anger both the Left and the Right with caustic statements that altogether dispense with political correctness. His 2011 move to Brooklyn seems only to have heightened his effervescent rancor.
With Obama’s second term underway, and Amis’s mind focused on the new novel he’s been working on about the Holocaust, our conversation revolved around his recent travels and research—never veering far from the contrarian repartee for which he is known.