Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Monday, 18 April 2011

"Heavy Water and other stories" by Martin Amis (QPD, 1998)

The contents page mentions 6 stories though there are 9 in the book. There's no acknowledgments page - by looking at the ends of the stories one can see they come from The New Yorker, Esquire, Granta, etc. Looks promising

"State of England" is long and has some of the best passages (p.58-60). It also has some typical Amis characters

Mo said, 'My son's three. And he calls me an asshole all the time.'
Everybody looked suitably impressed. (p.16)

"Career Move" is set in a topsy-turvy world where business executives are involved with poetry launches

Joe looked doubtful. '"'Tis" has made the suits kind of antsy about sonnets. They figure lightning can't strike twice."
'ABBA ABBA,' said Bo with distaste.
'Or,' said Joe, 'Or ... or we go unrhymed.'
'Unrhymed?' said Phil.
'We go blank,' said Joe.
There was a silence. Bill look at Gil, who looked at Will.
'What do you think, Luke?' said Jim. 'You're the poet.' (p.19)

"Straight Fiction" is set in another topsy-turvy world. This time gays are in the majority.

"Heavy Water" is about a mother taking her 42 year-old mentally handicapped son on a cruise. About half way through we're told that he was fine at fourteen, before his father left. On the next page we suddenly, momentarily enter John's head "John gave the food a look. The food gave John a look. John didn't like the look of the food. The food didn't like the look of John. To him, food never looked convincingly dead."

There's a talent show on board. I expected the all-but-mute son to suddenly burst into song. But no, the twists are that near the end he tries to jump off the boat and that his evening bottle contained not milk, but gin.

"The Janitor on Mars" is SF, with a monologued history of the universe delivered by an advanced robot. Standard - no undermining of the cliché. I was expecting the Earth to be destroyed at the end.

I think his novels are better.

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