Posted By: Katy Carr, 11 May 2009
Last week we hosted Martin Amis at the Norwich Playhouse as part of the Norwich and Norfolk festival. Amis was in conversation with the Observer’s Robert McCrum, our Chair, and long time friend of Amis.
McCrum got Amis started with some pertinent questions, which Amis responded to at length. The event was a sell-out, and Amis kept the audience entertained with a natural, witty style and musings on the literary world, the rise and fall of the superstar author, and the trials of aging.
Amis generally took the long view, for example, explaining the adulation of writers as a fairly recent phenomena that exploded into culture when the fame vehicle had nowhere else to go. He thinks this phase is now on its way out, and that literature will return to being a niche activity; a change heralded by the general decline in our interest in poetry.
In what he believes is a deep cultural shift relating to our whole way of living, Amis pointed out how people generally no longer have any time to stop or reflect for long – the modern world simply has no time for poetry. Describing novelists as more aligned to the chug chug chug of life, he says that they have so far fared better, but feels the literary novelists days of fame are numbered.
Then, having informed me backstage that his novel had only been sent off the previous day, he seemed quite happy reading the opening pages in the novel's first public outing.
The writing shows a return to comic form, as the narrator muses on the indignities of facing the mirror as an aging man, in a prelude to a story set in Italy in 1970, looking at the effect of the sexual revolution on personal relationships. The sexual revolution was the moment, as Amis sees it, that love became divorced from sex.
He said he started to write the novel autobiographically, (something that has been interesting the press recently), but then concluded that real life was too different from fiction, and difficult to drum into novel shape, so he had to rethink the form.
The novel will be released in February 2010. From the audience's delighted reaction to the reading however, it seems it will be worth the wait.