Reading this article in the Guardian about the latest snide Martin Amis remark to disgust people, I was struck by a familiar sentiment: Oh, Martin, must you always make it so embarrassing to like you?
Apparently Amis declared that he would only write a children’s book if he had brain damage. Charming, truly charming. With one asinine comment, he managed to insult children’s book authors, the brain damaged, and, well, children.
Now surely, this attitude problem is much of what Amis is all about and at least part of the reason anyone bothers to talk about him. (For the record, the other part is that he’s genuinely talented. Whatever he may be as a man, I truly love London Fields.) This isn’t the first time he’s said something seemingly exclusively to annoy others. The protagonist of Money is one of the more repulsive characters in contemporary fiction, and Amis named him John Self. (Points for self awareness, perhaps?) And a great many writers of wonderful, wonderful things were also terrible, terrible people. If we ruled out the artistic products of people who are not also lovely people we don’t object to, it’s terrifying to think what cultural gems we’d lose. The list of drunks who were nasty to their wives alone would deprive us of much of the canon.
I could list examples, but I’d be here all day. Instead, enjoy this clip of Jill Sobule singing “Heroes,” her song on this very subject.
Giving that a listen, there are far worse things one could be than a jackass, I suppose. I think my issue with Amis is less his attitude, which I’d potentially find amusing and endearing if he ever seemed insightful or funny or clever when putting someone down for no reason. It’s not like I want him to be nice. It just all seems to come from such a defensive, sad, ain’t never gonna win the Booker sort of place. Witness his public kerfuffle* over everyone’s favorite British non-celebrity, Katie “Jordan” Price—when an acclaimed literary novelist comes off as jealous of a girl who is famous for wearing little clothing, being so tacky that tacky people look on in horror, and trying to date herself into greater stardom, I find it hard to get upset about his misogyny. What he was saying was sort of beside the point—the aggravating thing is that he felt the need to say it at all. It’s not easy to see this as a brave man speaking truth to power and damn the consequences. Instead, he just seems petulant and insecure, and really, I just want him to be more. If he’s going to take people down for sport, is it too much to ask that he do it with style and a little more effort to hide his wounded ego?
Looking at your own favorite books, are any of them written by people who are sort of hard to champion?
*With the standard caveat that Wikipedia is perhaps not the most accurate source of information. Suffice it to say that I’m assuming no one’s sabotaging the integrity of this particular piece of information. It’s not like it’s a subject where accuracy is of vital importance, like Justin Bieber.