117. ‘Visiting Mrs.Nabakov,’ Martin Amis

02 Jun
117. ‘Visiting Mrs.Nabakov,’ Martin Amis

Visiting Mrs.Nabakov,Martin Amis

Martin Amis is one of the most famous contemporary British authors, having been included in The Times newspaper’s list of the fifty greatest UK writers of the post-war period, (not to mention being the son of legendary author Kingsley Amis, making them one of the few parent/sibling writing partnerships I can think of).

I had read one of his novels before, (the brilliantly bizarre ‘London Fields‘), but since this time last year I was on an essay-reading binge, it made sense to read this selection which I had picked up and had signed at last year’s Hay Festival, (which is on right now, if you happen to be anywhere near the England/Wales border). Here are my favourite bits.


On the mind-boggling maths behind chess:

“Recently Kasparov beat ten computers simultaneously, blindfolded. How flattering for the species. There are over 288 billion possibilities through the fourth move…yet the mark of a good chess player is not how many moves he considers but how few…”


Don’t tell anyone, but this is just Tippex on a screen… Photo from Chess Maniac used courtesy of Creative Commons license.

On Robocop actor Peter Weller:

“It’s like being in a room, or a trailer, with about fifty different people. Simon Schama‘s new study of the French Revolution is cracked open on the table; so is Teach Yourself French; so is Teach Yourself Italian. He puts down his trumpet, looks up from the stack of inspirational videos…and shouts out of the window for more classical CDs…He hums with vigour. I would too, I suppose, if I got up at three and ran 16 miles every morning…”

Photo from Flixist, used courtesy of Creative Commons.

Photo from Flixist, used courtesy of Creative Commons.


Next, Paul Theroux’s greeting to Salman Rushdie at the funeral of Bruce Chatwin:

“‘Salman,’ called out Paul Theroux, boyishly. ‘Next week we’ll be back here for you!'”…


A conversation with Salman Rushdie on hearing that the latter had taken part in a celebrity writer’s football match:

“‘How did you do?’ I expected the usual kind of comedy (sprained ankle, heart attack, incompetence, disgrace). But I was given another kind of comedy, out of left field.

He said, ‘I, uh, scored a hat-trick, actually.’

‘You’re kidding. I suppose you just stuck your leg out. You scrambled them home.’

‘Goal number one was a first-time hip-high volley from twenty yards out. For the second, I beat two men at the edge of the box and curled the ball into the top corner with the outside of my left foot.’

‘And the third goal, Salman? A tap-in. A fluke.’

‘No. The thrid goal was a power header‘…

(I didn’t think I could love Salman Rushdie any more than I do. To be proven wrong is one of the reasons I read!)

Salman Rushdie, photo courtesy of, used under Creative Commons License

Salman Rushdie, photo courtesy of, used under Creative Commons License


And finally, an incredibly descriptive (offensive?) portrait of American writer Nicholson Baker:

“He is, to be sure, fabulously and pointlessly tall…”



Posted by on June 2, 2014 in BOOKS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 responses to “117. ‘Visiting Mrs.Nabakov,’ Martin Amis

  1. Miguel St. Orberose

    June 3, 2014 at 12:47 am

    What does it have to do with Mrs. Nabokov?

    • doronklemer

      June 3, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      One of the essays is about visiting Nabakov’s widow, so he named the book after that.

      • Miguel St. Orberose

        June 4, 2014 at 10:06 am

        Ah, that must be interesting. I know Amis is a great admirer of Nabokov. And what does he say about that meeting?


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