‘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…”
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…”
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!)
And finally, an incredibly descriptive (offensive?) portrait of American writer Nicholson Baker:
“He is, to be sure, fabulously and pointlessly tall…”