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Lionel Asbo: State of England (Vintage International) Paperback – May 7, 2013

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307948080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307948083
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #622,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Lionel Asbo . . . reads as Money's thematic sequel. A portrait of an underclass thug who wins the lottery, Asbo amplifies the earlier novel's hyperbolic farce . . . Sizing up the media culture that the John Selves of the world designed, pitching his voice somewhere between Dickensian melodrama and J. G. Ballard dystopia, Amis squints contemptuously at the dimming sun of the British Empire. — Troy Patterson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Amis is a force unto himself. . . . There is, quite simply, no one else like him.” —The Washington Post

“One of Amis’s funniest novels.” —The New Yorker

“Amis’s language is electric, his wit as sharp and precise than it has been in a decade.” —USA Today
“Full of heart and warmth . . . an unexpected reward for readers.” —People

“At heart an old-fashioned novel. . . . Amis is, like Dickens, an insistently moral writer, satire being an edifying genre with a noble cause: the improvement of society.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Breathtaking. . . . A great big confidence trick of a novel—an attack that turns into an embrace—a book that looks at us, laughs at us, looks at us harder, closer, and laughs at us harder and still more savagely. It is every inch the novel that we all deserve. So let’s give thanks that Martin Amis was bad enough and brave enough to write it.” —The Guardian (London)

“Shockingly, savagely funny. . . . Martin Amis represents the best of contemporary British literature—serious, hilarious, unsettling and provocative.” —Huffington Post

“Lionel Asbo bears a strong resemblance to the trio of novels . . . that made Amis’ reputation. . . . But Lionel Asbo may be even better than these ambitious works of fiction, more disciplined, funnier and more inventive. . . . To say that it is a return to form is an understatement—it might be his finest work.” —The Denver Post

“Full of Amis’ trademark virtuoso prose and wit. . . . Technically brilliant, dazzling in style, manic in energy and driven by a narrative momentum impossible to resist.” —The Toronto Star

“Little in fiction is more entertaining than Martin Amis at his pithy best. . . . ‘Lionel Asbo: State of England’ posits plenty of pith and cutting cultural criticism. It is wild. It is whacked. . . . [It] swings between wildly funny and harshly real.” —The Plain Dealer

“Amis’ portrait of someone who feeds Tabasco-splashed meat to his pit bulls in order to enrage them and toughen them up is surprisingly tender. . . . Fond, too, is Amis’ approach to Asbo’s mixed-race nephew, who serves as the vehicle for the moral conclusion of what in form is in fact not satire but a fairytale . . . Amis’ plea . . . would seem to be that nobody is beyond redemption.” —The Daily Beast

“An Amis sentence is mordant and coruscating, unpredictable and unruly, its own singular music. No surprise, these creations gather into paragraphs of propulsive insights, mini-essays in satiric spin and compression. There may be no better paragraph writer in the language, either. . . . The novel mingles in genuine characters with the usual comedic grotesques, and is tender, almost earnest, in its emotions.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“Crackles with brilliant prose and scathing satire. . . . He riffs like a jazz master, in and out of vernacular, with brief gusts of description, all driven by a tight bass line of suspense.” —Publishers Weekly

“In his 13th novel—one of his most compulsively readable—wily, dead-on satirist and consummate artist Martin Amis is grandly acerbic, funny and unnerving. . . . With crisp insights, rollicking storytelling and acrobatic wit, Amis has created a peppery, topsy-turvy Pygmalion fable and hilarious dismantlement of our cherished rags-to-riches fantasy.” —Kansas City Star

“This deliciously shivery, sly, and taunting page-turner provokes a fresh assessment of the poverty of place, mind, and spirit and the wondrous blossoming of against-all-odds goodness.” —Booklist

Customer Reviews

While in jail, Lionel Asbo coincidentally wins big at the lottery (despite his opinion that it's a "mug's game").
K. Sullivan
Overall, the book isn't funny enough to counterbalance the depressing and unpleasant nature of the plot and many of the characters.
Jessica Weissman
Martin Amis is very erudite, and slips in obscure words that in the context of this story only increase the humor.
Mark Simkin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By L. Young VINE VOICE on July 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In an outstanding novel an author creates a unique world, populates it with fascinating characters who remind us of the best and worst in ourselves, and is in total command of the language in which he tells his story. Martin Amis has achieved all three in his astonishingly original new novel, 'Lionel Asbo: State of England'.

Amis brings us into the world of modern day London, that he sardonically refers to as that 'great world city', specifically into the lower class world of Des Pepperdine and his Uncle Lionel Pepperdine who has renamed himself Asbo after England's
notorious 'Anti-Social Behavior Orders'. Uncle Lionel a thoroughly detestable, sociopathic thug is the focus of the novel which is a superb send up of class, celebrity culture and the press. Lionel's foil is his thoughtful nephew Desmond who is trying to get ahead in life through educations. Des must fight against the dysfunctional family in which has has been raised; his mother gave birth to him at 12, at the same age that Desmond's gran gave birth to Desmond's mom. After Des' mom's untimely death Des is raised by Lionel, just six years his senior. While Des fights against his mileu, Uncle Lionel has succumbed to his, a world in which crime and violence is the norm, stealing nothing more than a 'way to earn one's crust'.

What happens when Lionel wins over 100 million pounds in the Lottery is the crucible through which Amis launches his satire. At times hilarious (as when Lionel grapples with a lobster dinner in a posh restaurant) and at times horrific, Lionel is a doppelganger of Alex in Anthony Burgess' futuristic novel 'A Clockwork Orange written almost fifty years ago. Like Burgess, Amis has created a unique world and a unique vocabulary in which to explore it. As a Yank I'm sure much of the humor sailed right past me given the British lingo in which the novel is written. But for American readers my advice is persevere and experience this audacious novel.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Cheddie VINE VOICE on July 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Martin Amis intertwines two disparate characters in this satirical novel - Lionel Asbo, a violent brute who revels in his ignorance, proud of having gone wrong at a record early age, and his nephew Desmond ("Des"), an anomaly in Lionel's world, a bright teen who enjoys school, much to his uncle's scorn.

Lionel's birth name is Pepperdine, but he characteristically chooses to use Asbo (an acronym for his behavioral diagnosis - Anti-Social Behaviour Order). At the start, Lionel works at the "hairiest end" of debt collecting, assisted by his two "psychopathic pitbulls," presaging a later drama around "Who let the dogs in?"

Lionel's path in life is all too clear, but Des, who lives with "Uncle Li," wants more than a life of petty crime. Unfortunately, Des stumbles on his path with his grandmother.

Grace, 39, Lionel's mother, has had seven children by the time she's turned 19, including Des' mother at age 12. Her impressionable, inexperienced grandson is seduced into a sexual affair, and thus setting up the novel's two dramatic storylines, such as they are. What stupid, vicious thing will Lionel do next, and will vengeful Lionel discover that Des "gave his Mum one?"

I love language, and Amis is a very, very good writer. At first, it was great fun to read Lionel's convoluted turns of phrase, always satirically mocked by the author for their poor grammar and pronunciation. But after 250+ pages, they became almost as dreary as Lionel's outlook. And Lionel loves to talk as much as he loves his mayhem.

Much as normal people take holidays, Lionel, dumbly and sometimes deliberately, takes prison breaks. As he says, "When you in prison, you have you peace of mind. Because you not worried about getting arrested.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Scott Schiefelbein VINE VOICE on August 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Martin Amis turns his wicked sense of humor on England's fascination with its pop-culture roadkill (it's somewhat comforting to know that America's Kardashian mania has British roots) with "Lionel Asbo, State of England." Amis uses the titular oaf to skewer both modern Britain and the idle rich.

Asbo is the typical British low-end thug, thick of brow and accent. Amis has a great time creating the dialect of Diston, the low-life neighborhood Asbo calls home. Asbo was actually born Lionel Pepperdine, but had his name changed to Asbo in honor of his Anti-Social Behavior Order - he's a career low-life and psychopath. He plays with deep thoughts and soliloquies, but it all plays for spectacular humor as Asbo cannot master the intricacies of the "th" sound. Asbo's the kind of guy who wants his mum to accept her advanced age and just die quietly - she's 39, after all, so what does she expect?

Our window into Asbo's life is young Desmond Pepperdine, Asbo's nephew and illicit paramour of Asbo's mum. (Incest is an oft-practiced yet shameful practice in Diston.) Sensitive where Asbo is boorish, smart where Asbo is cunning, Des looks like a young man destined to make it out of Diston's misery. If only he could catch a break . . .

And, irony of ironies, he almost does as Asbo wins the national lottery of 139 million pounds. But while lesser men might use the windfall to rebuild a shattered reputation and buy the goodwill of the family (including his cousins Paul, John, George, Ringo, and Stuart . . . those names ring a bell?), Asbo delights in taunting friends and family with money, only to snatch it from their grasping hands.
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Lionel Asbo: State of England (Vintage International)
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