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The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America Paperback – April 12, 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0140127195 ISBN-10: 0140127194 Edition: Reissue

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (April 12, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140127194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140127195
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,029,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Using an engaging tone in which disdain and affection appear equally mixed, Amis looks at some of the more glittering facets of American fashionability. About half the essays are on writers (Bellow, Capote, Didion, etc.); the rest, seemingly scatter shots at the American scene, skip from film makers to feminism, from the New Right to AIDS. Although Inferno is a selection of occasional pieces, it is disproportionately weighted to the freakish fringe (Hefner, Claus von Bulow) and thus bestows a symbolic importance on such figures that is simply incommensurate with reality. British readers will make of this what they will; American readers, at the least, can take an amused delight in Amis's performanceespecially in the sequence of arch figure-eights and ironic reverse-spins that he cuts on the glitzy surface of our times. Earl Rovit, English Dept., City Coll . , CUNY
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Martin Amis’s America is funny and horrific.”
The Times

“As a foreign journalist-cum-essayist on America, Mr. Amis has no equal.”
The Economist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Fred Enderby on November 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is one of Martin Amis's funniest and most interesting books. The book/author reviews are incredibly good (you'll never read Mailer, Burroughs, Didion, with a completely straight face again), and the social commentary is very well delivered.
As the title indicates, this book is highly critical of America, but it is a criticism tempered and somewhat confounded by Amis's complicated Ameriphilia: Amis's favorite writers are Americans (or at least expatriates who live in America), and Amis is very fond of claiming that he feels himself to be about half American. Yet America is the home and central breeding-ground of most of Amis's most hated evils: obscene wealth, unscrupulous capitalism (whitewashed in American euphamisms), the nuclear warfare industry, braindead religion, banal art &c. In both this book and the same-period novel Money (probably Amis's best), Amis posits pornography as America's economic and cultural nexus.
Amis's tense relationship with America provides for some incredibly good journalism and essays. The style throughout is outstanding, and most of my memories of the book come back in complete phrases. Looking at the early stages of the AIDS epidemic: "'Spend-down' turns out to be one of those cutely hyphenated nightmares of American life. Practically stated, it means that the AIDS victim sells and spends everything before qualifying for Medicare. Duly pauperized..." On Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead: "The novel was impossibly mature. The immaturity was all to come....[later in the article] Mailer's essays from this period--'The Existential Hero,' 'The Philosophy of Hip,' and 'The White Negro'--sum up how Mailer was feeling about himself at the time.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on April 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
The best recommendation for this book is that it is simply good writing, very good writing. Amis may, in fact, be the premier writer of his time for this type of short, spare-not-the rapier witty style of journalistic writing so common in England: As opposed to America, this collection's ostensible subject, where there is no style, and it is discouraged as bravura. A brief example of this is Amis's crisp, droll assessment of a particular book: "The first thing to say about it is that it's bad: It's bad." - There are other things to say about it, of course, which Amis duly proceeds to do. But it's that stylistic, ironic nuance in the opening that captures the flavour of these pieces. Can anyone imagine an American reviewer or journalist getting away with displaying, heaven forbid, such personal style.

The only fault I find with this book is the one Amis apologizes for in the Introduction, that it is simply a compilation of essays and reviews previously written for English papers. Thus, what we have here is a collection of snapshots, crystal clear, of certain aspects of America and her writers. The "big picture," so to speak, is missing.--But, again, the big picture is not Amis's forte, and you will find yourself delightedly guffawing, in spite of yourself perhaps, at these brilliant flashes of the master of rapier wit.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sirin on April 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
Martin Amis is well known for his admiration of American fiction, which has manifestly influenced his own literary style, and he frequently draws on aspects of US culture in his work.

Yet there are aspects of American society and culture that horrify this middle class English writer (to be fair, they horrify many other people as well). For example there is a chilling investigation into child murders in Atlanta, written in a weathered, hardboiled style that will be familiar to readers of Amis's short 1998 detective pastiche 'Night Train'.

Most of this collection is divided between pieces on writers and writings, and some of the more eccentric aspects of American society (particularly in the Midwest). There are knowing pieces on Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Philip Roth and a dying Truman Capote; the most laudatory being saved for two bookend essays on Saul Bellow - a longtime hero for Amis.

Then there are the savage satires on Republican politics, TV evangelists, the movies of Brian De Palma and Hugh Hefner. Yes, these provide sitting duck targets for the witty satirist, especially one of secular, liberal inclinations, but the pieces are in turns incisive, funny and frightening at the same time.

America: land of the free, where eccentrics and crackpots can become richer, more influential and more famous than anywhere else in the world. God bless this collection of essays.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 21, 1997
Format: Paperback
A collection of journalism whose highlights include pieces on Claus and Sunny von Bulow, Bellow, Didion, Updike and Vonnegut.
The cliche that less is more has led many critics to carp that Amis would write better books if he had a less obvious style, or spent less time polishing this or whatever.

Well, this is his best writing. And it's good because it's so finely balanced. The style is always present, especially the risky throwaways. But the tone is all business, and the throwaways that survive are often genius. As a journalist, Amis writes close-to-perfect scene setters - witness the opening of his story on von Bulow, on living the "life of real money".

Perhaps it's the relative shortness and density required for journalism that gives Inferno its charge. The book's far tighter than Amis's follow-up collection, Visiting Mrs Nabokov.

London Fields may be Amis's best work, but moment-by-moment Inferno is even more satisfying.
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