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The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

These chronologically ordered essays and stories on the September 11 attacks proceed from initial bewilderment to coruscating contempt for radical Islam. Novelist Amis (House of Meetings) rejects all religious belief as without reason and without dignity and condemns Islamism as an especially baleful variant. Amis attacks Islamism's tenets as [a]nti-Semitic, anti-liberal, anti-individualist, anti-democratic and characterizes its adherents, from founding ideologue Sayyid Qutb to the ordinary suicide bomber, as sexually frustrated misogynists entranced by a cult of death. He also takes swipes at Bush and the Iraq war, which he describes as botched and tragically counterproductive, if well intentioned, but scorns those who draw a moral equivalence between Western misdeeds and the jihadist agenda. Amis's concerns are cultural and aesthetic as well as existential: terrorism threatens a reign of boredom in the guise of tedious airport security protocols, pedantic conspiracy theories and the dogma-shackled dependent mind fostered by Islamist theocracy. As much as Amis's opinions are scathing, blunt and occasionally strident, his prose is subtle, elegant and witty—and certainly never boring. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Amis is famously audacious, sardonic, and excoriating. But in this bracing and corrective collection of intense and perceptive responses to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (including an objection to the reductiveness of “9/11”), Amis is doing far more than performing literary pyrotechnics or playing provocateur. Beginning with “The Second Plane”––originally published a week after the catastrophe and utterly unnerving in its vivid sense of menace––he tracks the shock waves of that world-altering day in a dozen galvanizing essays. Amis brings the Iraq War and its appalling consequences into sharp focus, presents a blazing indictment of religion, and provides a striking analysis of the diabolical symbiosis between “the superterror of suicide-mass murder” and the “superboredom” of societies bereft of independent thought. If Amis verges on generalizations in his highly charged commentary, he focuses tightly, even empathically, on individuals in his arresting profile of Sayyid Qutb, the “father of Islamism”; in his double-barreled reports on Tony Blair and George W. Bush; and in two wrenchingly satirical short stories, one narrated by Muhammad Atta. Amis, whose most recent novel is the triumphant House of Meetings (2006), writes with vehemence, daring, and verve because he schools himself in harsh truths, and because he cares. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400044545
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400044542
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,463,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dan E. Buoy on April 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Martin Amis, best known for his outstanding fiction, here offers a collection of previously published essays, as well as a couple of short stories, on the topic of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath. The works range (in their original date of publication) from just after the horrible attacks through September 11, 2007. In his forward to this slim collection, Amis admits he was tempted to revise essays which, over time, show their flaws. But bravely, he allows us to see his original work untouched by the corrective pen.

As such, these materials afford Amis' fierciest critics ample opportunity to selectively slice quotations out of context in an attempt to show the writer in deceptively unflattering light (NY Times critic Michiko Kakutani immediately comes to mind). But chuckleheaded critics' opinions notwithstanding, Amis' gift for turning a phrase and cutting to the essence of an idea is without peer. If there is a living writer who matches Amis' vocabulary, stinging humor, poetic nuance and worldly insight I have yet to read him or her.

Take, for example, this excerpt:

"It is by now not too difficult to trace what went wrong, psychologically, in the Iraq War. The fatal turn, the fatal forfeiture of legitimacy, came not with the mistaken but also calculated emphasis on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction: the intelligence agencies of every country on earth, Iraq included, believed that he had them. The fatal turn was the American President's all to palpable submission to the intoxicant of power. His walk, his voice, his idiom, right up to his mortifying appearance in the flight suit on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln ("Mission Accomplished") - every dash and comma in his body language betrayed the unscrupulous confidence of the power surge.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. F. P. Kelly on February 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
Amis' foray into commentary on Islam's intrusion into modern western life drew opprobrium from many quarters. However, I believe his analysis is essential, accurate and true. The writing is exquisite, and the subject is of signal importance for those of us in the west. The torrent of criticism he attracted seems to have had it's desired effect in that Amis' writing on the subject has been few and far between since. I wish Amis would revisit and expand this topic. Very highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mike B on November 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
A very passionate book. Mr. Amis shows no sympathy for the religion of Islam (or any other religion for that matter). Religions suppress reason, women and education. He also brushes aside those who sympathize with Islam - that the `terrorists' are responding to repression from America or Israel. Islamic militants want to kill us and they are intolerant.

He also shows disdain to Bush and his Iraq invasion. As many others have pointed out - Bush looks for an analysis (or fabricates one) that supports his viewpoint and has no tolerance for contrary opinions.

Also Amis shows a good knowledge of Islamic fundamentalism quoting often from Sayyid Qutb, the founder of modern day Wahhabism.

Not an easy book for the digestion.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sirin on April 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Martin Amis's political books have typically been the least well received of his oeuvre. His 1987 collection of stories `Einstein's Monsters' felt too contrived and naively over heavy on the big ideas (nuclear weapons) compared to the two satirical masterpieces - Money and London Fields, it was chronologically sandwiched between, and his 2002 Koba the Dread, a book to honour the victims of Stalin, was a bit of a hash of an exercise that strained too hard for effect, comparing, at one point, the screams of his infant child with the millions that perished under Stalin in the Gulag.

In this collection of essays and fiction, however, Amis has rather more success in mixing his personal life and concerns with the big political themes that affect us all. The book brings together a collection of Amis's writings on the theme of September 11, and the myriad fallout from the events of that day: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the wider concerns to assert American power more fully in the Middle East, and more generally (and this is Amis's real concern) the subliminal effects that terrorism has on us all: `it's mystery, its instability, and its terrible dynamism'.

The publication of this collection comes after a long running media spat concerning Amis's views on Islam. Terry Eagleton, Amis's colleague at Manchester University accused him of being tantamount to a `British National Party thug'; the satirical comedian Chris Morris tagged Amis as `The New Abu Hamza'. All this following an interview Amis gave to the Independent in which he mused that `don't you feel the urge that the Muslim community must suffer in order to get its house in order. What measures? `Things like strip searching people who look like they come from The Middle East, or Pakistan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Really a Reader on April 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here is Amis one of so many major writers of our time coming to terms with 9/11, in novels, interviews, articles. This is a chronological compilation of his writing on the subject of terrorism and Islamic Extremism. Always perceptive, keen on effect, as well as a writer whose opinion means something to him. We would say "he gives us his word" that this is what he thinks and how he feels (at least at the time when these essays were written). Read him. He is as good as it gets for us.
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