From Publishers Weekly
In this much-anticipated 10th novel-which has already fomented a furor in Britain-the prose is brilliant and often hilarious, and the insights into contemporary culture are disturbingly prescient. But the book's many successes cannot hide its fundamental flaw: an overly complex and needlessly opaque narrative structure. The wildly plotted novel begins when modern "Renaissance man" (actor/writer) Xan Meo is viciously assaulted; his head injury changes this "dream husband" into an oversexed, sadistic lout, ultimately forcing his wife to cast him out. But the attack isn't an act of random violence. As one of his assailants, Mal, cryptically puts it, "You went and named him... J-o-s-e-p-h A-n-d-r-e-w-s." From this enigmatic opening, Amis weaves a complex tapestry of narrative threads: Xan Meo is trying to recover his lost personality and his family's loving embrace; teenage Princess Victoria-a future queen of England-is being blackmailed with a video of her in the bath; tabloid journalist Clint Smoker-emasculated by a laughably small penis-extracts his revenge by being relentlessly misogynistic in print. Meanwhile, the recidivist, violent criminal Joseph Andrews-now a pornography impresario in Los Angeles-is plotting a way to return to England to die. Making these intersecting narratives cohere would be a challenge for any writer, but Amis reaches even further with a backdrop of apocalyptic violence (a transatlantic flight that's doomed to crash, a meteor that might hit the planet). That background clouds his core themes, which are more than dramatic enough to be compelling: violence and its intimate connections to sex and gender, the "obscenification" of everyday life and the 21st-century preoccupation with fame. (A typical Amis apercu: "Fame had so democratised itself that obscurity was felt as a deprivation or even a punishment.") Thanks to Amis's pitch-perfect dialogue, his I-can't-believe-he-wrote-that humor and his perceptive critique of contemporary morals, this is still a novel of many pleasures-and still a novel to be reckoned with.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Amis elicits as much animosity as approbation, especially in his native England, but no reader can deny the audacity of his imagination or the tensile power of his subversive, fractured, vitriolic prose. In the opening scene in his first novel in five years, a crass and careening satire, Xan Meo, a self-declared Renaissance man with a grimy past, scans the bawdy drink menu in a London pub that offers cocktails called Blowjob and Dickhead and ponders the "obscenification of everyday life," a key theme in the insanity that follows. His brief reverie is violently interrupted, however, and he sustains a serious head injury. Meanwhile, King Henry IX, seemingly dim, dotty, and bored to paralysis with his witless duties, is facing a crisis: someone possesses highly compromising photos of 15-year-old Princess Victoria. And wouldn't sleazy tabloid genius Clint Smoker just love to get hold of those? Xan struggles to regain control over his addled brain and hyperactive libido, the king muddles along, Clint seeks new lows on behalf of the "wankers" who read his ludicrous rag, and a comet threatens to crash into Earth as Amis decimates the patriarchal paradigm (and the monarchy) by dissecting, in outrageous detail, the paradoxes of the pornography industry and the psychosis of father-daughter incest. A sloppy, maddening, hilarious, and oddly touching amalgam of Evelyn Waugh and John Waters, Amis' wicked burlesque evinces his disgust with the herd mentality and a surprisingly tender regard for women. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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