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Lionel Asbo: State of England Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 21, 2012
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“Despite a time frame that gallops forward into 2013 and a wealth of irresistibly hyperbolized pop cultural references, Lionel Asbo is at heart an old-fashioned novel, earnest in its agenda... a theme familiar to the audience of Amis's forebear, Dickens: the corrupting influence of money... Amis is, like Dickens, an insistently moral writer, satire being an edifying genre with a noble cause: the improvement of society.” —Kathryn Harris, The New York Times Book Review (front page)
“One of Amis's funniest novels —in a league with ‘Money’ and ‘London Fields.’ Amis, like his heroes Nabokov and Bellow, writes exuberant, ecstatic prose. His ear is precisely tuned, and his sentences—in narration and dialogue—are lethal. Our hero is a thug named Asbo (for Anti-Social Behaviour Order), a brilliant sociopath who delivers beatings for sport and feeds Tabasco to his pit bulls to make them extra-ornery in the morning. (Reader alert: Asbo delivers the most hilarious wedding speech in the history of English literature.) He sort of raises his nephew, an ambitious lad who happens to be sleeping with Grandmum. Mid-book, Asbo wins the lottery, a Dickensian turn of fortune that not only leads to some unforgettable comic opportunities but deepens matters as well. The jokes, the high-voltage sentences—all that energy—begin to drive an increasingly complicated machine.” —The New Yorker
“Lionel Asbo bears a strong resemblance to the trio of novels (Money, London Fields, The Information) that made Amis’ reputation. Like them, it is a satirical work whose subject is what Delmore Schwarz called ‘the scrimmage of appetite,’ and has an elaborate plot, a series of brilliant set pieces and a matchless sense of the contemporary demotic. But Lionel Asbo maybe 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.” –John Broening, The Denver Post
“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.... He leads us on, shakes us up, knocks us down, brushes us off, then does it all over again...nimbly delivers stinging surprises, startling turnarounds, bludgeoning moments of horror and eked-out triumphs... Without hobbling the story, he takes on what are, in fact, universal concerns... 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.” —Donna Seaman, Kansas City Star
“Little fiction is more entertaining than Martin Amis at his pithy best. His latest novel posits plenty of pith and cutting cultural criticism. It is wild. It is whacked. [It] swings between wildly funny and harshly real.” —Karen Sandstrom, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Amis pumps his novel full of heart and warmth, providing an unexpected reward for readers.” —People
"Lionel Asbo crackles with brilliant prose and scathing satire [and is] savagely funny... So who could predict that, from this deliciously nasty setup, an author the New York Times once called 'fiction's angriest writer' would craft a novel so... Dickensian, a novel with such... I hate to even say it...heart... What follows is hilarious and strangely compelling—a gleefully twisted Great Expectations... Amis adopts a big, playful storytelling voice in this book. 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." —Jess Walter, Publishers Weekly
“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. Through Asbo, Amis explores the isolation and dislocation that comes with the shattering of old bonds and the manufacture of new ones due to spectacular accession to celebrity status…. 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. Des Pepperdine is an autodidact who escapes the cycle of crime and violence that plagues Diston Town—Amis’ fictional London hood where ‘everything hated everything else’—by doing well in school, going to college and landing a job… Amis’ plea would seem to be that nobody is beyond redemption, no matter what their circumstance.” —Liam Hoare, The Daily Beast
"A ripper of a story, in the Dickens mode... the novel mingles in genuine characters with the usual comedic grotesques, and is tender, almost earnest, in its emotions.... Amis is the most original sentence-writer in English." —Charles Foran, The Globe and Mail
"Technically brilliant, dazzling in style, manic in energy and driven by a narrative momentum impossible to resist... The novel is full of Amis' trademark virtuoso prose and wit." —Michel Basilieres, The Toronto Star
“The Amis energy is intact. As is the Amis gift for aperçus… There’s no formula for this sort of writing. It simply comes out of the same pot miracles do.” —Daniel Asa Rose, Barnes and Noble Review
“Amis's language is electric, his wit as sharp and precise than it has been in a decade, and Lionel Asbo has a savage, post-apocalyptic feel.” —David Daley, USA Today
“Amis’ phenomenal vim and versatility, anchoring roots in English literature, and gift for satire power this hilariously Dickensian, nerve-racking, crafty, bull’s eye tale of a monster and a mensch…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.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist
“Lionel Asbo becomes, incredibly, an imaginatively cautionary account of what we’ve become and a surprisingly (especially from Amis) hopefully illustration of what we can be.” —Steve Whitton, Anniston Star
“An acidic satire on contemporary England by one of that country’s most controversial and caustic wits [with an] energetic, funny, idiosyncratic and biting use of language, here used to brilliant effect.” —Karen Virag, The Edmonton Journal
"A masterpiece of social satire and cultural observation...fine, caustic, funny, angry and outrageous.” –Gaylord Dold, The Wichita Eagle
“[Set in] the kind of place a 21st-century Dickens might conjure up, ‘where calamity made its rounds like a postman.’ ... Deploying his accomplished satirical gifts with surgical skill, Amis delivers a grimly humorous portrayal [of] the sometimes inexplicable bonds that tie family members to each other and the ways we can love against all our better instincts... With wit and style, Martin Amis shows us that money changes everything and nothing." —Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness
“As combative and as vicious as ever, Amis skewers the noughties as cruelly, as inventively and with as much screwy black comedy as his Money did the Eighties.” —Olivia Cole, GQ UK
“Amis's funniest and most satisfying novel in years—the book's comedy [lashed] with a serious dose of menace... his warmest book—and also his most authentically chilling... Among its other surprises, Lionel Asbo delivers the most compelling plot Amis has crafted.” —David Free, The Australian
"A joy— and strangely life-affirming... It certainly has much of the dazzling prose that made his earlier works so stand-out. As ever he makes the dreadful funny, the grotesque poetic. But there's something else, a tenderness and humanity... Amis seems to have affection for all his characters [in what] could be seen as a meditation on social mobility... Though it satirises a society in decline it is also, in the end, a story about the triumph of education over ignorance, love over hate." —Carole Midgley, The Times [U.K.]
“A surprisingly tender story… For all its scabrous humour, this is at heart an old-fashioned tale in which goodness may still find a way to triumph.” —The Daily Mail [U.K.]
“The novel comes at you and comes at you and keeps on coming. It never flags… It is 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.” – Nicola Barker, The Guardian [U.K.]
“A wicked satire [and] frequently wincingly funny. Amis’s aim at the totems and mores of common fame is as unerring, and his phrase-making as pyrotechnically dazzling, as ever…Amis also writes with real – and uncharacteristic – tenderness.” – Mick Brown, The Telegraph [U.K.]
“Martin Amis has let himself go at last, [with] the broadest comedy he has ever published… Amis’s delight in the incorrigible is genuinely Dickensian.” —David Sexton, Evening Standard [U.K.]
The cover of this edition of Lionel Asbo is intentionally printed so text from the flap appears on the right side of the jacket cover. The printed letters on the right side of the cover (they look like dots when the image is tiny) is part of the design.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Brilliant. Terrifying. Explains so much of England today. Especially poignant in light of the Brexit vote.Published 13 hours ago by Megan
I love how it started. The lottery lout aspect was was good. But I think Aims got bored half way through the story. I know I did. When baby "Sila"? was born I got bored. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Ian Forry
Enjoyable read. I heard Martin Amis interviewed about this book and it caught my interest. It's a really easy read - finished in in about 4 hours and enjoyed it cover to cover. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Simon van Wyk
A flawed, perhaps deliberately so, look at modern England and its "chav culture". It must be understood, at some level, as a meta-novel, a deliberate attempt to provoke... Read morePublished 16 months ago by John C Baruth II
The concept was good, and the plot had merit, but the delivery was stilted and difficult. Some lines were fantastic, such as Des's thoughts on his grandmother sliding into dementia... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Tim McQueen
An assured hand with a story, and a graceful feel for language. Amis is a modern master. Highly enjoyable in every way.Published 18 months ago by Darren S.
Loved this book! The main characters are flawed, humanly so, and exasperating. But you must know what happens to them, and secretly maybe hope it's good. Highly recommended.Published 21 months ago by Pen Name
Amis seems to be losing his powers."Lionel Asbo" is to "Money" what the latest Paul McCartney album is to "Band on the Run. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Brandoch Daha