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The War Against Cliche: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 Paperback – July 16, 2002
The Amazon Book Review
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In the subsequent sections of the book, this war leads to some wonderfully cutting and amusing responses to whatever crosses his path, from books on chess and nuclear proliferation to Cervantes' Don Quixote and the novels of his hero Vladimir Nabokov. Praise for his literary heroes is often fulsome: J.G. Ballard's High-Rise "is an intense and vivid bestiary, which lingers in the mind and chronically disquiets it." But his literary wrath is also devastating in its incisiveness: Thomas Harris's Hannibal is dismissed as "a novel of such profound and virtuoso vulgarity," while John Fowles is attacked because "he sweetens the pill: but the pill was saccharine all along." Often frank in its reappraisals (Amis concedes to being too hard on Ballard's Crash when reviewing the film many years later), some of the best writing is reserved for his journalism on sex manuals, chess, and his beloved football. The War Against Cliché will provoke strong reactions, but that only seems to confirm, rather than deny, the value of Amis's writing. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Okay, he's not only writing for Nabokov. So who is Amis' ideal reader? One who has an "imagination, memory, a dictionary, and some artistic sense." Amis searches to challenge you, but also to entertain. And that passing remark about the dictionary was not made in jest. Amis is the one author whose logocentrism forces me to the dictionary with pleasure. Nearly every paragraph.
The collection's title comes from Amis' belief that "all writing is a campaign against cliche", not just in a literary sense, but also in a human sense. He takes his role in this campaign very seriously, as an author, stating that we should expect artists "to stand as critics not just of their particular milieu but of their society, and of their age". Even so, he regrets the advent of the artist-critic, i.e. novelists 'feeling' their way through criticism, rather than using the tools of theory to review literature. Instead, Amis, who could easily have traded on his name and fallen in step with these artist-critics, uses a background of unabashed joy in the face of literary theory to give his reviews weight.
If the above makes the collection sound pedantic and tiresome, don't worry. It isn't.Read more ›
The Introduction to 'The War Against Cliche' is a retrospective commentary on the decline of literary criticism from its 60s and 70s heyday: 'In the 60s you could live on ten shillings a week: you slept on people's floors and sponged off your friends and sang for your supper - about literary criticism'. Then the oil crises hiked up prices, democracy unleashed its dynamic forces against elite forms of culture and criticism became a dispensible frippery of the educated middle classes. Now, in the era of the internet, everyone in a sense has become a literary critic - witness the tens of thousands of reviews posted on this website. Amis ultimately isn't adverse to this. He likens Literature to a 'great garden', trampled extensively by public participation. But this is Eden, it is unfallen, therefore the ignorant and the illiterate cannot undermine what lies at the root of great literature: talent.
The essays in this book can be linked by a desire on the part of the writer to pinpoint and appreciate talented writing amongst the millions of words that have been scribed in English Literature. Amis ultimately finds it in the writings of the great American authors of the late 20th Century - Bellow, Updike and, most notably, Nabokov. But the journey to uncover these deities of the literary scene is laden with wrong turns and amusing digressions. Thus Amis presents us with an amusing consideration of a Hillary Clinton book on childrearing: ''Village' is a portrait of a First Lady who deserves a second change.Read more ›
Yet there is something a bit off about collection. We start off with a collection of reviews on masculinity, looking at Iron John, Hillary Clinton, Nuclear War and Pornography. Then it's on to a collection of reviews of English writers, then to an extended defence of his father's closest friend, the poet Philip Larkin. We proceed to reviews of more canonical writers, then a review of popular novels, then a whole section on Vladimir Nabokov. We then go on to a section on American writers, a section labelled "obsessions and curiosities", a whole section devoted to John Updike, another section that is mostly about V.S. Naipaul and then five concluding essays on great novels. Surely there is much for everyone to enjoy.
It's not that Amis isn't amusing.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well, it was certainly interesting to read this book. I’d toured Mr. Amis’s eponymous Rachel Papers, along with his middle career Greatest Hits (Success, Money, London Fields), as... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Troy Parfitt
This collection of Martin Amis critical essays and reviews of the writing styles of some of the world's most famous writers is informative and entertaining. Read morePublished 17 months ago by John G. Rouse III
Martin Amis is my favorite writer. I often disagree with his opinions and sometimes I even think he's writing nonsense. Read morePublished on May 29, 2014 by CTS
Too hipster is the required answer here! I have always enjoyed Kingsley Amis, but I warn you that Martin's falling apple isn't even in the same orchard. Read morePublished on January 10, 2013 by G. Case
This is an entertaining and insightful collection of literary reviews by Martin Amis, which were published in a range of periodicals from 1971 until 2000. Read morePublished on March 19, 2012 by C. Collins
Even if you're not interested in the authors or subjects that Amis is reviewing and exploring here, you can't help but be interested in his take on them. Read morePublished on April 13, 2011 by Thomas O'Riordan
This book taught me that literary criticisim could be valuable, funny, and an art form but what I loved most about it is how well written it is on the sentence level. Read morePublished on September 10, 2010 by Seth Wandersman
Literary and popular cultures are examined in this book of essays -written between 1971 and 2000. Authors of acknowledged masterpieces (Cervantes, Jane Austen, Coleridge, Updike,... Read morePublished on December 16, 2009 by Marie-Jo Fortis
Of recent vintage there has been a spate of the talentless children of talented literary figures getting into print. Read morePublished on October 16, 2008 by Cosmoetica