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Yellow Dog Paperback – January 4, 2005
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“[Yellow Dog is] raucously funny, relentlessly fast-paced, delightfully intricate. . . . A marvelous novel, a powerful book, a work of pain and madness and love . . . a work of seriousness. A work of beauty.” –Baltimore Sun
“Amis is a force unto himself. . . . There is, quite simply, no one else like him.” –The Washington Post Book World
“Fizzingly intelligent . . . . mind-tinglingly good . . . Like all great writers, [Amis] seems to have guessed what you thought about the world, and then expressed it far better than you ever could. . . . As he probes a human world increasingly disconnected from itself, Amis has found a subject to match the tessellated polish of his style. Here it all adds up.” –The Observer
“Viciously funny . . . zingingly vivid.” –The Spectator
“Brilliant and hilarious, and the insights into contemporary culture are disturbingly prescient. . . . A novel of many pleasures–and a novel to be reckoned with.” –Publishers Weekly
“Martin Amis [has] come back kicking and screaming.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“Martin Amis at his best, in all his shifting registers, his drolleries and ferocities, his unsparing comic drive, his aesthetic dawdlings and beguilements, his wry, confident relish of his own astonishing effects.” –The Guardian
From the Inside Flap
Brilliant, painful, dazzling, and funny as hell, Yellow Dog is Martin Amis' highly anticipated first novel in seven years and a stunning return to the fictional form.
When "dream husband" Xan Meo is vengefully assaulted in the garden of a London pub, he suffers head injury, and personality change. Like a spiritual convert, the familial paragon becomes an anti-husband, an anti-father. He submits to an alien moral system -- one among many to be found in these pages. We are introduced to the inverted worlds of the "yellow" journalist, Clint Smoker; the high priest of hardmen, Joseph Andrews; and the porno tycoon, Cora Susan. Meanwhile, we explore the entanglements of Henry England: his incapacitated wife, Pamela; his Chinese mistress, He Zhezun; his fifteen-year-old daughter, Victoria, the victim of a filmed "intrusion" that rivets the world -- because she is the future Queen of England, and her father, Henry IX, is its King. The connections between these characters provide the pattern and drive of Yellow Dog.
If, in the 21st century, the moral reality is changing, then the novel is changing too, whether it likes it or not. Yellow Dog is a model of how the novel, or more particularly the comic novel, can respond to this transformation.
But Martin Amis is also concerned here with what is changeless and perhaps unchangeable. Patriarchy, and the entire edifice of masculinity; the enormous category-error of violence, arising between man and man; the tortuous alliances between men and women; and the vanished dream (probably always an illusion, but now a clear delusion) that we can protect our future and our progeny.
"Meo heard no footsteps; what he heard was the swish, theshingly soft-shoe of the hefted sap. Then the sharp two-finger prod on his shoulder. It wasn't meant to happen like this. They expected him to turn and he didn't turn -- he half-turned, then veered and ducked. So the blow intended merely to break his cheekbone or his jawbone was instead received by the cranium, that spacey bulge (in this instance still quite marriageably forested) where so many delicate and important powers are so trustingly encased.
He crashed, he crunched to his knees, in obliterating defeat. . . . -- from Yellow Dog
"From the Hardcover edition.
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That's how Amis begins this novel which becomes, quite perplexingly, a rather dismally didactic meditation ((you might say lecture or harangue)) on male violence and the awful suffering its perpetuated on the female of the species, not to mention the civilization that was invented largely to protect women from the baser urges of man-not-so-kind. Because that's what's basically happening to Xan--he's forgotten how to live like a higher creature of reason; he's reverting to his caveman roots, as would we all, Amis implies, if given half the chance.
Power--brute physical power manifested in violence--that's what a man can be depended upon to wield in order to compel everything weaker than him to submit--wife, sister, woman-in-the-street, and daughters. Yes, especially daughters. Every father, according to Amis, wants to have sexual relations with his daughter. Why? Because he's bigger. Because he can. Because he made her and she belongs to him. Even to 'protect' her in some perverse way. Incest abounds in *Yellow Dog,* it crisscrosses the novel like a net, holding the whole thing together. It's practically universal. So there it is--plain as black and white: men are bad, women are good. Can anyone possibly call Martin Amis a misogynist *now*?
Well, true enough, Amis' so-called misogyny evaporates and what stands revealed is an entirely different sort of gynephobia. Amis is so clearly and abjectly afraid of living a life without women, so terrified that women may indeed be just as flawed and undependable as he's always portrayed them, that he's come round to making them total victims, their every seeming misdeed pardoned, mitigated by the abuse they've collectively suffered since the dawn of time in this testosterone poisoned world. By the end of *Yellow Dog* Amis sounds as shrill and hysterically one-sided as any blinkered feminist professor preaching a fairy-tale gynetopia to the already converted--the converted, which is to say, as always, those minus the ability to detect the vast spectrum of gradation between black and white. It's an embarrassing thirty pages, those last thirty pages of *Yellow Dog.* It's like watching a man apologizing for an indiscretion with a self-effacing theatricality and desperation that leaves you cringing, like a man begging...begging for what? For mommy's approval, ultimately. "Mommy, please be loving, kind, warm, wonderful. Don't be cruel anymore. Don't be mysterious. Don't leave me by myself. Mommy, I'll be good." This book exposes something about Amis that was there behind the cynical, chest-thumping façade all along: the lost little runaway boy who now wants more than anything to go back home.
For 300 pages, *Yellow Dog* is a brash, unforgiving, funny, thought-provoking novel delivered with the incisive brio and dazzling linguistic fireworks that make Amis one of the best, if not *the* best, artist of the English language wielding a pencil today. But like the crippled passenger jet that limps its way across the background sky of *Yellow Dog*, the novel rapidly loses altitude towards the end and not even as skilled a pilot as Amis can save it from its ignoble nose-dive. Amis lost his nerve, I think. Or just got plain exhausted. He's come down to earth with a crash. Mother Earth, where we all must go, humbled, in ruins.
What do you give a novel that's a clear 5-stars for 300 pages and a 1-star disaster for the last fifty? Three stars, I'm sorry to say, only three, which is a sad thing, for a master of the English language. But in "Yellow Dog" the courageous old yeller has been tamed, it seems. He's wearing a collar, yoked to the backyard spike. He's not rabid anymore. He can't bite. They didn't have to shoot him, after all. He didn't go out with a bang, but a toothless whimper. R.I.P.
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This is just the sort of a book where a master writer is sitting in his study and twiddling his thumbs and his editor rings and...Read more