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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Martin Amis' "The Moronic Inferno" ii

Something is beginning to strike me as odd as I read Martin Amis' essays from "The Moronic Inferno." I think that there's a liberal twists to the essays but it is so slightly done that it is almost untraceable. Almost untraceable that is, until you hit a tough spot like, say, Norman Mailer. Yes, it is true that Norman Mailer's persona literaria has been designed and engineered after Hemingway's mold (that should be obvious to anyone), and this makes it hard for Amis to take a swipe at the hairy chested Mailer without being too obvious. I don't have any problem with people taking a swipe at Hemingway or Mailer, but I do have to "problematize" the reasons behind it. I believe that a lot of what passes for lit crit today is just an excuse to bash one group for the emotional benefit of another. "Let's bash group X so that group Y can feel better and have better self esteem, or worst yet, group Y can feel that the wrong done to them can be corrected by the denouncement of another group (whether that other group is responsible or not)." The problem with this is that it isn't a humanist approach to the enjoyment, the study or even the qualification of literature as good, bad, worthwhile or enjoyable. The entire process becomes a vehicle for 1) identifying a group seeking victimization, and 2) holding another group responsible for the oppression that caused the victimization. Norman Mailer gets it from feminists, post-modern critics, politicos, ethnic and racial minority groups, etc., just as Hemingway does too. Never mind that the literature of both men, (perhaps not so much Mailer) might not have been conceived in order to degrade women, single out "negroes," or bashing other minorities. Never mind... this is way too complicated. I think Amis is amiss on this one as much as other "lit crit" people are in the "post-modern" world. I don't have anything about people writing from the left or the right, just as long as they don't claim that they are not doing so when it is obvious they really are.

Martin Amis is much "cuter" and "nice" when covering an interview with author-turned-politico, Gore Vidal. He treats Vidal with reverence and with a white glove tendency. Of course the story of Mailer's attack (physical attack) of Gore Vidal comes up and we get Vidal's version quite clearly... biased and unfair as it is. I think in general Gore Vidal is to American Letters what Oprah has become to American television... no one can say anything bad about either one. But like I said in the previous post, Amis is dated, the essays are dated and so is the book. I am enjoying reading it more for its "yeah-I-remember-when-Reagan-was-president" quality than for literary entertainment.

The eight pages I wrote last week are still sitting there, waiting. Working title: "My Personal View of the Battle of Khafji." I am stuck and thinking it is better left unwritten.

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5 Comments:

At 4:24 PM, Blogger litlove said...

I've never been sure about Martin Amis - his work has always struck me as a bit pretentious. I agree absolutely about the pointlessness of a literary criticism that exists to prove other criticism wrong. Why on earth bother when there is so much else that is really fascinating to say about books?

 
At 6:31 PM, Blogger Stefanie said...

Love the title of the book. I'm with you in prefering a humanist approach to the arts. Wherever did it go and why did we let it get away?

 
At 4:47 AM, Blogger suzanabrams said...

I do believe you're right about the bashing bit indeed, JCR. I think when it comes to intellectual conversations on literature, I'd prefer the old world-style cafe culture, don't you. Hey JCR, really glad to see you on my new writing site. Thought you had stopped visiting. :-)

 
At 4:49 AM, Blogger suzanabrams said...

btw, forgot to add that I do enjoy Martin Amis's writings as much as I did his dad's the late Kingsley Amis and Kingsley wife's, Elizabeth Jane Howard. It just sort of followed up that I would read one after another. Though Elizabeth probably worked best for me.

 
At 11:36 PM, Blogger Imani said...

Hmmm. While Hemingway may not have intentionally written any of his works in order to degrade women, it's hard to ignore that his portrayals of them are "problematic" to put it one way. I don't mind critics exploring that sort of thing, regardless of whichever group is the "victim"; there can be worthwhile reasons for doing so. Maybe you're just referring to the "bad" reasons?

I don't find typically find wholesale negative criticisms of books very useful, for what it's worth.

 

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