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Martin Amis: Chucklehead or Moral Provacateur?

martin-amis-secondplane.jpgLast week, Michiko Kakutani called Martin Amis “chuckleheaded” while discussing The Second Plane, his collection of “preening, self-consciously literary musings” on the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The worst blow? “Mr. Amis should stick to writing fiction and literary criticism,” the NY Times literary doyenne concluded, “as he’s thoroughly discredited himself with these essays as any sort of political or social commentator.”

Jim Sleeper didn’t see that review until after he’d already handed in his LA Times review of the book, but now that he’s read it, her take reminds him of a line from his own piece: “It would be too easy to read Martin Amis’s slim book on 9/11 in a day and dismiss it with a politically correct glare.” While he does acknowledge Amis’s tendency to preen in this volume, he told me, “that’s not reason enough to ignore the courage and acuity he applies to some bromides about 9/11 that have been coagulating among scribblers less agile and independent than he. He isn’t always right or even upright, but I don’t think that that justifies Kakutani’s scolding.”

(photo of Amis: David Levene/Guardian)

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