I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Seigneur Moments

Kevin Power
Inside Story: How to Write, By Martin Amis, Jonathan Cape, 522 pp, £20, ISBN: 978-1787332768 On page 208 of Martin Amis’s new novel I developed a toothache. A bruised molar on my lower east side – long nursed and fretted over – suddenly throbbed into sinister life. I was already, of course, in a distinctly Martin Amis frame of mind, but this seemed rather too pointed a coincidence. As I wrestled the paracetamol from its packet (and as I began roughing out the opening sentences of this review in my head), I wondered if perhaps I could get away with an Amisian introductory strophe: a paragraph-long riff, perhaps, on the idea of the toothache as a form of ad hoc literary criticism. Because as it happened – and as I had, thanks to my insurgent molar, only just noticed – more or less the only classic Amis topos missing from Inside Story is toothache. What better than a toothache of my own to nudge this insight loose? Well. Let’s put the dutiful Amis pastiche aside for a bit, and have a look at Inside Story – which may not feature toothache but which does feature a nostalgic neigh from pretty much every other Amis hobbyhorse you can think of. In fact, there’s quite a bit of recycling going on. In a cautionary footnote, on page 7, Amis advises: “This long novel is almost certainly my last long novel, and some of it – about 1 per cent – has the character of an anthology.” Rather more than 1 per cent, I’d say. Exempli gratia: The young Martin (and Amis is his own protagonist here) impresses a potential girlfriend, Phoebe Phelps, by saying he works for the Times Literary Supplement. Didn’t Richard Tull impress his future wife thusly in The Information (“All those prissy syllables”)? And again: the young Martin – in his uncertain twenties – drives back to his flat after spending the weekend with his father Kingsley and his stepmother Jane (“how far I was from the adult – the finished imago”): that’s from Experience, the memoir Amis published in 2000. A fond riff on Anthony Burgess’s distinction between the “A” novelist (a solid traditionalist) and the “B” novelist (a reckless experimentalist): this pops up in The War Against Cliché (2001) and once again in The Rub of Time (2017). Tea with Saul Bellow on the rooftop terrace of the government guest house in Jerusalem: he did it in Experience. There’s more. A riff on Northrop Frye’s…

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