There has been a rumour circulating that Martin Amis, Britain’s ‘greatest living novelist’, had lost his marbles. In the Eighties, Amis was the anti-nuclear darling of English letters. He spliced up the decade of greed in a glitter of satirical wordplay, to the beat of what his father Kingsley called ‘fucking fool’ politics. But with the Nineties, dentistry and divorce, Amis junior entered a period of experimental literature, and then – post 9/11- made some extraordinarily colourful rants about Islamism in the national press.
Last year, he popped up on BBC TV’s Question Time suggesting that the murder of Alexander Litvinenko sprang from the ‘Asiatic’ origin of Russians (you what, Mart?). Suddenly, commentators were arguing that he and Melanie Phillips were level pegging in the ‘lost it’ stakes: Mart had gone from right-on to neo-con and there was not a damn thing media London could do about it. Now, matters have come to a head. A couple of weeks ago, Marxist critic Terry Eagleton published an account of Amis’ post-9/11 essays which described them as the ‘ramblings of a BNP thug’. The press leapt upon Eagleton’s attack with glee, kicking at Amis until he was forced to write a letter defending himself to the Guardian.
Amis’ literary reputation, meanwhile, has gone the same way as the World Trade Center.