Christian Lorentzen at Literary Review:
The Rub of Time, Martin Amis’s new collection of literary essays and journalism from the past three decades, sits in a broad valley of subject matter, between the Olympus governed by the ghost of Vladimir Nabokov and the chintzy glass and brass of Trump Tower. The word for such a collection is ‘uneven’, though in this case it’s less a matter of the writer’s performance than of the worthiness of his subject. Suitability of writer to subject matter is another question, but celebrity novelists will write about whatever they want, and we’ll follow them as long as the glossies can afford the plane fare.
And I’ll happily follow Amis into lowlife territory – to Las Vegas, where he promptly strikes out at the World Series of Poker, and to Pornoland, where he learns which sex acts require acting and which bring out a performer’s personality naturally. The porn piece, written for Tina Brown’s short-lived Talk in 2000, is now dated, the industry and writing about it having become both wilder and more banal due to online proliferation. Amis’s inhibitions – he doesn’t like seeing pricks on screen – have a retro charm. The poker essay, from 2006, suffers like many of Amis’s post-9/11 writings from gratuitous references to Islam. Las Vegas is ‘un-Islamic’ (he means anti-puritanical) and with so much vice around, the ‘Taliban would have warm work to do’ there (so would the passengers on the Mayflower).
The tic was present in a more amusing form before 9/11. In a 1997 New Yorker essay on adaptations of Austen for the screen, Amis blames Ayatollah Khomeini for the fact that he couldn’t walk out of Four Weddings and a Funeral after twenty minutes: he was sitting next to Salman Rushdie, whose security detail kept them in place for the film’s duration.