Kevin Power at the Dublin Review of Books:
So, as of 2017, the Amis Canon is still in order, with only some mild fluctuations in market value to trouble us (Updike, down ten at close; invest heavily in Bellow futures). With remarkable consistency, Amis has been praising more or less the same small group of (mostly male, definitely straight, definitely white) writers for four decades now. He even uses them to critique one another: “Bellow is quite unlike, say, Vladimir Nabokov and John Updike, to take two artist-critics of high distinction.” His critical insights are drawn from deep familiarity with a rigorously winnowed corpus. There have been no lately discovered enthusiasms; no essays in praise of younger novelists; certainly none in praise of writers from non-Anglophone countries (with the obvious, and meaningless, exception of Nabokov); and, increasingly, no full-length pieces about women writers of whatever vintage. (An essay in The Rub of Time on how Jane Austen’s novels have fared at the hands of filmmakers was originally published in The New Yorkerin 1997.) In much the same way, Amis’s critical principles, across forty years of reviewing, have remained intransigently firm. “Only connect the prose and the passion,” instructed EM Forster, at the crux of Howards End (1910). For Martin Amis, of course, the prose is the passion – or perhaps I should say, the passion is the prose.
To make Team Amis, you must be a writer, not necessarily of brilliant novels, or even of brilliant chapters, but of brilliant sentences and brilliant paragraphs. Amis’s critical method is to quote the bits he likes – the brilliant bits – and to point out why he likes them; or, conversely, to quote the bits he doesn’t like, and to point out that they are clichés.