A. O. Scott in the New York Times:
Martin Amis, for those who need an introduction, is a writer living in Brooklyn. He was also, for a period beginning in the mid-1980s and lasting well into the span covered by “The Rub of Time,” his new collection of nonfiction, a famous British novelist. That phrase, which may strike some young American ears as an archaism if not an oxymoron, is worth unpacking, and Amis provides readers with a pocket account of the historical preconditions of his extravagant fame. In the Thatcher years, he writes, “the newspapers had been getting fatter and fatter (first the Sundays, then the Saturdays, then all the days in between) and what filled these extra pages was not additional news but additional features. And the featurists were running out of people to write about — running out of alcoholic actors, ne’er-do-well royals, depressive comedians, jailed rock stars, defecting ballet dancers, reclusive film directors, hysterical fashion models, indigent marquises, adulterous golfers, wife-beating footballers and rapist boxers. The dragnet went on widening until journalists, often to their patent dismay, were writing about writers: literary writers.”
In other words, the gossip-hungry public of the 1990s was treated to news about Martin Amis’s dental work, his divorce and his preferences in agents and real estate because tabloid science had not yet discovered the Kardashians.
I’m not sure I buy the theory, or that it’s meant to be bought, but it is certain that Amis, who also happens to be the son of a famous British novelist (and thus “the only hereditary novelist in the Anglophone literary corpus”), has been subjected to the kind of attention that his fellow Brooklyn scribblers, hunched over their laptops and cortados from Bushwick to Red Hook, can hardly imagine. As any thrifty novelist would, he has sometimes turned that scrutiny into fuel for his work, fictional and otherwise. Some of the essays, reviews and reported articles collected in “The Rub of Time” — including two miniature anthologies of questions posed in The Independent by fans, gawkers and haters — take Amis’s household-name status as an occasion or a theme. But the deep subject of this book, what holds its disparate bits together and makes it worth your time even if you have only the vaguest idea of who its author is supposed to be, is not celebrity at all. It’s professionalism.