Seigneur Moments: On Martin Amis

Kevin Power at the Dublin Review of Books:

“There is only one school,” Amis has said, “that of talent.” Only the talented would ever think this, and only the supremely talented would ever say it out loud. Inside Story is subtitled How to Write. But Amis has been telling us how to write for half a century now, and not just in his criticism. The virtuoso is always also a pedagogue. Look – this is how you do it! And the feudal lord – the seigneur – is, by definition, an aristocrat (and, not incidentally, by definition male): “rangy, well-travelled, big-cocked”, in the mocking, but also not-quite-mocking, words of Charles Highway in The Rachel Papers (1973). When Amis fails, this seigneurialism is what he’s left with: all those epigrams! All those cringey jokes! That tone of sneering condescension! (See Yellow DogThe Pregnant WidowLionel Asbo. Seigneurialism – anathematised as “male privilege” – is what feminist critics have tended to find so rebarbative in Amis’s work, and they’re not wrong.) When he succeeds, the seigneurialism is merely part of the effect (see MoneyLondon FieldsTime’s Arrow, almost all of the nonfiction).

more here.