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The War Against Cliche : Essays and Reviews, 1971-2000

Amis, Martin

Published by Talk Miramax Books, New York, NY, U.S.A., 2001
ISBN 10: 0786866748 / ISBN 13: 9780786866748
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Bibliographic Details


Title: The War Against Cliche : Essays and Reviews,...

Publisher: Talk Miramax Books, New York, NY, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition: Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Edition: First Edition.

Description:

A Fine/Fine unread copy protected by Brodart Archival Cover Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 000380

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Synopsis: In this collection of essays and reviews spanning twenty-five years of criticism, Martin Amis asserts the writer's obligation to battle "not just cliches of the pen but cliches of the mind and cliches of the heart." He marshals the forces of his infamous arsenal: his language, his wit, and his intolerance for suffering fools to review, consider, and in some cases, condemn. He takes to task the best and the brightest, including Cervantes and Milton, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, and Norman Mailer and Elmore Leonard. From "Great Books" to "Some American Prose," from "Popularity Contest" to the "Ultramundane," Amis parses the classics and the unconventional with the subversive brilliance he brings to everything he touches.

He also skewers myths about masculinity, with great skepticism and more than a dash of nose-thumbing humor. Unflinchingly, he lambastes the "supercharged banality" of Elvis, the monumentally self-absorption of Andy Warhol, and American squeamishness about movie violence. Evaluating the present participle, casting a cold eye on the Guinness Book of Records, and the sacrosanct image of Abraham Lincoln, Amis astutely surveys our cultural landscape and fluctuates between celebration and castigation, with the precision of a hypodermic.

Review: In Martin Amis's War Against Cliché, a selection of critical essays and reviews published between 1971 and 2000, he establishes himself as one of the fiercest critics and commentators on the literature and culture of the late 20th century. (He has already established himself as one of the most controversial and original novelists writing in English with novels such as Money and Time's Arrow.) In his foreword to the book Amis ruefully admits that his earlier reviews reveal a rather humorless attitude towards the "Literature and Society" debate of the time. Yet this only adds to the fascination of the collection, as Amis gradually finds his critical voice in the 1980s, confirming his passionate belief that "all writing is a campaign against cliché."

In the subsequent sections of the book, this war leads to some wonderfully cutting and amusing responses to whatever crosses his path, from books on chess and nuclear proliferation to Cervantes' Don Quixote and the novels of his hero Vladimir Nabokov. Praise for his literary heroes is often fulsome: J.G. Ballard's High-Rise "is an intense and vivid bestiary, which lingers in the mind and chronically disquiets it." But his literary wrath is also devastating in its incisiveness: Thomas Harris's Hannibal is dismissed as "a novel of such profound and virtuoso vulgarity," while John Fowles is attacked because "he sweetens the pill: but the pill was saccharine all along." Often frank in its reappraisals (Amis concedes to being too hard on Ballard's Crash when reviewing the film many years later), some of the best writing is reserved for his journalism on sex manuals, chess, and his beloved football. The War Against Cliché will provoke strong reactions, but that only seems to confirm, rather than deny, the value of Amis's writing. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk

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