Good stuff online

August 1, 2012

I’ve been loving New York magazine’s new “In Conversation” feature, which exudes ambitions to become the new version of Playboy magazine’s in-depth interviews. On the heels of rambling, riveting chats with Barney Frank and Spike Lee, last week there was Martin Amis — not one of my favorite writers ever, but someone I’m totally content to read a lengthy Q&A with. You can read the whole thing here. David Wallace-Wells conducted the interview. Some notable excerpts:

“In America, the policeman is a working-class hero. In En­gland, the policeman is a working-class traitor. That’s why there’s such violent names for the police in criminal England—they call them not only the filth, the filth, but also the puss. They’re the lowest of the low. When policemen go to prison in England, they have as bad a time as a pedophile. The police in America are quite, to my senses, fascistic—you know, an immediate end to all humor, end of all human contact. It’s a real assertion of authority in a way that’s very rare in England. In England, police are, softly, softly, Now sir, come on sir. It’s a humoring voice, not an authoritarian one. But when a riot starts, it’s all off—the law suspended. It’s just the sort of thing that happens every now and then. Very hard to see any kind of social protest in it.”

“It sounds schmaltzy to say, but fiction is much more to do with love than people admit or acknowledge. The novelist has to not only love his characters—which you do, without even thinking about it, just as you love your children. But also to love the reader, and that’s what I mean by the pleasure principle. The difference between a Nabokov, who in almost all his novels, nineteen novels, gives you his best chair and his best wine and his best conversation. Compare that to Joyce, who, when you arrive at his house, is nowhere to be found, and then you stumble upon him, making some disgusting drink of peat and dandelion in the kitchen. He doesn’t really care about you. Henry James ended up that way. They fall out of love with the reader. And the writing becomes a little distant.”

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