Despite delivering a cavalcade of superb fictional novels (Money, The Information, London Fields) the great Martin Amis has never won the Booker prize. His latest offering, Lionel Asbo, will probably not appeal to this year’s judging panel either. This doesn’t make it a bad book.
A constant criticism of Amis is that he can’t write good stories. Jealously, critics barb that stylistic writing and fancy metaphors can’t hide weak plots. Maybe, they ask for too much. When every paragraph is peppered with a variegation of exotic gems, the storyline does sometimes need to take a breather.
The reviews I’ve read so far haven’t been scathingly bad. “This book is dated” seems to be the only major complaint. Apparently, it’s against the grain to write satires about chavs, celebrities and lotto louts as it has been done to death. Recent legislation to replace ASBO’s on the eve of publication helped fuel the protestors argument.
The standing order disapproval of his works won’t inconvenience Martin an iota. (Though I’m sure he’d spew venomous scorn on the literary merits of my last sentence) Mr. Amis would have enjoyed writing this book.
Lionel Asbo is sad, funny, satirical and beautifully crafted.
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Lionel leaves his dogs in the care of his nephew and his family from time to time. The dogs grow to like the tenderness of the nephew in contrast to the roughness they receive at the hands of their owner. Only when Lionel is around do the dogs revert to their savagery.
The dogs and the Pepperdines were soon very fond of one another. This was a development that Lionel would be certain to deplore: the Pepperdines knew it- and so, uncannily, did the dogs. All four of them dissembled: they behaved with the polite reserve of experienced adulterers till the moment Lionel stamped off down the passage. As the front door slammed shut, Jak or Jek would be lying on his back with forepaws cocked and tail awhirl, or sprinting five feet in the air…