Martin Amis’s new novel Inside Story is one of the best books I read this year, and I’m eager to read it again, and I normally love hearing him in interviews because I think he and Zadie Smith are among the best living writers when it comes to speaking in front of an audience, or talking about their craft in an off-the-cuff way—but holy shit: Martin Amis gave a fucking super cringey interview to The Economist’s podcast where he said that one of the things he most admires about women (all of em, why not) is that they’re so comfortable being amoral—not, let’s be clear, Immoral, which would mean they’re evil.
Meaning, in what he clearly thought was like a brooding noirish compliment, that they don’t feel shackled, in the way that stuffy old men do, to the haughty or stifling codes of decorum by which the rest of us are inhibited.
Now: that’s not what he said—to his female interviewer—is that women are more comfortable with practicing a sort of liberated amorality. And it was clear that the interviewer was insulted, but also tryna be a god sport, and she kept prompting him to clarify, kept handing him a ladder to climb outta the hole he’d just dug himself, but the man just kept. on. digging.
Eventually they moved on.
Amis is 71 and he’s often been vilified for misogyny and one of the ways he’s trying to combat the accusation while retaining what’re perhaps some mildly misogynistic convictions is by arguing that, indeed, men and women are quite different—but women are better!
And there’s something so avuncular and well-intentioned about his manner and delivery—it was clearly just a gaff, not the sorta remark you’d hang a person’s career or public image on, but I think it’s also very much the rhetoric and sensibility of an older guard.
As someone familiar with his work and self I wanna assure you that Amis’s books are mostly very good and don’t come off that way at all and that Inside Story, his new novel, is maybe about 70 pages too long, but (I’m not exaggerating) struck me as organ-disruptingly powerful. Tear-jerking and immersive and laugh-out-loud funny. I don’t wanna blanketly say that it’s worth your time but, if you’re interested in writers and writing and if you, like me, are kind of obsessed with ageing—the novel’s a magnificent gut-punch.
Maybe just skip any coverage of his press tour.