Book Review: Inside Story

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Prize-winning fiction writer, journalist, and witty, celebrated British bad boy of novels and cultural criticism Martin Amis, 71 now, and a resident of Brooklyn and East Hampton, has just come out with Inside Story. It’s a big autobiographical “compendium” he calls “A Novel” and at other times “life writing” and “a collection of linked short stories, with essayistic detours.” He says it’s fine if his 538-page book is read in “fitful bursts, with “plenty of skipping and postponing and doubling back,” along with “whatever [we’re] drinking.” That’s good because the book begins with a chatty, familial “preludial” section set in 2016 about being ready to write such a book, and it ends with a digressive “afterthought” on Masada and the Dead Sea, and then an “addendum” about the English novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard who was the second wife of Amis’s father, Sir Kingsley Amis, one of England’s Angry Young Men who took the literary world by storm in the `50s. A sprawling, intensely felt, often self-denigrating series of reflections, recollections, anecdotes and musings, Inside Story should be taken in stride, Amis advises, and not always at face value. Some names have been changed, though not those of the two dead friends whom the book lovingly and heartbreakingly eulogizes: Amis’s best friend Christopher Hitchens, known as “Hitch,” whom Amis met when they both worked at the London political and cultural magazine, New Statesman, and Saul Bellow, twice his age, who was godfather to…

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