Particularly people in England. It’s been five years since Amis published a novel, and you’d think, from the furor that his latest effort, “Yellow Dog,” created in London, that the city’s literary types had devoted themselves to nothing during his absence but sharpening their respective critical knives and thinking up new and improved ways to curse his name. In his review of “Yellow Dog” (Miramax Books), British novelist Tibor Fischer hated the book so much that he described reading it as like “finding your favorite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating.” Peter Kemp of the Sunday Times described Amis as “a talent on its last legs.”
Of course, dire predictions have been cast upon Amis before. Indeed, every novel he’s published since the critically revered “Money” in 1984 has inspired its share of venom and bile — as has Amis’ lifestyle in general. He’s been bashed for fixing his Austin Powers-esque teeth, for marrying twice and for receiving a $1.25 million advance for “The Information” (a heavily autobiographical novel about his feud with a character based on novelist Julian Barnes). Never before, however, has Amis’ work itself come under such scathing attack.
Then again, Amis has never written a book quite like “Yellow Dog.” A disturbing state-of-the-nation farce that explores the connections between sex, violence, gender and the media, “Yellow Dog” was inspired, Amis says, by an interest in “the recent loss of shame in Western society” and by his belief that “men have lost a lot of power in recent times, and women have gained a lot, and you don’t give up power without some dizzying effect.”
Sitting at the Wyndham Bel Age Hotel in Los Angeles, Amis, 54, delivers these words without heat. His tone is calm and scientific — matter-of-fact in a friendly sort of way. The implications of his writing, however, are serious indeed. “I think men and women are living a slight political fiction right now,” he says, “in the sense that we’ve announced that there’s equality, but men have been in power for five million years, and you can’t pretend that the past has no weight.”