Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A rake's progress

On Richard Bradford's Martin Amis: the Biography

Doing the biography of a living writer can’t be easy. Writers like to have control over things – especially over the contents of books. When Martin Amis “co-operated” with his new biographer, Richard Bradford, he didn’t do so unconditionally. He granted Bradford a series of interviews, and gave him the green light to approach certain other approved parties. But he stipulated that some people – including his mother and his ex-wife – would not be involved.

Considering these restrictions, Bradford hasn’t done an entirely bad job. His book is lopsided, but it’s meaty. It contains a better class of information than it would have if he’d tried to proceed without Amis’s approval. It isn’t a first-rate biography by any means, but it has one crucial thing going for it. Martin Amis has lived a life you don’t want to stop reading about.

His personal history seems implausibly heightened, like the plot of one of his novels. His father, Kingsley, was one of the liveliest writers of his generation. His mother was a free spirit who routinely let the kids ride around on the roof-rack of her car ... [read more]