The Second Plane by Martin Amis

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by Mike

The Second Plane
by Martin Amis
Publisher: Jonathan Cape

This is a fascinating collection of Martin Amis' writings and short stories around the events of September 11. He first wrote about it in a piece for the Guardian saying,

"It was the advent of the second plane, sharking in low over the Statue of Liberty; that was the defining moment."

He goes on to explain that as soon as the second plane appeared it was clear that the first was no accident that the world was about to be flipped around on its axis sending missiles and might spinning from American grief.

We see a vertiginous power rush followed by a vacuum, and then a drift into helplessness and paralysis.

Along the way Martin makes some interesting comments on writing:

Imaginative writing is understood to be slightly mysterious. In fact it is very mysterious. A great deal of the work gets done beneath the threshold of consciousness, and without the intercession of reason.

The effect of terrorism on air travel:

Whatever else terrorism had achieved in the past few decades, it had certainly brought about a net increase in world boredom.

And interesting first hand accounts after shadowing Tony Blair which he reported in June 2007 in the Guardian:

"Do you intend to put it in your piece?"
"Yeah, I thought so."
And I obeyed - although of course I have no compunction about slinging it in here. Bush was saying, of something or other, "I've never seen such bullshit in my life." Then, much more interestingly, he jerked to his feet, yelling at the cameraman, "Give me the tape! Give me the tape!"

One of the things that Martin points out is the power we give the 9/11 tag by not stating the year. We in effect prevent the event from remaining in the past. It becomes timeless, with us now: ever present and dangerous.

September 11 continues, it goes on, with all its mystery, its instability, and its terrible dynamism.

Martin Amis is regarded by many as one of the most influential and innovative voices in contemporary British fiction and is often grouped with the generation of British-based novelists that emerged during the 1980s and included Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes.
His awards include the Somerset Maugham Award for best first novel and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography, and his work is routinely shortlisted for other awards, most notoriously the Man Booker Prize, which he has yet to win.


gary davison said...

Nice piece, Mike. I've got Money by Martin Amis on my top shelf. Loved that, but I found some of his other stuff, like the Rachel Papers, a bit much. He just seemed to be into himself so much, and the opinions that made Money, seemed to be over whelming his books for me.

Mike French said...

Thanks Gary, I guess it's a thin line for some authors to judge what is right for the book and what is there because the author wants to say something on the platform they have.

Stella said...

Ahh, Mike French - ever adding to my reading list.

"A great deal of the work gets done beneath the threshold of consciousness, and without the intercession of reason."

I totally disagree with that, but I'll conceed that sometimes it feels right.

Rufus said...

I agree with Gary. Money is so good I re-read it recently. Liked London Fields a lot, enjoyed Time's Arrow, but after that Amis seemed to lose the crazy spark that made his earlier work special.
That said, I always want to see what's he up to.

Anand Nair said...

I was delighted there was one reader who thought 'Money' was the best of Martin Amis' books.

I also agree that most very successful authors seem to, eventually, get into themselves.

They no longer write for the reader; they are writing for themselves. And good luck to them, if publishers are willing to 'buy the brand.' This applies to Salman Rushdie for instance. 'Midnight's Children', even more, 'Shame' were amazing but 'Fury'???

Anand Nair