Amis on Fischer -- and other Attack Dogs
[an excerpt from "The dog bites back," by Aidan Smith, Scotland on Sunday, 7 September 2003]:
. . . don’t think for a minute that the novelist of his generation is going to take lying down the criticism of his new book, from those early whispers of overfamiliar themes to that embargo-busting kicking. No, this is the day Amis fights back.
Exactly how hard is the upstart novelist Tibor Fischer? Well, he has declared Amis’ Yellow Dog "terrible". He says the experience of reading it, the threat of being spotted reading it, was akin "to your favourite uncle being caught in the school playground, masturbating".
More and more, Amis gets this sort of stuff. His every book is a literary event which quickly turns into a literary scuffle, down among the beer-slops and the fag-ends. In the drawing-room of his home in London’s Primrose Hill, I approach the issue of Fischer’s rant with caution - shrunk into his chair, he’s a shaky presence as he fumbles with his roll-ups. But there’s no need for wariness.
"He’s a wretch," says Amis in his familiar louche drawl, at its sneery best on such occasions, and perfect for them. "In his case I think it’s envy. As far as my other critics are concerned, the envy seems to have corroded down to hatred.
"We’re talking here about the desire for a homogenisation of culture. Also, the push towards egalitarianism: the most powerful force in western society right now. They [his detractors] don’t want anyone to be too conspicuous. They’re made uneasy by humour because they can feel it moving round to direct itself against them. They don’t like a prose style that reminds them how thick they are every couple of sentences, and how numb.
"I don’t think they’re pretending to hate my books while not hating them. They do hate them, they just don’t know why. It’s a new low, wouldn’t you say?"