The Rub of Time: Bellow, Nabokov, Hitchens, Travolta, Trump: Essays and Reportage, 1994–2017

Martin Amis. Knopf, $28.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4453-5
The essays and journalism in this wide-ranging, rewarding collection take Amis (The Zone of Interest) from a pornographer’s mansion to the U.S. presidential campaign trail and consider the output of such writers as Don DeLillo and Philip Larkin. Over the 23-year period that the essays span, Amis is infallibly a lucid, linguistically precise commentator. Writing about Jane Austen, Saul Bellow, Iris Murdoch, and Vladimir Nabokov, he is admiring but not idolatrous; his coverage of poker tournaments and soccer matches is lively; his judgments on film range from a sympathetic, considered profile of John Travolta (in the wake of the actor’s comeback in Pulp Fiction) to amused horror at Four Weddings and a Funeral: “I was filled with a yearning to be doing something else.” Amis is an inimitable, devoted observer: tennis instructors “flowed toward [the ball] with leisurely economy”; John Updike, observing fellow patients in a hospital cafeteria, is a “NORAD of data gathering and microinspection.” Occasionally, on politics and art, Amis can be critically uninspired: in an essay on J.G. Ballard, he writes that Steven Spielberg is an “essentially optimistic artist” and that David Cronenberg is “a much darker artist.” But largely, nonfiction Amis is a witty, welcome presence: a practitioner of “burnished technique and... sober delectation.” Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/13/2017
Release date: 02/06/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 416 pages - 978-0-7352-7377-1
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