cover image Visiting Mrs. Nabokov: And Other Excursions

Visiting Mrs. Nabokov: And Other Excursions

Martin Amis. Harmony, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-59702-6

This is occasional journalism at its most occasional, ranging from obituaries (Philip Larkin) to book reviews (V. S. Naipaul), meditations on an evening of poker with old buddies (A. Alvarez and Anthony Holden among them) and the Frankfurt Book Fair (Amis hated it). Is the average American likely to be interested in the high jinks of an unknown British football club on tour in China, or why no one takes the game of darts seriously enough? We aren't even told when the events Amis ( Time's Arrow ) covers took place. One can deduce from internal evidence that some of these short pieces (most of them are reprinted from the London Observer ) were written as long ago as 1975 or as recently as the ultimate non-piece in this collection: an interview with Madonna that wasn't granted. The book will leave readers frustrated because Amis is such a good writer and there are memorable moments: a tender visit with Vera Nabokov at the Montreux Palace Hotel in Switzerland; an affecting portrait of J. G. Ballard, the brillant and eccentric author of Empire of the Sun ; and an almost shocking depiction of the international chess scene. But there are not enough of these moments to justify this ragged collection. (Feb.)