On 19th May 2023, the literary world was shaken to its core as the death of literary giant Martin Amis was announced. Described this week by The Guardian as an era-defining author, Amis dominated the bestseller charts in the 80s and 90s,capturing the zeitgeist with novels such as Money, London Fields, and many others.
Born in 1949 in Oxford, England, Amis went to Exeter College and graduated with a first-class honours in English. Despite being often compared to his father, Kingsley, Amis actually credited his stepmother with ‘waking him up to literature’ saying once in an interview “She gave me a reading list and after an hour, I went and knocked on her study door and said: ‘I’ve got to know: does Elizabeth marry Darcy?’”
Amis’ first novel, The Rachel Papers was published in 1973 while he was employed as an editorial assistant at the Times Literary Supplement. That novel won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1974. The following year he published the bleakly comical Dead Babies, and while working at the New Statesman as literary editor between 1977 and 1979, he published his third novel, Success.
His success led to further comparison to his father Kingsley. Though Martin Amis stated of the familial link that he felt the “Amis Franchise” to be “something of a burden”. Amis wrote of that familial link in his memoir Experience, which was published in 2000.
A life of literary success has been summed up in recent days by various obituaries, statements, and comment, started by Amis’ publisher, Vintage books who issued a statement last night stating that “We are devastated at the death of our author and friend, Martin Amis: novelist, essayist, memoirist, critic, stylist supreme,”, while his UK editor Michal Shavit said “It’s hard to imagine a world without Martin Amis in it. He was the king – a stylist extraordinaire, super cool, a brilliantly witty, erudite and fearless writer, and a truly wonderful man.”.
Not without criticism, Amis was fearless in his opinions, and seemed surprised by the furore he often caused in the press with some of these opinions.
Martin Amis’ inimitable prose will be sorely missed, but thankfully his brilliant novels, capturing human life with hilarity and aplomb will live on for future generations to enjoy.