Martin Amis - he of the unfortunate phrase – has pronounced again. He is shocked, appalled, depressed by the state of the nation. And he is writing a new novel, which reflects his disgust. According to the Guardian it’s ‘the story of a violent criminal, Lionel Asbo, who wins the lottery, it's "a metaphor which translates well, I think, our state of moral decrepitude: a huge reward for no effort".
Bingo! Join the party, Martin! My new book is about someone winning the lottery. It’s not a violent criminal called Lionel Asbo (Great name, Martin, Dickens would be proud), my winner is an ordinary schoolgirl called Lia Latimer. She wins £8 million and she’s thrilled to bits. Near enough, eh?
"You can have no talent, no ambition, and you win all the same. All young people dream of that. Young girls dream of becoming models. Celebrity is the new religion," said Amis. "So it's a book about the decline of my country, about the rage, the dissatisfaction, the bitterness, all unconscious, caused by this decline ... One can have the impression that life in London is pretty pleasant. But all is rotten inside."
Yes, indeed, Martin young people dream of winning the lottery, I'm really hoping that lots of them will buy my book. In fact many older people do as well. Actually I’d guess that the older you get and the more you realise that hard work and talent does not get you money, fame, security or recognition - and you see the tosspots who do get these things, often through having family money, private education and useful connections (I mention no names, Martin, but not everyone gets to waltz into first jobs on the Times Literary Supplement) - then you dream of winning the lottery all the more. Oh, and that bitterness you mention, is not all unconscious. Quite a lot of it is completely conscious.
I’d also guess that it’s the richer people - those who live in Hampstead and Notting Hill, Martin - who think that life in London is pretty pleasant. We celebrity-obsessed peasants know that mostly it’s crap. But ‘all is rotten inside’? All? All? That’s a bit harsh. Try walking through a London park, going to the theatre (pricey, I know, Mart, but I’m sure you can afford it), visiting our museums, art galleries. Try visiting London schools (not just the private ones) and meeting London kids. Truly Martin, all is not rotten, although the government are doing their best to shut lots of the good stuff down. Luckily there's a horrible old lottery to fund things like sport and the arts or we'd really be in trouble.
Oh, hang on, Martin admits that not all is bad about England. The people are ‘tolerant, full of good humour’ (Just the readers to appreciate your jokes, eh?) and Shakespeare is "an absolute giant". I’m sure he’ll be absolutely delighted to hear it. Oh and then there’s the UK's "very advanced" political system. "We had a revolution 100 years before France, and our civil war was not so horrible." Take heart, people of Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain, it can be done, the not-so-horrible English way. (Just don’t mention Charles I)
Anyway, thrills, thrills, Martin and I have both written about the lottery. His book is about moral decrepitude. Mine is about gambling, risk-taking, growing up and the artificial legal limits attached to that process, finding meaning in life - and ambition - when you have nothing to gain in material terms, friendship and Facebook, religious values (Islam in particular) against the secular society, sex, drink, debt, motorbikes, university funding cuts and cake. And cosmetic surgery. And there’s a family of vampires. Or possibly werewolves.
Martin, I look forward to sharing a platform with you at various literary festivals. Lionel Asbo…damn, wish I’d thought of that. So subtle.