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Bring out the big guns The War Against Clich Martin Amis Vintage A combative title for a collection of what is considered - by non-practitioners - to be a genteel art book-reviewing Well its not And fighting against clich is as good a stance as any to adopt Here is Amis on Michael Crichtons The Lost World Malcolm and Rossiter incidentally are characters in the novel The characterization has been delegated to two or three thrashed and downtrodden adverbs Amis here inserts a deadpan half-paragraph of select quotation where everyone either says things irritably or gloomily Malcolm seems to own gloomily but then you irritably notice that Rossiter is behaving gloomily too and gloomily discover that Malcolm is behaving irritably Forget about tensely and grimly for now And dont get me started on thoughtfully All right everyone knows Crichton is junk awaiting a large-screen adaptation Lets see Amis on something all the other critics loved Thomas Harriss Hannibal I got through the thing in the end with many a weary exhalation with much dropping of the head and rolling of the eyes and with considerable fanning of the armpits He goes on to explain precisely why such a reaction was provoked but what was that from Amiss introduction when he describes the current unsatisfactory state of criticism The reviewer calmly tolerates the arrival of the new novel or slim volume defensively settles into it and then sees which way it rubs him up The right way or the wrong way The results of this contact will form the data of the review This looks rather close to armpit-fanning as critical technique Yet his sentence ends without any reference to the thing behind Amis provides plenty of reference to the thing behind - which are in fact three big things talent and the canon and the body of knowledge we call literature This isnt elitism its the expression of a strong desire
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