978-0-09-929192-3 / 0099291924

Heavy Water

by Amis, Martin

Publisher:Knopf 1998



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About the book:

This collection of stories spans a period from 1975 to 1997, and is a good reflection of the range of Amis's writing. That writing is always skilful, and consistently seductive-- sometimes irritatingly so. Amis lures his reader into an intense interest in his characters, and then, in some unsettling way, encourages us to patronise or disparage them. It's an odd strategy, but it holds our attention. By making us uncomfortable about our own less admirable attitudes, Amis focuses us intently on his story line.

In "Coincidence of the Arts", Amis's targets are both the feckless painter Sir Rodney Peel, and the black doorman of his building and aspiring novelist Pharsin Courier, who turns to Peel for artistic encouragement. When Peel embarks on a curious sexual affair with a black waitress, it is sheer coincidence that she should turn out to be Pharsin's wife. The consequences reflect well on neither Peel nor Pharsin. In "State of England", we smirk knowingly at Big Mal, a bullshitting East Ender trying to sort out his life at his small son's sports day, but are nevertheless compelled to find out what will become of him. Familiar stories about obsessive bad sex like "Let Me Count the Times", have not stood the test of time, and Amis writes far too often about literary agents, aspiring novelists and spoilt bestsellers who surely only interest an inner coterie. Still, when he is on form, this is the short story at its best. --Lisa Jardine

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