Did you see Martin Amis on Jon Snow’s C4 news show last night? The voice has been smoke-cured into a wonderful, neutral rumble, decidedly unfruity in all weathers. His eyeballs said more, shooting this side and that like tennis balls in a bad-tempered knock-up at each lacerating question: if he had shot them heavenwards we might have thought him camp, but Amis is a rapid sideways glancer and is one of the uncampest men of his generation. He was in Snow’s dock over his recent remarks on Islam – see another posting here for the catch-up: he had admitted to momentary racist urges in the wake of 9/11 and other outrages by al Qaeda types: the admission was the salve, that alone would undo the damage of his foolhardy confession, he’d hoped. I suspect Amis has misjudged the broad-sweep nature of public perception. As I write it’s not possible to be a bit racist but not seriously (even though that probably sums up about 80% of us).
In any case his subtleties are lost on columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to whom he wrote the letter condemning his critic Prof. Terry Eagleton. She replies to him in today’s Standard, calling the letter “part affectionate” but “somewhat patronising”. She takes the simpler view that “racism is not an involuntary seizure”. And even if there is the odd urge to racism, “you can train yourself out of it.” She then foolishly cites Boris Johnson as an example – she bets he won’t be using the word “piccaninny” during the London mayoral campaign. “He will become a better man for that restraint.” The difference here is that while Johnson is a racist but is just keeping his public trap shut for PR purposes, Amis is just a bit of a racist who is uncommonly open about it. The hypocritical racist versus the slightly-racist blabbermouth: Whom to prefer? What a choice!
On another matter I learn Deborah Kerr has just died. She had a lovely speaking voice and she ruined many of my Sunday afternoons with re-runs of her fucking The King and I. Still, I blame the feet-up and tea-drinking schedulers.