Ms Baroque has taken Madame Arcati to task over the Amis/Eagleton row ...
I thought Amis' riposte to Eagleton seemed strangely wheedling, ending with that weird rhetorical "collegiate" "Shall we?" - It even came out supplicating. I'm sure that's not what he intended but I find it very interesting. What Alibhai-Brown calls "part affectionate" is just archness, I think; "somewhat patronising" is really very patronising. But MA was also disingenuous taking Eagleton to task for quoting remarks "that aren't in the essay" - when in fact those are remarks by Amis, so it's not exactly as if TE had made them up!
It's interesting how all through this he has lost control of his material - his tone - which is why he's now having to backpedal. I remember his reams of writings in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 - it was astonishing, how he managed to churn out so many thousands of words seemingly immediately! Of course it was mostly hysteria and hyperbole. Everyone was hysterical. I would certainly never go back to anything written in that time. But then, the racist impulse still sees to me an inappropriate response.
And that's the thing. Amis really hasn't got his finger on the pulse. Okay, he hit something with "Money" etc, but he has never been a populist - always a snobbish man - and I think the "isn't everyone a bit like this really" line is disingenuous at best. Would everyone, if they could, simply send all their bank statements unopened to their accountant because it is really "too boring" to have to read them - as Amis once said he did?
Dear Ms Baroque
Thank you ... you don't like Amis fils, do you?
Amis' response to Eagleton was unambiguously hostile; there's nothing supplicating in it so far as I can see. Amis was plainly rattled. I agree that Amis' letter to Alibhai-Brown was faintly patronising; but then that is one strategy in a war of words, a not very effective strategy.
It was Amis himself who pointed out that Eagleton was wrong to say that Amis' remarks on Islam in 2006 were made in an essay when in fact they were reported words from an interview. He then went onto to draw a distinction between airing passing thoughts (or racist "urges") in an interview and calling for discrete action in the written word. I think to Amis there is a big difference (one is a confession to racist thoughts, the other a call to racist action), but as I wrote in a later post, in the broad-brush world of public perception such a subtle distinction is going to be lost. All people will hear is Islamophobic sentiment and judge accordingly.
I would agree - and Amis has admitted as much in literary terms - that he does not have his finger directly on the pulse anymore. Money wonderfully captured the greed and the soulless brutality or vulgarity of the '80s in a literary demotic that sounded of the times, too. But I'm not sure any literary writer can capture the moment all his or her life. He produced brilliant work, he does so no longer, but who is to say what may come yet?
On a broader canvas, I think Amis - like his godawful pal Christopher Hitchens - may be using the debate on Islam and its "quietism" on Islamicist terrorism to push an atheist agenda: in his letter to Alibhai-Brown, Amis makes it clear that he thinks not believing in a god is superior to believing in a god. It is plainly crass to imagine, let alone say, that a religious faith must mean that one necessarily buys into its moral proscriptions or punishments.
Eagleton's harsh criticism of Amis has had the refreshing effect of a correction and limited retraction or clarification from Amis. But in the process we have been forced to ask ourselves whether so many more of us privately yield to occasional racist thoughts or urges - particularly in the wake of atrocity. That Amis admits to such thoughts or feelings - while calling for bridge-building with Muslim moderates - is better than spouting what we think others want to hear.