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'Life's a foot, fiction's a shoe'

books Updated: Jan 25, 2011 23:14 IST
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Martin Amis believes that during the 1980s, when American writers like Saul Bellow and Philip Roth started concentrating on their own experiences for writing novels, it marked an "evolutionary development" in the world of letters.

"The rate of change has accelerated. Non-fiction can address events with greater immediacy as a novelist needs a digestion period of at least three to four years after a big event happens," he said at a session on The New Non-Fiction.

Author of Curfewed Night, Basharat Peer, narrated how in early 2000, in a tense Srinagar pockmarked with checkpoints, he flashed his press card, with the word 'Press' written in bold red. The grave-looking soldier was immediately much nicer.

Amis's remark to Peer's anecdote: "You could not have a printed card saying you are a novelist. That wouldn't have worked."

The British author of numerous novels and works of non-fiction, Amis believes that "the era of the long, static novel does seem to be over. For that very reason, out of perversity, I want to write one, just to show that I do not care," checklisting the three writers he looks up to: Vladimir Nabokov, Saul Bellow and Don Delillo. As he says, "Life is a foot. Fiction is a shoe."

When Amis was writing his first novel, The Rachel Papers (1973), a cackling narrative of sex and love, pornography had just begun to take "an industrial dimension".

"Porn is a profound matter of our time. We have witnessed disassociation of emotion and sex under the influence of money. While men are least resistant to it, it has been less acceptable to women. To see their greatest power being trivialised and monetarised is painful to them," he said.

Amis, who turned 60 a year ago, said in another session titled Writing the 1980s, "As you reach 50, life starts thinning out and the past becomes a huge presence since it's bigger than your future. Gradually you realise you have to live your own decade rather than the one announced by the calender."

About today's time when writers get regularly sucked into rituals of readings and interviews, Amis said, "A writer is most alive when he's alone. I should now go back to London."