Benjamin Anastas’s Too Good to Be True is one of the most acclaimed memoirs of 2012. Below, the Massachusetts-born novelist lists six favorite books by one of his literary heros, Martin Amis.
Money: A Suicide Note (Penguin Ink, $16). Open this relentless reality grab of a novel to any page and you’ll find Amis doing things to the language—and to early-’80s New York City—that you didn’t think possible. John Self, the most breathtaking lout in the Amis criminal lineup, is a vulgarian so complete that only Hollywood (and Selina Street, his live-in vixen) can outdream his appetite for wealth and all it buys.
The Pregnant Widow (Vintage, $16). The scene: a crumbling castle in Campania, Italy. The time: 1970. Keith Nearing, while lying poolside with his sexless English novels, must choose between Lily, his plain, newly awakened girlfriend, and Scheherazade, a beauty who draws crowds. This 2010 novel is a farce of the sexual revolution and a remembrance of lost time.
Experience: A Memoir (Vintage, $19). Probably my favorite Amis book: My copy has swelled from re-readings. Aside from the loving portrait of Kingsley Amis, who emerges whole, with all his flaws, Amis gets revealingly emotional about his sister, his children, and a cousin, Lucy, who was murdered by a serial killer.
The Information (Vintage, $17). The novel that launched an Amis backlash in the mid-’90s only gets better with time: Richard Tull, a book reviewer of no repute and a novelist of even less, follows his hugely successful frenemy Gwyn Barry on a U.S. book tour. “What happens when galaxies collide?” Nothing good for Richard.
Yellow Dog (Vintage, $15). The least loved book in the Amis canon has never recovered from its initial critical drubbing. That’s too bad: Underneath its broad satire of the British royals and the porno and the puns, this 2003 novel has some of Amis’s sharpest and most pitiless writing on childhood and innocence, violence and media culture. Definitely a mind-bending read, but worth every chapter (well, almost every chapter).
The War Against Cliché (Vintage, $20). Amis has been mucking around in literature’s garden since his early 20s, turning out reviews on everyone from J.G. Ballard to Robert Bly, from Iris Murdoch to Philip Roth to Don DeLillo. This collection is proof that he never wavers from his first commandment: Thou Shalt Never Be Boring as a Critic.