July 18, 2013

Shed a tear for Martin Amis!: Author regrets his last name


The Amises come together to turn their noses up at posers.

Like most of us, Martin Amis bears his father’s last name, but unlike most of us, it’s brought him countless literary advantages, subsequent fortune—and grief. In a recent Radio 4 interview, the novelist called his surname a “burden,” claiming the connection to his father Kingsley Amis “damaged his career.” Even so, I doubt he’ll be pulling a Robert Galbraith anytime soon. With thirteen critically-acclaimed novels published and a multimillion-dollar house in Cobble Hill secured, the damage is clearly done.

“The Amis franchise is starting to get people down. Subliminally they think I was born in 1922 and wrote Lucky Jim when I was six. Life would have been simpler without [my father],” lamented Amis. Indeed, publishing a first novel at the age of 23 would have been so much simpler if he was “Martin Smith” instead of “Martin Amis.” Just imagine! No agents giving his manuscript a second glance, some even sending rejection letters.

His local reputation has gone a bit sour, but not because of his surname. Two years ago he relocated from London to Brooklyn. The move was entirely personal—it had nothing to do with the state of England, despite the subtitle of his latest novel. Initially, Amis waxed lyrical about his new surroundings. “It’s Arcadian. It’s prelapsarian. It’s like living in the ’50s.” In other words, what Satan—another fellow not keen on his progenitor—thought in Paradise Lost when he decided to check out the new world.

Lately, Amis sings a different tune. According to the London Evening Standard:

He finds it terribly transactional and, ironically given he was viewed as a literary hipster, he views the Brooklyn hipster scene as populated by conventional posers. He doesn’t go out as much as he did and has developed a reputation as a curmudgeon.

Staying inside and sniffing at posers—a sound remedy for the woes of Martin Amis.


Abigail Grace Murdy is a former Melville House intern.