The Pequod Review:
Martin Amis may not have the telegenic charm of Christopher Hitchens, or the fictional accomplishments of John Updike, but this collection of first-rate essays shows him to be a literary critic at least on par with both of them. The book's pieces are wide-ranging, but mostly focused on Western literature. Here he praises Saul Bellow:
Augie March, finally, is the Great American Novel because of its fantastic inclusiveness, its pluralism, its qualmless promiscuity. In these pages, the highest and the lowest mingle and hobnob in the vast democracy of Bellow's prose. Everything is in here, the crushed and the exalted and all the notches in between, from the kitchen stiff...to the American eagle: "It was glorious how he would mount away high and sit up there, really as if over fires of atmosphere, as if he was governing from up there. If his motive was rapaciousness and everything based on the act of murder, he also had a nature that felt the triumph of beating his way up to the highest air to which flesh and blood could rise. And doing it by will..."
And here he describes John Updike:
John Updike has that single inestimable virtue: having read him once, you admit to yourself, almost with a sigh, that you will have to read everything he writes. At a time when the reviewer's role has devolved to that of a canary in a prewar coal mine, Updike reminds you that the review can, in its junior way, be something of a work of art, or at least a worthy vehicle for the play of ideas, feeling and wit.
This book will make you want to read (or re-read) a lot more classic fiction.