Martin Amis Takes Aim at Donald Trump, Questions Stormy Daniels and Celebrates Meghan Markle; in a New Book of Essays, the British Author Takes Scathing Aim at Memes, Monsters and Monosyllabic Presidents

By Schilling, Mary Kaye | Newsweek, February 16, 2018 | Go to article overview

Martin Amis Takes Aim at Donald Trump, Questions Stormy Daniels and Celebrates Meghan Markle; in a New Book of Essays, the British Author Takes Scathing Aim at Memes, Monsters and Monosyllabic Presidents


Schilling, Mary Kaye, Newsweek


Byline: Mary Kaye Schilling

One of the many laugh-out-loud moments in Martin Amis's new collection of essays, The Rub of Time, is this sentence: "If for some reason you were confined to a single adjective to describe Las Vegas, then you would have to settle for the following: un-Islamic."

Thus opens "Losing Las Vegas," a 2006 article Amis wrote for The Sunday Times about competing in the World Series of Poker. It is one of 45 pieces (essays, reportage, personal reflections, political commentary) commissioned by a variety of publications over 23 years--1994 to 2017--with topics ranging wildly: pre- and post-presidency Donald Trump, suicide bombers, the now-forgotten resurgence of John Travolta, the death of Princess Diana and gonzo porn, among others. The Booker Prize-winning author is best known in America for his novels--14 to date. The common denominator in all of his work: scathing wit, a piercing eye for detail and prose as elegant as it is fierce. A right hook with a velvet glove.

Most of Rub's pieces are about America, where the British writer has lived since 2011. Amis sees his outsider status as both an advantage and a disadvantage. "There are things you're bound to misconstrue," he said during a wide-ranging interview with Newsweek. "But I'm sure there has to be a freshness to the eye if it's strange to you."

In a piece for Harper's in August 2016, you wrote about the Trump campaign, and though at the time you didn't think he would win, you did joke that "after a couple of days of pomp and circumstance in the White House, Trump's brain would be nothing more than a bog of testosterone." Guess it's not always good to be right. One year into his presidency, is there anything about Trump that surprises you?

No, though his playing of the race card--or the white supremacy card--continues to disgust me. He used to be popular among minorities during his Apprentice days, because he was aspirational and seemed to be encouraging diverse talent. When he quite coldly realized that rational people were never going to get him into the White House, but that frustrated white people might? That he continues to use this great wound in the American psyche as a power play is outrageous.

I describe him in one essay as a spotless, empty vessel. He stands for nothing--well, nothing but money. His son Eric recently said, in defense of his father, that Trump is color-blind--"the only color he sees is green." That was said as unalloyed praise! If one of my sons said that of me, I'd never speak to him again.

You use what you call the Barry Manilow Law to explain his followers: "Everyone who you know thinks Barry Manilow is terrible, but everyone you don't know thinks he's great."

I got that from [critic] Clive James. It explains so much about everything--the alien preference that you'll never understand.

I agreed with your assessment of Trump as "a gawker, a groper, a gloater but not a lecher." And then Stormy Daniels. She claims to have had intercourse with him.

I'm a bit distressed by that news. How could a germaphobe have even a one night stand with a porn star? She must have done something for him--130,000 bucks of something--but I would bet everything that he never actually stuck it in.

Some suggest that we should thank Trump for exposing America's latent racism and misogyny.

Beneath the surface is where all that belongs. You're never going to purify anyone's soul, but you can teach them to behave better, and that's what political correctness--in its often heavy-handed way--has done successfully. We should be grateful to it for that. The idea of bursting free of the shackles of political correctness, and being a lousy, reeking racist and misogynist? We don't thank anyone for that.

On the other hand, some argue that the #MeToo and Times Up campaigns are a delayed reaction to Trump winning the presidency.

When the Harvey Weinstein allegations began, I had a pow-wow with my wife [novelist Isabel Fonseca], and I said, The question is, Why is it so fierce now, when you think that [Roman] Polanski drugged a 13-year- old--sodomized a 13-year-old! …

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