New York Times book critic Dwight Garner has no kind words for Martin Amis: The Biography by Richard Bradford. But if Mr. Garner did not enjoy the reading experience, which he described as ”like watching a moose try to describe a leopard, using only its front hooves,” well, he sure seemed to enjoy panning it.
The biography “is mortifying in its dullness and lack of instinctive feeling for its subject.” Part of this is due to Mr. Bradford’s writing.
“You’re only a few pages into Martin Amis: The Biography before you begin confronting sentences like this one, in which words come together as if to commit ritual mass suicide…”
But the writing isn’t the whole problem. It goes beyond lack of feeling for the subject and poor writing. It’s everything.
“Mr. Bradford strains to make sometimes far-fetched links between Mr. Amis’s life and fiction. He quotes Mr. Amis poorly, quite a hard thing to do,” Mr. Garner writes. ” He makes declarative sentences of the sort you consistently quarrel with in your head. Even the photo selection in Martin Amis: The Biography is drab.”
The whole thing is pretty bad.
“The flaws, like the veins in a chunk of Stilton cheese, are pervasive,” writes Mr. Garner. We imagine he has been waiting to use this particular metaphor for a while. Perhaps he came up with it while staring pensively at British cheese.
Does Mr. Bradford do anything right? Well, he manages to keep track of Mr. Amis’ extensive romantic entanglements. No easy task.
“Mr. Bradford neatly chronicles Mr. Amis’s multiple (and sometimes overlapping) girlfriends, many of whom are described with comments like ‘the most captivating female of her generation.’”
Unfortunately, in doing so, “Mr. Bradford’s prose seems canned, like the voice-over in a 1950s-era industrial film,” writes Mr. Garner. Well, then.
Mr. Garner seems to be having almost as much fun trashing the biography as Times restaurant critic Pete Wells trashing Guy Fieri’s restaurant. And Mr. Garner didn’t even have to suffer through bad food–just poor quality prose, sensitivity for subject, photo selection, quotes, arguments and overall dullness.