"Lionel Asbo -- whose first run-in with the police occurred at the tender age of three -- is a ruthless, foul-tempered thug who raises pit bulls on hot sauce and booze. He's also the polar opposite of his nephew, Desmond "Des" Pepperdine, a brainy, biracial young man with a bright future. Lionel, only six years older than Des, becomes the lad's guardian when Lionel's sister dies -- and attempts to mentor her son in his own unique fashion. While Des attends university and becomes a journalist, Lionel bounces in and out of prison until he unexpectedly wins the lottery, a windfall that enables him to engage in even worse behaviour, albeit with fewer consequences. This offbeat, darkly humorous tale satirises contemporary British culture while sensitively portraying a very unusual familial bond." Fiction A to Z June 2014 newsletter http://www.libraryaware.com/996/NewsletterIssues/ViewIssue/f8a47f9a-47e1-421e-89e4-590a8c0bb5d0?postId=014b3586-7c3a-45ac-a7c4-7eb5a7b93283
I've never been much of a fan of Amis, but this is dreadful even by the low standards I hold him to. The rabid praise (seriously, he's one of the best writers of the past 30 years) on the back cover only makes it worse. This is supposed to be satire and, I guess, funny as well, but it's about as funny as a brick to the face. And I don't think people really understand what satire means, if this is supposed to be an example of it. Yeah, terrible. Fun fact: Amis now lives in Brooklyn.
Savage, howlingly funny satire on London's underclass. A true original, Martin Amis demonstrates his immense talent in an entirely new way. Bang-on dialect phonetics that'll make you howl! Serious insightful commentary on Britain. Difficult to grasp, I suspect, for those with superficial exposure to UK culture.
I have never read Martin Amis before. I'd like to read more, because this author is a master wordsmith. The pictures he draws with his writing are a joy to read. If only the story were as joyful.
This is the story of Desmond Pepperdine and his uncle, Lionel Asbo. Teenage Desmond has been in his uncle's care since his mother died a few years before the story opens. Lionel is a thug. His occupation appears to be beating people up. Desmond is terrified that Lionel will beat him up, or kill him, if Lionel ever finds out that Desmond had a brief affair with his own grandmother, Lionel's mother. That basic premise drives the somewhat thin plot. Lionel happens to win a major lottery, and the centre part of the book is taken up with the very funny story of how the uneducated thug, who's been in and out of detention and jail since he was 3, deals with suddenly becoming a multi-millionaire. As the story draws to its climax, Amis is able to create a nearly unbearable sense of dread, a feat that is made even more impressive since I was becoming bored with the aimless middle section.
Although the plotting is uneven, the writing is astounding. On nearly every page, there is some turn of phrase that makes you read it twice. It is quite remarkable.
This is a very English book, and there passages I didn't fully understand because of the English, criminal-class slang. You get the sense of it, but I suspect British readers get more out of it than a Canadian or American would.
Amis is one of the cleverest and most interesting writers I've read in a long time. I hope his other works are more pleasant than this tale of mean spirits and family dysfunction.
Reads like Elmore Leonard channelling Evelyn Waugh. Nothing subtle about this social satire, but very entertaining.
Martin Amis. 5 stars. Always. Anything Martin Amis writes is so much better than just about every other writer. I wonder how readers who aren't familiar with London accents will feel about this book. I'm not saying you have to know about the really gritty working-class accent in order to read the book but, for me, a lot of the comedy (and for Des) comes from the awful (and absolutely spot-on) way Lionel mangles the English language. Martin (and Kingsley) Amis has the best ear for phonetic pronunciation - amazing. I picked up the references to Dickens, Fielding and Larkin (there are probably lots of others) but this has always been the state of England - ghastly, sordid, violent, squalid but still wonderful, historical, literary and inspiring.
A big disappointment. Poorly written, poorly plotted but mostly a book which should no have been published.
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