Yellow Dog

Yellow Dog

2.3 3
by Martin Amis

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Martin Amis’s brilliant and controversial new novel, already hailed in the British press as “Dickens with a snarl” and a “great comic extravagance.”

After Xan Meo is brutally attacked in the garden of a London pub and suffers a severe head trauma, his wife and daughters find they are living with a stranger—unpredictable, violent, vengeful, lost: “His

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Martin Amis’s brilliant and controversial new novel, already hailed in the British press as “Dickens with a snarl” and a “great comic extravagance.”

After Xan Meo is brutally attacked in the garden of a London pub and suffers a severe head trauma, his wife and daughters find they are living with a stranger—unpredictable, violent, vengeful, lost: “His condition felt like the twenty-first century: it was something you wanted to wake up from.”

While it may alarm his family, Xan’s new personality is a good match for the city and the age in which he lives. For this is the vicious London of tabloid journalist Clint Smoker, whose daily reports of illicit sex and outrageous scandal are every bit as fake (and artful) as the noose tattooed around his neck. This is a world where the King of England keeps a Chinese mistress in Paris and tries to suppress a video-taped, bathtub “intrusion” of his fifteen- year-old daughter from reaching the internet. A world of hit men, pornographers, tycoons, and displaced royalty. A world where brilliant people perform unspeakable acts and bodyguards provide no protection.

Yellow Dog is Martin Amis at his dazzling best—comic, fierce, gritty, and profound. Amis explores what is changeless and perhaps unchangeable: patriarchy and the entire edifice of masculinity; the violence arising between man and man; the tortuous alliances between men and women; and the vanished dream that we can protect our future and our progeny.


MARTIN AMIS’s most recent book was Koba the Dread. He lives in London

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
… the writing is still agile and exact, the hyperbole driven and punishing and the characters -- when he lets them be -- charismatically repulsive. — Walter Kirn
Publishers Weekly
In this much-anticipated 10th novel-which has already fomented a furor in Britain-the prose is brilliant and often hilarious, and the insights into contemporary culture are disturbingly prescient. But the book's many successes cannot hide its fundamental flaw: an overly complex and needlessly opaque narrative structure. The wildly plotted novel begins when modern "Renaissance man" (actor/writer) Xan Meo is viciously assaulted; his head injury changes this "dream husband" into an oversexed, sadistic lout, ultimately forcing his wife to cast him out. But the attack isn't an act of random violence. As one of his assailants, Mal, cryptically puts it, "You went and named him... J-o-s-e-p-h A-n-d-r-e-w-s." From this enigmatic opening, Amis weaves a complex tapestry of narrative threads: Xan Meo is trying to recover his lost personality and his family's loving embrace; teenage Princess Victoria-a future queen of England-is being blackmailed with a video of her in the bath; tabloid journalist Clint Smoker-emasculated by a laughably small penis-extracts his revenge by being relentlessly misogynistic in print. Meanwhile, the recidivist, violent criminal Joseph Andrews-now a pornography impresario in Los Angeles-is plotting a way to return to England to die. Making these intersecting narratives cohere would be a challenge for any writer, but Amis reaches even further with a backdrop of apocalyptic violence (a transatlantic flight that's doomed to crash, a meteor that might hit the planet). That background clouds his core themes, which are more than dramatic enough to be compelling: violence and its intimate connections to sex and gender, the "obscenification" of everyday life and the 21st-century preoccupation with fame. (A typical Amis aper u: "Fame had so democratised itself that obscurity was felt as a deprivation or even a punishment.") Thanks to Amis's pitch-perfect dialogue, his I-can't-believe-he-wrote-that humor and his perceptive critique of contemporary morals, this is still a novel of many pleasures-and still a novel to be reckoned with. (Nov.) Forecast: A rant by Tibor Fischer in the British press ("It's like your favourite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating") fueled literary gossip mills for weeks and stoked reader interest, already high. Scandal aside, this is Amis's first novel in more than five years, and it should sell strongly. 14-city author tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his first novel in seven years, Amis examines the "obscenification of everyday life" via four narratives that spindle toward one another on a literal collision course. First is the story of Xan Meo, an actor with a dark past who suffers a personality-altering head injury after a savage attack. In the second, a fictionalized royal family is blackmailed as they face a legion of other potential scandals. The third is the saga of Clint Smoker, an insecure tabloid journalist, whose interaction with several unsavory denizens of the criminal underworld brings the other stories together. In the background, Amis interjects the odd but compelling story of a casket-bound corpse resolute on crashing the airplane transporting it. That all of these disparate plots connect in an intelligent and hilarious fashion is to Amis's credit, but readers might also be distracted by the persistent misogyny, which serves the story well but leaves an unsettling cloud over the work. Highly recommended for comprehensive literature collections.-David Hellman, San Francisco State Univ. Lib. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
London crooks nurse old grievances and settle older scores as Amis has his witty way with porno, Hollywood, modern marriage, airline terror, incest, chatrooms, the Royals, and the gutter press. The narrative stream is thick here, and, if this is possible in a book, kind of loud, like the ramblings of an extremely entertaining if rather boozy raconteur in a noisy pub. And if the listener is American, there's something of the translation problem as Amis (Koba the Dread, 2002, etc.) lays on the criminal class argot with a trowel, but it's huge fun even at 85% comprehension what with the great goofy targets and Amis's evil humor that goes to the brain's bad pleasure receptors like the very best drugs. The setup is the mysterious mugging of Xan Meo, a London film personage of criminal descent. Well and very successfully into his second marriage, Meo is alone and celebrating his maturity with a couple of drinks when a pair of toughs clobber him into insensibility, advising him between blows of his error: the mention in print of a Joseph Andrews. Joseph Andrews? Amis follows Meo through his recuperation and efforts to make sense of the nonsensical beating and the culpable connection to a Fielding novel. Concurrently, England's King Henry IX whose resemblance to a real-world prince is unmistakable, wrestles limply with extortionists who have pictures of the Princess Royal in the bath, and the slovenly star "reporter" of the gamiest tabloid in the solar system seeks love and a more manly manhood. Meo's search for meaning is grievously hampered by addled memories and very unpleasant personality alterations, and his marriage is in great peril. Sorting it out involves a beautiful and bent porno star,a trip to sleaziest California, and much consultation with Meo's breathtakingly violent career-criminal relatives. The King's diggings will tap into some of the same veins that Meo's working. Raucous, confusing, hilarious, and, when least expected, furiously intelligent and touching. Author tour. Agent: Andrew Wylie
From the Publisher
“A piercingly acute observation of contemporary morality…. Sadly, darkly, caustically funny.”
Calgary Herald

"Choose a page at random and the satirical teeth immediately reveal their glint and snap."
The Globe and Mail

“Fizzingly intelligent…. Mind-tinglingly good…. Here is a novel to silence the doubters, because here, as he probes a human world increasingly disconnected from itself, Amis has found a subject to match the tessellated polish of his style.”
The Observer (UK)

Praise for Martin Amis:
“Mr. Amis is his generation’s top literary dog. . . . Dazzling. . . You’re never out of reach of a sparkly phrase, stiletto metaphor or drop-dead insight into the human condition. . . . Mr. Amis goes where other humorists fear to tread. . . . Look out, Flaubert! Look out, Joyce!”
The New York Times Book Review

“Martin Amis is truly one of a kind. His profundities regarding the human heart and mind are genuine, gritty and candid. His lens is wide-angled, and his rearrangements of the world. . .produces some of the cleverest and wittiest juxtapositions anywhere. . . . Above all, Amis can write. He can write funny, and he can write mean. His sentences beckon. His passages seduce.”
Ottawa Citizen

“Amis is a force unto himself. . . . There is, quite simply, no one else like him.”
The Washington Post

“Martin Amis is a stone-solid genius. . .a dazzling star of wit and insight.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Amis is arguably the greatest wordsmith living today, tossing off hundred-dollar words like spent matchsticks, with a scalding wit to go with it.”
Winnipeg Free Press

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage International Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.78(d)

Read an Excerpt


1. Renaissance Man

But I go to Hollywood but I go to hospital, but you are first but you are last, but he is tall but she is small, but you stay up but you go down, but we are rich but we are poor, but they find peace but they find . . .

Xan Meo went to Hollywood. And, minutes later, with urgent speed, and accompanied by choric howls of electrified distress, Xan Meo went to hospital. Male violence did it.

'I'm off out, me,' he told his American wife Russia.

'Ooh,' she said, pronouncing it like the French for where.

'Won't be long. I'll bath them. And I'll read to them too. Then I'll make dinner. Then I'll load the dishwasher. Then I'll give you a long backrub. Okay?'

'Can I come?' said Russia.

'I sort of wanted to be alone.'

'You mean you sort of wanted to be alone with your girl-friend.

' Xan knew that this was not a serious accusation. But he adopted an ill-used expression (a thickening of the forehead), and said, not for the first time, and truthfully so far as he knew, 'I've got no secrets from you, kid.'

'. . . Mm,' she said, and offered him her cheek.

'Don't you know the date?'

'Oh. Of course.'

The couple stood embracing in a high-ceilinged hallway. Now the husband with a movement of the arm caused his keys to sound in their pocket. His half-conscious intention was to signal an ?.impatience to be out. Xan would not publicly agree, but women naturally like to prolong routine departures. It is the obverse of their fondness for keeping people waiting. Men shouldn't mind this. Being kept waiting is a moderate reparation for their five million years in power . . . Now Xan sighed softly as the stairs above him softly creaked. A complex figure was descending, normal up to the waist, but two-headed and four-armed: Meo's baby daughter, Sophie, cleaving to the side of her Brazilian nanny, Imaculada. Behind them, at a distance both dreamy and self-sufficient, loomed the four-year-old: Billie.

Russia took the baby and said, 'Would you like a lovely yoghurt for your tea?'

'No!' said the baby.

'Would you like a bath with all your floaty toys?'

'No!' said the baby, and yawned: the first lower teeth like twin grains of rice.

'Billie. Do the monkeys for Daddy.'

'There were too many monkeys jumping on the bed. One fell down and broke his head. They took him to the doctor and the doctor said: No more monkeys jumping on the BED.'

Xan Meo gave his elder daughter due praise.

'Daddy'll read to you when he comes back,' said Russia.

'I was reading to her earlier,' he said. He had the front door open now. 'She made me read the same book five times.'

'Which book?'

'Which book? Christ. The one about those stupid chickens who think the sky is falling. Cocky Locky. Goosey Lucy. And they all copped it from the fox, didn't they, Billie.'

'Like the frogs,' said the girl, alluding to some other tale. 'The whole family died. The mummy. The daddy. The nanny. And all the trildren.'

'I'm off out.' He kissed Sophie 's head (a faint circus smell); she responded by skidding a wet thumb across her cheek and into her mouth. And then he crouched to kiss Billie.

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Yellow Dog 2.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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