Yellow Dog

Yellow Dog

2.3 3
by Martin Amis
     
 

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Brilliant, painful, dazzling, and funny as hell, Yellow Dog is Martin Amis’ highly anticipated first novel in seven years and a stunning return to the fictional form.

When “dream husband” Xan Meo is vengefully assaulted in the garden of a London pub, he suffers head injury, and personality change. Like a spiritual convert, the familial

Overview

Brilliant, painful, dazzling, and funny as hell, Yellow Dog is Martin Amis’ highly anticipated first novel in seven years and a stunning return to the fictional form.

When “dream husband” Xan Meo is vengefully assaulted in the garden of a London pub, he suffers head injury, and personality change. Like a spiritual convert, the familial paragon becomes an anti-husband, an anti-father. He submits to an alien moral system — one among many to be found in these pages. We are introduced to the inverted worlds of the “yellow” journalist, Clint Smoker; the high priest of hardmen, Joseph Andrews; and the porno tycoon, Cora Susan. Meanwhile, we explore the entanglements of Henry England: his incapacitated wife, Pamela; his Chinese mistress, He Zhezun; his fifteen-year-old daughter, Victoria, the victim of a filmed “intrusion” that rivets the world — because she is the future Queen of England, and her father, Henry IX, is its King. The connections between these characters provide the pattern and drive of Yellow Dog.

If, in the 21st century, the moral reality is changing, then the novel is changing too, whether it likes it or not. Yellow Dog is a model of how the novel, or more particularly the comic novel, can respond to this transformation.

But Martin Amis is also concerned here with what is changeless and perhaps unchangeable. Patriarchy, and the entire edifice of masculinity; the enormous category-error of violence, arising between man and man; the tortuous alliances between men and women; and the vanished dream (probably always an illusion, but now a clear delusion) that we can protect our future and our progeny.

Meo heard no footsteps; what he heard was the swish, the shingly soft-shoe of the hefted sap. Then the sharp two-finger prod on his shoulder. It wasn’t meant to happen like this. They expected him to turn and he didn’t turn — he half-turned, then veered and ducked. So the blow intended merely to break his cheekbone or his jawbone was instead received by the cranium, that spacey bulge (in this instance still quite marriageably forested) where so many delicate and important powers are so trustingly encased.

He crashed, he crunched to his knees, in obliterating defeat. . . . — from Yellow Dog

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Yellow Dog is] raucously funny, relentlessly fast-paced, delightfully intricate. . . . A marvelous novel, a powerful book, a work of pain and madness and love . . . a work of seriousness. A work of beauty.” –Baltimore Sun

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

“Fizzingly intelligent . . . . mind-tinglingly good . . . Like all great writers, [Amis] seems to have guessed what you thought about the world, and then expressed it far better than you ever could. . . . As he probes a human world increasingly disconnected from itself, Amis has found a subject to match the tessellated polish of his style. Here it all adds up.” –The Observer

“Viciously funny . . . zingingly vivid.” –The Spectator

“Brilliant and hilarious, and the insights into contemporary culture are disturbingly prescient. . . . A novel of many pleasures–and a novel to be reckoned with.” –Publishers Weekly

“Martin Amis [has] come back kicking and screaming.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Martin Amis at his best, in all his shifting registers, his drolleries and ferocities, his unsparing comic drive, his aesthetic dawdlings and beguilements, his wry, confident relish of his own astonishing effects.” –The Guardian

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400077274
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/04/2005
Series:
Vintage International Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
785,413
Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.78(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

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.

Meet the Author

Martin Amis’ most recent book was Koba the Dread. He lives in London.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Oxford, England
Date of Birth:
August 25, 1949
Place of Birth:
Oxford, England
Education:
B.A., Exeter College, Oxford

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