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YELLOW DOG by Martin Amis Cape, 16.99 [pounds sterling], pp. 340 ISBN 0224050613
Though not as bad as had been suggested before the absurdly tightly guarded publication, Yellow Dog is certainly a disappointment which does little to amend the general opinion that Martin Amis has by now done his best work. No one, in the future, will base the enthusiastic consideration which he certainly deserves on this novel: it has the air of late-period Wilkie Collins, revisiting the scene of past triumphs in ways both slacker and more aridly grotesque. There are certainly passages of great panache and brio, but as a whole it seems like the symptom of a general loss of nerve, and the reader loses interest well before the end. Amis has alway relied on his powers of improvisation, on the impetus contained in a brilliant riff. When that ability starts to go, the result is a book which, one feels, the author can't quite keep going.
It must he said that the disgraceful news coverage which now routinely attends every new book by Amis can't help. These stories, not just non-literary but anti-literary, are evidently things he feels deeply, judging by his comments in Experience, and it must be all but impossible to write against the barrage of abuse and the ceaseless public commentary on his private life. When The Information, Experience, Koba the Dread and other recent books came out, it was hard actually to read the books, so deafening were the public debates about his teeth, his marriage, his family relations, his falling out with Julian Barnes or …