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A savage, funny, and mysteriously poignant saga by a renowned author at the height of his powers.  Lionel Asbo, a terrifying yet weirdly loyal thug (self-named after England's notorious Anti-Social Behaviour Order), has always looked out for his ward and nephew, the orphaned Desmond Pepperdine. He provides him with fatherly career advice (always carry a knife, for example) A savage, funny, and mysteriously poignant saga by a renowned author at the height of his powers.  Lionel Asbo, a terrifying yet weirdly loyal thug (self-named after England's notorious Anti-Social Behaviour Order), has always looked out for his ward and nephew, the orphaned Desmond Pepperdine. He provides him with fatherly career advice (always carry a knife, for example) and is determined they should share the joys of pit bulls (fed with lots of Tabasco sauce), Internet porn, and all manner of more serious criminality. Des, on the other hand, desires nothing more than books to read and a girl to love (and to protect a family secret that could be the death of him). But just as he begins to lead a gentler, healthier life, his uncle—once again in a London prison—wins £140 million in the lottery and upon his release hires a public relations firm and begins dating a cannily ambitious topless model and “poet.”  Strangely, however, Lionel's true nature remains uncompromised while his problems, and therefore also Desmond's, seem only to multiply.


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A savage, funny, and mysteriously poignant saga by a renowned author at the height of his powers.  Lionel Asbo, a terrifying yet weirdly loyal thug (self-named after England's notorious Anti-Social Behaviour Order), has always looked out for his ward and nephew, the orphaned Desmond Pepperdine. He provides him with fatherly career advice (always carry a knife, for example) A savage, funny, and mysteriously poignant saga by a renowned author at the height of his powers.  Lionel Asbo, a terrifying yet weirdly loyal thug (self-named after England's notorious Anti-Social Behaviour Order), has always looked out for his ward and nephew, the orphaned Desmond Pepperdine. He provides him with fatherly career advice (always carry a knife, for example) and is determined they should share the joys of pit bulls (fed with lots of Tabasco sauce), Internet porn, and all manner of more serious criminality. Des, on the other hand, desires nothing more than books to read and a girl to love (and to protect a family secret that could be the death of him). But just as he begins to lead a gentler, healthier life, his uncle—once again in a London prison—wins £140 million in the lottery and upon his release hires a public relations firm and begins dating a cannily ambitious topless model and “poet.”  Strangely, however, Lionel's true nature remains uncompromised while his problems, and therefore also Desmond's, seem only to multiply.

30 review for Lionel Asbo: State of England

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    This book made me such a nervous wreck that I developed a facial tic and had to take antacids while I was reading it. Desmond Pepperdine is a 15 year old lad living in a very rough part of England where life expectancies are short and violence is common. Des is a bright and gentle boy with a big secret. His 39 year old grandmother Grace has seduced him, and Des is worried that his uncle Lionel will find out. Lionel took Des in after his mother died a few years earlier. Des loves ‘Uncle Li’, but he This book made me such a nervous wreck that I developed a facial tic and had to take antacids while I was reading it. Desmond Pepperdine is a 15 year old lad living in a very rough part of England where life expectancies are short and violence is common. Des is a bright and gentle boy with a big secret. His 39 year old grandmother Grace has seduced him, and Des is worried that his uncle Lionel will find out. Lionel took Des in after his mother died a few years earlier. Des loves ‘Uncle Li’, but he’s also terrified of him. He should be. Lionel is the kind of guy who laces his pit bulls’ food with Tabasco to make them meaner, and he took such pride in being the youngest person to ever receive an Anti-Social Behavior Order after a violent spree at age 3 that he had his name legally changed to Asbo. He'll put a man in the hospital over some perceived grievance and then complain when his victim has the nerve to file a complaint with the police. As a career criminal specializing in loan shark collection and reselling stolen goods, Lionel is constantly in and out of jail. Lionel also has a strict policy that his mom is too old to be dating men, and he doesn’t like it when he hears from a neighbor that Grace has been seeing someone. Des keeps his mouth shut as Lionel finds another young man to blame and forces Des to help him get his revenge. Years pass as Des lives with his secrets and tries to establish a quiet normal life by going to college and getting a girlfriend. He still lives with Lionel but with him always in jail, Des usually has the place to himself. However, after Lionel wins a small fortune in the lottery, he becomes a tabloid sensation. Unfortunately, becoming wealthy does nothing to make Lionel Asbo a better person, and dealing with his whims and moods becomes an even worse minefield for Des. The odd thing is that Lionel doesn’t seem quite as monstrous as he should. Amis does a nice job of depicting the affection that Des has for his uncle even as he has absolutely no illusions as to what Lionel is. With Des’s secret about Grace and Lionel’s skewed logic regarding right-and-wrong, every conversation between the two has an underlying tension that really got to me after a while. And the ending nearly killed me. (view spoiler)[ I wasn’t sure whether I was relieved or angry about the plot twist when it turned out the baby was safe after the extended wringer Amis put us through to learn the final outcome. (hide spoiler)] While I enjoyed the story about a bright young man trying to create a life for himself while dealing with the constant threat presented by his sociopathic criminal uncle, I was disappointed in the satire aspects of Lionel becoming famous. It seems like Amis just hits all the obvious points of tabloid culture or wealth enabling someone to act like an asshole. (Which he did a better and more subtle job of in the superior Money.) As a family story, it’s tense and darkly funny. As cultural satire, it seemed obvious and without much bite.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maciek

    In 1998, British Government (under Tony Blair) introduced the Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) - an act which meant to correct minor incidents which would normally not result in criminal punishment - from loudswearing, loitering and beging to public sex and even urban exploration. During the general elections of 2010, future Prime Minister David Cameron promixed to fix "Broken Britain", and after taking office spoke eloquently but harshly about what he perceived to be failure of multiculturali In 1998, British Government (under Tony Blair) introduced the Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) - an act which meant to correct minor incidents which would normally not result in criminal punishment - from loudswearing, loitering and beging to public sex and even urban exploration. During the general elections of 2010, future Prime Minister David Cameron promixed to fix "Broken Britain", and after taking office spoke eloquently but harshly about what he perceived to be failure of multiculturalism (can you imagine the American president doing the same?). In July 2011, a high selling tabloid The News of The World has been shut down and its staff took under investigation for allegedly illegal obtainment of information - including hacking into the phones of familes of British soldiers killed in action. In August of the same year riots shook the city of London, engulfing the metropolis in violence and chaos; photographs of burning double decked red buses remain a haunting image. In 2012 Martin Amis left London for Brooklyn and published his latest novel, Lionel Asbo: The State of England. He dedicated the novel to Christopher Hitchens, who was a close friend (curiously it is the second novel dedicated to Hitchens that I've read in a row - the previous one being Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, which I revieved here). Some critics and readers felt that publishing a satirical and critical novel about the State of The Nation and then escaping from the mentioned nation was a real dick move, a betrayal of the country that bred and fed not only him but also Darwin, Dickens and Churchill and holds the world record for the largest empire. Amis has been criticized for exploiting the theme of the underclass from high horse, and running away across the pond - much like a boy who has just done some mischief hides from his enraged mum. There might be truth to that - who am I to judge? - but I think that the author has reached the level where he doesn't pay attention to the critics who grieve that his latest novel is not the same as the novel that they most enjoyed; he just kick backs and writes what he wants to write. The fact is visible in Lionel Asbo, where is is evident that Amis is in many ways, as my English friends would say it, taking the piss. The novel has two main characters: Lionel Asbo, who is a Chav Proper* and deals with extortion along with other shady matters, and is genuinely proud of his achievements - almost complete lack of education and the record for being the youngest person ever to be given a Restraining Directive - an ASBO, at the tender age of three. His pride is such that he officially changed his name to Asbo (from Pepperdine - "because it was a crap name anyhow") and speaks of the time he spent in prison with tenderness, as someone could speak about college or graduate school. He ends up in prison most of the time, but does not mind - a man knows where he is when he is in prison - and has two pitbulls, whom he feeds steaks bathed in tabasco sauce to make them feel the combatative mood, as they are the tools of his trade. The original UK edition, published by Jonathan Cape, has this convincing illustration of him on the cover: Contrasted with him is Des Pepperdine, his younger nephew - in 2006, when the novel opens Des 15 and a half and Lionel is 21 - who is under his uncle's care, as his mother has died. Des has never known his father - once, when he is a boy and walks with his mother she spots him sitting on a bench, but he appears to be dead so they go away - and is a quiet boy whom Lionel tries to educate about the way of life in Diston, a (fictional) borough of London where nobody lives past 60 and 40 is considered old age. Lionel educates Des about the merits of benefit scrounging and how to not fall of the dole, how to feed the dogs to make them agressive enough and of the necessity of carrying a knife, and wonders why Des enjoys going to school instead of breaking a window like any normal boy? What Lionel does not know that Des is having an affair with his grandmother - who gave birth to his own mother when she was just 12, and birthed seven children in total - and deadly afraid of what his uncle will do if he finds out. So much, that he decides to stage a character and write to the local columnist about it and ask for advice - and then Lionel wins 140 million pounds in the lottery... Amis certainly has his fun with both Lionel and Des (and other characters whose names are a hoot!), but his portrayal of them did not feel exploitative - I would say quite the opposite: he portrays Lionel with tenderness that he never gave him in his fictional world. Lionel Asbo in his own way does the right thing: he takes his young nephew under his wing and cares for him the only way he knows how: his reputation protects him from bullies, and provides for his well-being. In a place where "everything hated everything", Lionel Asbo is what he is - a baby Asbo, someone born in a sequence of someones who will grow up and die and often never experience everything else. He is a patriot, woving never to leave England (well, maybe with a small exception for a trip to Scotland or Wales) and understandably so: the environment is deeply rooted in him as he is in it. Although he is presented with a literal miracle - an impossible amount of money almost literally falling from the sky! - it does not prove to be the way out: if anything, it can only turn into a tragedy. Although the novel is very funny and outlandish in many places - it is after all a satire, a fairy tale which is purposefully larger than life - it is also surprisingly poignant and touching. As Lionel becomes the source of media attention (which justifies the US cover by Knopf, which is stylized to resemble a tabloid) the novel does not lose its satirical punch but grows more and more serious, with an inevitable air of tragedy hanging in the air. I will not reveal whether it occurs, or whether any of the characters achieve any sort of solace, as this would be spoiling a novel which I found to be surprisingly good in spite of all the negative reviews. After putting it down (In England and abroad), many readers will look around themselves, asking the question with which Amis opens his book and which resonates throughout it in many ways: Who let the dogs in? *Dave Henson also has also some great songs about football (or soccer, if you prefer). I heartily recommend At Least We're Not As Bad As France, The Vuvuzela Song, Evaluate The Last Four and others on his channel!

  3. 4 out of 5

    William2

    Lionel Asbo is a bad thief. He spends long stretches in jail. He's in and he's out, a recidivist. Lionel's nephew, Desmond, is at fifteen years of age seduced by his grandmother, Grace, thirty-nine. It is Des's guilt about this incestuous relationship, and his fear of what Uncle Li (lie not lee) might do if he finds out, that shapes Des's character in early adulthood, which is pretty much the span of the novel. Fortunately, Gran breaks off the affair with Des in order to seduce a fourteen year o Lionel Asbo is a bad thief. He spends long stretches in jail. He's in and he's out, a recidivist. Lionel's nephew, Desmond, is at fifteen years of age seduced by his grandmother, Grace, thirty-nine. It is Des's guilt about this incestuous relationship, and his fear of what Uncle Li (lie not lee) might do if he finds out, that shapes Des's character in early adulthood, which is pretty much the span of the novel. Fortunately, Gran breaks off the affair with Des in order to seduce a fourteen year old! Right, a younger man. This fellow goes by the name of Rory Nightingale and Lionel does discover his affair with Gran. Of course, Des is both crushed and relieved to hear the news. Then Lionel wins a £140 million state lottery, providing much needed distraction for poor Des. But then Des and his new love, Dawn, have a marvelously described baby: Cilla. (Fantastic description of this baby and much else) which serves only to redouble his anxiety. Martin Amis writes with all the skill and assurance we're accustomed to from so many other fine books, but his style here is as compressed as I've ever seen it. (There are many beautifully compressed pages in Amis. Night Train, to cite just one example, springs most readily to mind.) Amis has always been a great admirer of Vladimir Nabokov, but I think this is the first time he's written a book that echoes that master's peculiarly arch, lean, and very compressed method so well. I speak here merely in terms of narrative compression, mind you, not style. Amis style is unique. As in the unjustly maligned Yellow Dog and to a more limited extent in London Fields, he has a field day with British dialect and slang. He's a master of it, of that there's no question. However, his penchant dialect and slang can really slow down the non-British reader. Agreed, not every book should go down like Simenon, but having to Google a few references every page can be a drag. Now, do most people read as closely as I do? Nah. But I do! If we are to view the novel as dream, these unquestionably enriching quirks of Amis's, it can be argued, slow the dream down, inhibit it. It's too bad, especially in a book that is in every other respect so sprightly, so headlong and fun. I don't fault Amis. He can only write what he can write. However, my own favorite Amis novels have much less such encryption: Money, The Zone of Interest, The Information, House of Meetings and London Fields. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David Katzman

    Rather than re-hash the plot here, let me say it’s rather prime Amis. Dark and twisted comedy mixed with some tense drama. It harkens back quite a bit to his earliest major success, London Fields. What I’m most interested in considering is the subtitle “State of England.” Many critics seem to dismiss this subtitle, but I’m going to take Amis at his word. Literally. The words. What does Lionel Asbo: State of England have to say about the state of England? Let’s assume the entire story is a metapho Rather than re-hash the plot here, let me say it’s rather prime Amis. Dark and twisted comedy mixed with some tense drama. It harkens back quite a bit to his earliest major success, London Fields. What I’m most interested in considering is the subtitle “State of England.” Many critics seem to dismiss this subtitle, but I’m going to take Amis at his word. Literally. The words. What does Lionel Asbo: State of England have to say about the state of England? Let’s assume the entire story is a metaphor. Which gives a different perspective than treating it as a satire, as most critics call it. I don’t find the tone all that satirical, to be honest. I’m also going to dismiss the meaningless attacks on Amis for moving to Brooklyn when he wrote this. As if one can’t write a novel about another country, especially one that the author lived in for 60+ years? So as a metaphor, what is Amis saying about the state of England? • England is sick…it’s a diseased country that damages citizens both mentally and physically. • Unless you’re very wealthy, you are going to die younger than you should • The rich of England got there by luck and don’t deserve it—royalty are the epitome of this perspective. • The rich are criminals. They are pillaging the country. They exist as rich by living off the lower classes (Note how Lionel Asbo became wealthy by the LOTTERY. A lottery is by nature a tax on the poor, it’s legalized gambling that always profits the house.) • The media is more focused on celebrity and sex than substance. • Diversity is actually the only avenue for the success of England—rejecting diversity has lead to stagnation, failure and a prison of England’s own making. Despite the harsh critique of England, it’s surprisingly Amis’s most optimistic book. I think this is overlooked by many reviewers who complain that Amis left England and then trashed the country. He has always trashed the country. And society in general. He may have left the UK, but in Lionel Asbo he reveals a rare note of hope for the future.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    Amis can write the darkest satire with a lyrical heart that beats with warm, soft blood. 'Lionel ASBO' is sad, funny, gratuitous, sick and full of life. It is like a Dickens novel was written by William Burroughs. Covered in grit, the characters in this Amis novel seem at first like bizarre 21st century, Cruikshank caricatures that just keep bouncing back and forth in my head between the real, the surreal and the unreal -- so I keep on doubting my own palsied view of the world. Anywho, this nove Amis can write the darkest satire with a lyrical heart that beats with warm, soft blood. 'Lionel ASBO' is sad, funny, gratuitous, sick and full of life. It is like a Dickens novel was written by William Burroughs. Covered in grit, the characters in this Amis novel seem at first like bizarre 21st century, Cruikshank caricatures that just keep bouncing back and forth in my head between the real, the surreal and the unreal -- so I keep on doubting my own palsied view of the world. Anywho, this novel seems like a better-adjusted, less disquieting version of Amis' magnum opusMoney. Lionel ASBO has more heart, and just slightly less art. Amis traded a little of the floating world . . . for the heavy. Just please Jēz...us don't buy it for Grans.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Maybe he imagined it was battered sausage & chips, or pie & mash or something, as who in their right mind would ruin a fancy lobster dish by covering it with lashings of ketchup. Well, this lotto winning lager lout, and Tony Blair bred NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) would. It was a scary, and amusing thought, to think of a mesh vest wearing thug who regulary gets his dogs pissed winning 140m. And what I thought would be a really funny novel, actually didn't turn out the way I'd Maybe he imagined it was battered sausage & chips, or pie & mash or something, as who in their right mind would ruin a fancy lobster dish by covering it with lashings of ketchup. Well, this lotto winning lager lout, and Tony Blair bred NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) would. It was a scary, and amusing thought, to think of a mesh vest wearing thug who regulary gets his dogs pissed winning 140m. And what I thought would be a really funny novel, actually didn't turn out the way I'd hoped it would. I would have liked it more if we basically see Lionel splash his millions like there is no tomorrow, like in Brewster's Millions, but sadly, for me anyway, that's not this novel. Overall, I can think of maybe three occasions where I had a slight chuckle, and only one that led to a proper laugh. That's not enough for me, in a novel that is described as 'outrageously funny'. Also, I've thought of some of his older novels as being quite inventive, sharp, and ahead of their time, whereas here (even though written in 2012) it felt like an old-fashion tale at heart, and nothing special. My mind was taken back to the Anti-Social Behavior Order that that joke of a labour government brought in, and how thugs just like lionel basically braged about it, like it was a trophy and something to be proud of. Amis doesn't exactly paint a pretty picture of England here - it's an attack - and although that's partly the point, I think he pushed it too hard. To be fair, it started off pretty well, and I could see a decent satire ahead of me, but once past the halfway point it all became too tedious and uninteresting - the fun had run it's course, and I just found it rather boring. Des the nephew secretly involved in sexual relations with his grandmother put me off, the sociopath Lionel - who I amit was a greatly drawn character to start with- wore thin over time, and the ending really didn't do a lot for me. About the only thing I wondered after the closing pages was whether Lionel got a T-shirt with 'Innit' printed on it. It certaintly would have been appropriate, and then he could buddy up and play darts with London Fields Keith Talent. Now that would have made for a better book - seeing Keith again. London Fields simply walked all over this. 2.5/5

  7. 5 out of 5

    William

    My favorite Martin Amis novel since The Information. Lionel Asbo is the Martin Amis of London Fields and Money : dazzling prose, vicious animals, demented, ugly people, violence, and of course, a filthy, harrowing London juxtaposed to a glittering, money's-no-object London. Surprisingly, though, there is a beautiful flip-side to Amis' trademark hilarity and disgust, found in the character of Desmond, a thoughtful teenage boy who longs for peace, knowledge, and love (and who is having an affair w My favorite Martin Amis novel since The Information. Lionel Asbo is the Martin Amis of London Fields and Money : dazzling prose, vicious animals, demented, ugly people, violence, and of course, a filthy, harrowing London juxtaposed to a glittering, money's-no-object London. Surprisingly, though, there is a beautiful flip-side to Amis' trademark hilarity and disgust, found in the character of Desmond, a thoughtful teenage boy who longs for peace, knowledge, and love (and who is having an affair with his grandmother, Grace -- revealed on page one, so not a spoiler). I'm a huge fan of Martin Amis, and his last three works of fiction left me a bit confused: Yellow Dog was funny but seemed cartoonish and trying too hard. House of Meetings was tremendous, but a somber historical novel about life in the slave camps of the USSR, and The Pregnant Widow, while wise and thoughtful and occasionally funny, didn't quite pack the punch that I've grown to love in Amis' earlier work. So yeah, as a longtime admirer of Martin Amis, I'd say he's fully back in the satirical, sickening swing of things. And the prose has never been sharper. A sample: " All day, all night (what was the difference?), eyes open, eyes shut (what was the difference?), Des attended the cinema of the insane. In beady pulses and thudding flashes he rehearsed what he supposed were essentially vulpine themes and arguments to do with anxiety, hunger, and shelterlessness, refracted through an urban setting of asphalt and metal, or rubber and cellophane and shattered plexiglas. It was the longest motion picture of all time: and his attention never strayed. The definition was as sharp as a serpent's tooth. The lighting was indecently and lawlessly lurid. The dialogue (sometimes dubbed) and the voiceover and the occasional subtitles were all in the language of Grace." Final thoughts: a smart, profane, funny, and even loving novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. It may not be as ruthless and riotous as his earlier work, but I like the direction he's heading in.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    I suspect that Amis had a blast writing this. This is an exploration of a violent career criminal who unexpectedly comes into money, often literally (posh bints like a bit of rough). Lionel is a problem child. His mother first gives birth at twelve and has seven children by six fathers by the age of 19. She is a grandma at 24, and she becomes a rite of passage for local schoolboys shortly thereafter. Lionel has an ASBO by the age of three (anti social behaviour order - a badge of pride amongst so I suspect that Amis had a blast writing this. This is an exploration of a violent career criminal who unexpectedly comes into money, often literally (posh bints like a bit of rough). Lionel is a problem child. His mother first gives birth at twelve and has seven children by six fathers by the age of 19. She is a grandma at 24, and she becomes a rite of passage for local schoolboys shortly thereafter. Lionel has an ASBO by the age of three (anti social behaviour order - a badge of pride amongst some of the chaveratti) and progresses to violent and petty crime, often involving attack dogs which he trains to peak viciousness. Lionel is always on a short fuse, coming across him on a bad day, or an inadvertant wrong look at him can easily land you in A&E, or a wheelchair. Lionel does have a soft side and he sort of adopts his nephew when his sister dies. He also looks out for his mum, developing a pathological hatred for any men sniffing around her. One poor schoolboy disappears after developing a penchant for biddy fiddling. This is bad news for Lionels nephew as he is, ahem, extremely close to his gran (Normal For Norfolk). Luckily for him Lionel does not know about this - yet. The characters are clearly meant to be two dimensional and Amis hams it up for laughs (and in truth I laughed a lot), but it is all a bit over the top for me. Hence three stars in the arbitrary marking system I use.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    well, I am going to take issue with most of the reviewers, who are disappointed in this book. The Guardian, of course, loathes it, and Amis, but then they always have, because he and his writing reject their easy, and stupid, certainties. But I in my turn was disappointed with UK reviewers, who use phrases like "satirical sideswipe at the underclass", and one says that the class of people portrayed is so easy to send up that Amis is shooting fish in a barrel. None of them have understood this bo well, I am going to take issue with most of the reviewers, who are disappointed in this book. The Guardian, of course, loathes it, and Amis, but then they always have, because he and his writing reject their easy, and stupid, certainties. But I in my turn was disappointed with UK reviewers, who use phrases like "satirical sideswipe at the underclass", and one says that the class of people portrayed is so easy to send up that Amis is shooting fish in a barrel. None of them have understood this book. As far as I can tell only Dickens has been able to do what Amis has done here, which is create characters from what might be called the underclass, but certainly is a criminal subset of class, to which he does not belong, and make them human. I wept for Lionel. The characters, especially the eponymous Lionel, are the opposite of caricature. They are human. There are several nods to Dickens here, including calling the school "Squeers Free". Of course, the background that the dead-tree press reviewers in the UK have is, well, Posher Than Mine. I don't think they've met anyone who talks like Lionel does. And Amis has got certain rhythms of white London speech, The words roll and tumble over you - London has a "white-van sky". Of course it all goes too far. That is what has always been so splendid about Amis. The "good" characters (Desmond and Dawn) as in Dickens, are ciphers. But Desmond, at the start of the book, is having sex with his own grandmother. Dickens never went that far. But think about it - he went a long way towards it. Pitbulls, of course there are pitbulls. I have never read anything about pitbulls other than in the pages of a tabloid newspaper. I read a certain bit, towards the end of the book, on the tram on the way home today and was gibbering with terror. No spoilers from me though. Mostly, I laughed. Out loud, and often. And I won't forget Lionel. This book may not describe to us the state of England, as it front cover would have us believe it does, but it tells us a lot about England. One more from the reviewers, this one David Annand in the Telegraph: "Longstanding Amis admirers are, I think, slightly perplexed at the odd duality of his late work". There you are. Posh and meaningless at the same time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    One year ago the London Riots left Tottenham essentially a smoldering crime scene and the first match of the Premier League at White Heart Lane was postponed via the police investigation. The motivations and manifestations of the yob and his deeds lie at the core of Lionel Asbo . The credit crunch and News Corp also find their faces bashed in Amis's acerbic romp. I found the novel something I wished to protect, something to shield from our reptile natures and our cannibalistic rituals of conveni One year ago the London Riots left Tottenham essentially a smoldering crime scene and the first match of the Premier League at White Heart Lane was postponed via the police investigation. The motivations and manifestations of the yob and his deeds lie at the core of Lionel Asbo . The credit crunch and News Corp also find their faces bashed in Amis's acerbic romp. I found the novel something I wished to protect, something to shield from our reptile natures and our cannibalistic rituals of convenience and efficiency. Amis makes us ache and chortle. He reminds us of our misery and gives it song.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Paul Gleason

    Bear with me. In 1976, Bob Dylan released Desire; in 1997, he released Time Out of Mind. In the twenty one years between these records, he released a plethora of disappointingly mediocre and, in some cases, downright bad albums. Have you ever heard Down in the Groove? Case in point. But in 1997, Dylan experienced a renaissance. Time Out of Mind was a first-rate album, and Dylan, who's inarguably one of the most important American musicians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, hasn't looke Bear with me. In 1976, Bob Dylan released Desire; in 1997, he released Time Out of Mind. In the twenty one years between these records, he released a plethora of disappointingly mediocre and, in some cases, downright bad albums. Have you ever heard Down in the Groove? Case in point. But in 1997, Dylan experienced a renaissance. Time Out of Mind was a first-rate album, and Dylan, who's inarguably one of the most important American musicians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, hasn't looked back since. Since 1997, the man's been on a creative roll. Dylan's roll brings me to Martin Amis. In 1995, Amis published The Information; in 2012, he published Lionel Asbo: State of England. After finishing Lionel Asbo, I can safely argue that Amis hasn't pulled a Dylan. He hasn't written a great novel since The Information, and Lionel Asbo most definitely doesn't equal renaissance. So why has Amis gone from being one of the greatest English novelists of his generation to one of the most disappointing? Why hasn't he lived up the potential for greatness that he first showed in 1984, when the opening scene of Money read like nothing that had ever been written before? As a reader of sixteen Amis books, I think that I'm qualified to propose an answer to the Amis enigma. Amis is a satirist, and at the heart of his greatest novels (Money, London Fields, and The Information), lies a brutally thrilling combination of high-energy prose, black comedy, postmodern innovation, social satire, and a penchant for good ole' plot and character. Let's take these in order. 1.) High-energy prose. Whereas in the past, Amis made sure that each sentence crackled with rawness and surprise, now at least half his novels with boring sentences that serve as exposition or poor character description. Yikes! This means that the high-energy stuff, which is still occasionally there, reminds the reader that the rest of the sentences kind of suck. 2.) Black comedy. Amis can still be funny, but now he's spotty. The funniest parts of Lionel Asbo read as riffs that Amis inserted to add life to his text. But these parts - I repeat - are simply riffs and nothing more. They don't help advance the satire . . . he had the same problem in Yellow Dog and The Pregnant Widow. And, if the whole truth were to be told, the riffs in Lionel Asbo just aren't that funny - they're funny in comparison to the boring rest-of-the-book. 3.) Postmodern innovation. Amis, rather famously, looked to America and underground British literature for his inspiration. Some of his main heroes - Roth, Ballard, Nabokov, etc. - practiced metafiction. In Money, London Fields, and The Information, Amis made some advances in this area. The black comedy, therefore, existed in an innovative context. Amis could get as dark with his comedy as he pleased while maintaining the reader's interest in his structures. In Lionel Asbo, on the other hand, Amis' attempts at metafiction fall flat. Instead of creating - as he did in his great novels - he's parodying other fictions: Great Expectations, in particular, and also the English tabloids. Which brings us to social satire . . . 4.) Social satire. It's extremely difficult to be innovative and interesting as a social satirist when an author has run out of ideas. Amis is totally out of gas in Lionel Asbo, the characters of which read like simulacra of the characters in London Fields and Money. What I mean is that Amis is satirizing the same stuff that he went after in the 1980s. Lionel Asbo, therefore, has nothing new to say. Amis simply uses the techniques of Money and London Fields, which have declined from metafictional innovation to parody, and adds references to current events. One word: Yikes! 5.) Plot and character. I've already gone over why the characters in Lionel Asbo don't work. Now let me turn to the novel's plot, which is one of the most predictable plots that I've ever read by a major novelist. The plot feels like an afterthought - a hook onto which Amis could hang his riffs and, for the most part, boring-ass sentences. Now I know that it's unfair of me to give such a scathing review without providing textual evidence. So consider this review a tease. If you once believed in Amis as much as I did and held his work in as high esteem as I did, read this book and see if I'm right. I tease you to do so. But I still have faith in Amis for some reason that I don't understand . . . I'll definitely read his next book. I did purchase a lot of crappy Dylan albums before I got Time Out of Mind!

  12. 4 out of 5

    W.D. Clarke

    I had put this off because 2010's The Pregnant Widow had felt like such a letdown, but I needn't have worried. All the usual Amis ingredients come back/are present with this one, if not quite with the density of laughs or verbal virtuosity I felt Mart attained in the (for me) Trinity or Pleiades of Money, London Fields, and The Information (all three of which I shall re-read until I cease to be!). What's more the plotting is kinda clever here, and—dare I say it?—Mr. Amis seems to be writing from I had put this off because 2010's The Pregnant Widow had felt like such a letdown, but I needn't have worried. All the usual Amis ingredients come back/are present with this one, if not quite with the density of laughs or verbal virtuosity I felt Mart attained in the (for me) Trinity or Pleiades of Money, London Fields, and The Information (all three of which I shall re-read until I cease to be!). What's more the plotting is kinda clever here, and—dare I say it?—Mr. Amis seems to be writing from a place of, yes, compassion and wisdom along with the jaundice and bile. The novelist and critic David Lodge once wrote a series of articles in the Times about novel writing that was subsequently compiled into the excellent volume The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts. What Lodge had to say in that book about Amis's treatment of L.A. in Money certainly also applies to his vision of and conjuring of lumpenproletariat and kleptocrat London in this one: Martin Amis is a late exponent of the Dickensian tradition of urban Gothic. His fascinated and appalled gaze at the postindustrial city mediates an apocalyptic vision of culture and society in a terminal state of decay. As with Dickens, his settings often seem more animated than his characters, as if the life has been drained out of people to re-emerge in a demonic, destructive form in things: streets, machines, gadgets. [...]The challenge of the novel's chosen form is to make the style both eloquently descriptive of the urban wasteland and expressive of the narrator's slobbish, tunnel-visioned, philistine character. Amis manages this difficult trick by disguising his literary skills behind a barrage of streetwise slang, profanity, obscenities and jokes. Thing is, in this novel, Amis pleasantly surprised this reader by combining all of the above, with a real tenderness towards (a few of) his fully realized characters. I now publicly forgive him for that stupid row with Terry Eagleton some years back! 4.5*

  13. 4 out of 5

    J.

    If your experience of 21st century culture includes a lot of reality television, tabloid scandal, celebrity exposé, paparazzi photos... atrocious lapses that center on race, sport, wardrobe, sex, cosmetic surgery, drunk driving, pit bulls, lavish overspending -- anything crassly vulgar and exploitative --- you probably still won't like this novel, but you'll get a lot of what you like along the way. And Martin Amis doesn't want you to like it; he wants it to stand as an aggressive, warts-plus do If your experience of 21st century culture includes a lot of reality television, tabloid scandal, celebrity exposé, paparazzi photos... atrocious lapses that center on race, sport, wardrobe, sex, cosmetic surgery, drunk driving, pit bulls, lavish overspending -- anything crassly vulgar and exploitative --- you probably still won't like this novel, but you'll get a lot of what you like along the way. And Martin Amis doesn't want you to like it; he wants it to stand as an aggressive, warts-plus documentary of our hyperbolic times. Which I suppose it does, but it makes for an annoyingly obvious kind of read. If you have to stand up and point at the Donald-Trump/Sarah-Palin/Jerry-Springer sort of pop vulgarism, and announce that you think it's in really poor taste, dangerous, even ... maybe you're not breaking new ground. Maybe you're stating the obvious. In the lurid, over-the-top fashion that it deserves, perhaps, but who really wants to immerse themselves in this embarrassing material ? That there is a subset of consumers who do immerse themselves in this kind of thing is sad, and I would expect that the participants in this business aren't feeling very honorable about it. But beyond the initial trainwreck shock factor, the grand-guignol distastefulness of it all, why, Martin Amis, would you want to spend time analyzing it ? Not me. Dumpster.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    If there was an option not to rate this, I would take it. Possibly the most disappointing reading experience I have had for years. Amis is a hero of mine. I adore the man with a passion: I have even described him as the best writer this country has produced in two hundred years. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. The most bullying, mean spirited and cynical exercise in ex-patriate carping it is possible to imagine. Nausea is the instinctive response. Followed by sadness. Yes, I have huge issu If there was an option not to rate this, I would take it. Possibly the most disappointing reading experience I have had for years. Amis is a hero of mine. I adore the man with a passion: I have even described him as the best writer this country has produced in two hundred years. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. The most bullying, mean spirited and cynical exercise in ex-patriate carping it is possible to imagine. Nausea is the instinctive response. Followed by sadness. Yes, I have huge issues with my country - doesn't everyone? - but at least I stand and fight, rather than escape to New York and snipe, like some fat tanned and hirsute racist plasterer outside a villa in Marbella. Keith Talent was somehow attractive in London Fields. I knew Keith Talent and I have met him hundreds of times on the streets of my home city. But his attempted offspring, Lionel Asbo, and his surreal family of cyphers and stereotypes are exactly that - surreal and invented. Martin - come back home and see how it really is. And then write about the reality, not something sourced in spite. Remind us how brilliant you were.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    Martin Amis' latest novel "Lionel Asbo" is a satirical character portrait of a kind of personality emergent in 21st century Britain: loud, brash, thuggish, stupid, fame-driven and greedy. Lionel is a man who's so proud of his thug background that he's changed his surname from Pepperdine to Asbo (Anti-Social Behaviour Order), of which he's collected many starting at the record-breaking age of 2. The squalid township he inhabits is the imaginary Diston where nobody lives to their 60s and many women Martin Amis' latest novel "Lionel Asbo" is a satirical character portrait of a kind of personality emergent in 21st century Britain: loud, brash, thuggish, stupid, fame-driven and greedy. Lionel is a man who's so proud of his thug background that he's changed his surname from Pepperdine to Asbo (Anti-Social Behaviour Order), of which he's collected many starting at the record-breaking age of 2. The squalid township he inhabits is the imaginary Diston where nobody lives to their 60s and many women are grandmothers by their 40s. Lionel's own gran, 42, begins an incestuous relationship with her nephew, Des, who is a teenager. Then during one of his frequent stretches in prison, Lionel discovers that he has won the lottery, a staggering 140 million! Amis' novel is his most enjoyable in years and he's clearly having a good time writing it. Lionel is a fully realised character, his voice is perfect, his character painfully realistic. He's at times charming in a strange way and then changing on a whim to being a cold hearted brute. His calculating mind and overly violent, sometimes sadistic, oftentimes simplistic nature is portrayed brilliantly by Amis as we see Lionel deal with his influx of sudden good fortune and how it warps him, accentuating the violence, ego, and pettiness to a heightened state. As a contrast, Amis includes Des Pepperdine, Lionel's nephew, who is the sympathetic hero to this story (once the granny affair is put to rest). He claws himself up from his difficult surroundings to educate himself, find a job, and start a family of his own. While his story is the calm in between Lionel's raging storms, I found him to be a less interesting character, mawkish and dull in his own ways. The book showcases Amis' rich sense of humour, particularly in Lionel's discussions with Des about GILFS (which changes to DILFS when he becomes rich), as well as a Katie Price/Jordan-type character in wannabe-poet/plastic surgery casualty Threnody, a modern day Lady MacBeth with barely any brains. I also liked the faux-newspaper reports on Lionel's antics once he leaves prison and begins spending his money. The novel works best as a study of a character than a plot-driven novel and while I thought that the last third of the book was boring (as well as the ending which remains Amis' biggest weakness as a novelist), the book is definitely worth reading for its unique voice in Lionel Asbo. Moreover it's an enjoyable and funny book to read from one of the most consistently interesting voices in literature today. "Lionel Asbo" is Amis' best novel in years and well worth a look.

  16. 4 out of 5

    F.R.

    Lionel Asbo is an ill-educated, skinhead; a (not very successful) criminal, with two ferocious dogs and a native intelligence that makes him a formidable enemy. He hails from Dilston, an area of London where twelve year old girls are routinely pregnant, and if you live to forty you’re deemed to have had a rich and successful life. Lionel himself is much bigger and more thuggish than life and dominates any room he enters, so that when he wins a huge amount of cash on the lottery it’s impossible f Lionel Asbo is an ill-educated, skinhead; a (not very successful) criminal, with two ferocious dogs and a native intelligence that makes him a formidable enemy. He hails from Dilston, an area of London where twelve year old girls are routinely pregnant, and if you live to forty you’re deemed to have had a rich and successful life. Lionel himself is much bigger and more thuggish than life and dominates any room he enters, so that when he wins a huge amount of cash on the lottery it’s impossible for anyone in the country to ignore him. If the younger Martin Amis has conjured up this character he may have produced a comic creation to match Keith Talent, but things don’t work quite as well for the more mature Amis. The character of Lionel is well captured. I’ve met people like Lionel Asbo. Yet the world around him is nowhere near as well drawn as it should have been. In his high-up literary bubble, it doesn’t seem that Amis is prepared to get his hands dirty enough to really capture Lionel’s world. As such the area of Dilston remains vague and ill-defined, when it should really be a human jungle; while all the other characters – with the exception of Lionel’s insipid nephew, Desmond – are little better than ciphers. The reviews were (predictably) unkind to this book, with some amusement generated by this resident of New York choosing to write a novel about the state of Britain. However I don’t know if I necessarily buy that argument, as surely the world of this book is just too ridiculous to take seriously – this is a comic novel, not a righteous Daily Mail style diatribe. Clearly the author of ‘Dead Babies’ has not lost the desire the shock (we open with a boy having a passionate affair with his own grandmother), but the whole – despite some funny parts – remains too genteel and civilised to pack much of a punch.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Tolve

    Disappointing really. And in terrible need of an edit. There were times when the prose soared or when the sneering thuggish stupidity of Lionel Asbo was endearing and brutal and funny and savage, or when the frame story of a London thug becoming a lotto lout was enjoyably engaging, but on the whole the book had too much and too little. Too much of glossing over years, when nothing of note happened, or when lots of things happened yet were reduced to one liners. And too little of real character d Disappointing really. And in terrible need of an edit. There were times when the prose soared or when the sneering thuggish stupidity of Lionel Asbo was endearing and brutal and funny and savage, or when the frame story of a London thug becoming a lotto lout was enjoyably engaging, but on the whole the book had too much and too little. Too much of glossing over years, when nothing of note happened, or when lots of things happened yet were reduced to one liners. And too little of real character development to make us believe that the characters were real and feeling and worthwhile, rather than the puppets of a writer desperate to make a wry and witty satire of his native England. The pity of it is that I saw Amis read this at the book's big release in Brooklyn, on the East river waterfront, and his reading was so insipid and scattered that I almost thought better of buying the book and having him sign it. "Money," I feared at the time and now know for certain in retrospect, would have been a much better investment.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Will Ansbacher

    In need of some light relief, I turned to the highly-acclaimed Lionel Asbo. The setting is Diston, a bleak and wasted London suburb; Lionel is a thuggish lout with two pitbulls to help him in his unspecified “business”; his foil is his saccharine-sweet nephew Des, (although he does have a dark secret that he is desperate to keep from Lionel) and Des’s relationship with the equally-cloying Dawn. This is a satire on the current State of England, so should be sharp and make you laugh a lot. And al In need of some light relief, I turned to the highly-acclaimed Lionel Asbo. The setting is Diston, a bleak and wasted London suburb; Lionel is a thuggish lout with two pitbulls to help him in his unspecified “business”; his foil is his saccharine-sweet nephew Des, (although he does have a dark secret that he is desperate to keep from Lionel) and Des’s relationship with the equally-cloying Dawn. This is a satire on the current State of England, so should be sharp and make you laugh a lot. And although there are some witty lines, for the most part LA seems neither sharp nor very funny. Amis treats social dysfunction with the finesse of an indignant adolescent (in fact at times I was sure I was reading The Diary of Adrian Mole), and as a result the plot and character development is one-dimensional and not even worthy of a spoiler alert. What saves LA from the Single Star of Doom is Amis’s deft skewering of the tabloid press and their obsession with Bad Boy superstars, for Lionel wins the lottery big time (while in prison) and instantly becomes a national sensation. The simultaneous fawning adulation and hyperbolic, hysterical outrage over Lionel’s lifestyle is done very nicely, and to be honest, I think this is really all that Amis wanted to write about. The rest is a clumsy pastiche of Lionel’s and Des’s lives. And now, in the spirit of the pretentious A Note on the Type – (a bit out of place for a Novel of this Type, I would have thought) – I will end with A Note on the Dialect “The dialogue is set in Diston Fick Modern, a descendant of the venerable Cockney argot. Characterised by mangled voles and mis-afprated consonants, it is now spoken frewout England.” Unfortunately Amis seems unable to carry it off. Instead of actually writing the dialogue as it sounds, which can be hilarious, he “translates” random words, bracketed and italicized – so when Lionel (Loynoo) says something (somefink) it’s repeated like that. The effect is tedious and irritating, and sounds more like an old-school preoccupation with class accents. In short, Asbo is not so much the rapier thrust of satire as it is the concussion of a dead-blow mallet.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    Martin Amis. 5 stars. Always. I'm curious to read the other goodreads reviews of 'Lionel Asbo' because I think if you're not very very familiar with London, or very very interested in London accents, I think this would be a very different book. I'm not saying you HAVE to be familiar with London - it's just that I was always "hearing" Lionel as he spoke, and one of the things I love so much about Martin Amis ( and Kingsley Amis ) is his ear for exact pronunciation. Much of the comedy for me (and Martin Amis. 5 stars. Always. I'm curious to read the other goodreads reviews of 'Lionel Asbo' because I think if you're not very very familiar with London, or very very interested in London accents, I think this would be a very different book. I'm not saying you HAVE to be familiar with London - it's just that I was always "hearing" Lionel as he spoke, and one of the things I love so much about Martin Amis ( and Kingsley Amis ) is his ear for exact pronunciation. Much of the comedy for me (and for Des) comes from the way Lionel says things. "...and now he's finking for a living..." It took Des a moment to work out that Lionel did in fact mean finking (and not thinking). It doesn't sound right, does it, said Dawn. "Euphoria." No, it doesn't. As if he meant to say "euthoria". One of my favourite sentences: "Every time Lionel crashed in at night (as if returning to an empty house ) Des thought how RESTFUL it must be (if you could imagine such a thing) to have no consciousness of others." There are all the Dickens, Fielding and Larkin references (those are just the ones I can spot) and I'm wondering what they mean, if they mean anything. "State of England"? I now read that phrase as in "Look at the state of 'im!" "Blimey! You're in a right old two-and-eight." Perhaps the state of England is what it has always been: ghastly, appalling, violent, squalid but also beautiful, lyrical, magical, inspiring? A million stars for Martin and Christopher.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kieran Mcmahon

    People love Martin Amis; The Guardian's Nicola Barker drools over the ‘the withering coruscation of his writerly stare’ and declares that ‘Amis is the daddy’. The Telegraph's David Annand calls him ‘stylistically unmatched’, The New Statesman's Leo Robson describes him as ‘the most ambitious, seductive and, at 62, promising English novelist of his generation’, Tim Martin speaks of his ‘dazzling catwalk sentences’ and Olivia Cole proclaims ‘there really is only one Martin Amis and like it or not, People love Martin Amis; The Guardian's Nicola Barker drools over the ‘the withering coruscation of his writerly stare’ and declares that ‘Amis is the daddy’. The Telegraph's David Annand calls him ‘stylistically unmatched’, The New Statesman's Leo Robson describes him as ‘the most ambitious, seductive and, at 62, promising English novelist of his generation’, Tim Martin speaks of his ‘dazzling catwalk sentences’ and Olivia Cole proclaims ‘there really is only one Martin Amis and like it or not, we'll all be stealing from him for years to come’. There are times when this love is easy, when The Rachel Papers carries you away with its comic verve and its combination of elegance and insouciant filthiness, when Money takes your breath away with its exhaustively precise post-modern barrage of disposable degeneracy and its blistering sentences. Lionel Asbo is not one of those times. Lionel Asbo is a book about two things, or really a book with two main characters; LIONEL ASBO and DISTON/LONDON/GREAT WORLD CITY. The life of the irredeemably thuggish Lionel and the life of the irredeemably grim Diston, the borough of London in which he lives, offer us a fish and a pond from which we are, according to the books subtitle, supposed to intuit things about the STATE OF ENGLAND. About the City Amis is razor-sharp; Diston ‘white as Belgravia’, ‘with its “foul-mouthed pitbulls, the screeching cats, the grimly milling pigeons’. It’s a place which lends itself easily to the kind of comic bathos that Amis has always excelled at; ‘To evoke the London borough of Diston, we turn to the poetry of Chaos: Each thing hostile/To every other thing: at every point/Hot fought cold, moist dry, soft hard, and the weightless/Resisted weight.’ The character of Lionel Asbo is altogether less piercing. A dog-wielding ‘extremely violent criminal’ who lives at ‘the very hairiest end of debt collection’ and ‘in certain lights and settings he resembled, some said, the England and Manchester United prodigy, striker Wayne Rooney’. Many reviewers have made the Dickens connection and noted that Lionel Asbo is awash with references to Dickens as well as to Tom Jones, Robinson Crusoe and the other classic social novels of the 18th century. According to David Annand this is ‘not only for his close reflection of the society around him. Dickens, he says, dresses up fairy tales in the clothes of social realism (Great Expectations has a wicked witch, Miss Havisham; an unobtainable princess, Estella; and an ogre who is transformed, Magwitch)’. The jacket of Lionel Asbo states that, like Dickens, it’s a modern fairy-tale, and it is perhaps for this reason that Lionel Asbo is such a jarringly preposterous character. For all his initial menace and illiterate lumbering he is neither a properly scary lowlife nor a believable human being, he's merely a bit weird. Lionel’s fairy-tale begins when, whilst in prison, he wins the lottery. This allows him to leave the flat he shares with his nephew Desmond Pepperdine and embark upon a new hotel surfing, lobster-eating life, inaugurating him as a red-top mainstay and, later on, one half of a riff-raff celebrity couple. The relationship with Desmond is the crux of the novel. Desmond occupies a liminal social and moral space between the squalid milieu of his uncle Lionel and an upward mobility; he has university aspirations. Desmond though, bears no imprint whatsoever of any of the cultural climates in which a young person might have lived in the last ten years. He writes letters to newspapers when he could post them online and hardly uses the internet at all. He has no friends, social networked or otherwise, and never emerges from the page with anything like a recognisable personality. His girlfriend Dawn is similarly translucent and teflon-coated, they talk about their money worries and they talk about Lionel and they have a baby and seem to exist for no other purpose than to do sensible things, in contrast to Lionel's stupid things. Their lives are desperately normal. The thin element of tension in their lives is provided by a sordid liaison between Desmond and his grandmother but it is so heavy-handedly trailed and draped over the story that the big unveiling is neither big nor revealing. There is a hint of a gruesome grand guignol ending which may have been more interesting that the actual ending, but Amis doubles back and walks calmly away, into dull sentimentality. There is much about this book that is mystifying. Although Amis’s facility for luxuriant sentences is much in evidence, it seems that plot, character, insight, even simple research, is all left threadbare in favour of it. I didn't find Lionel Asbo very funny or offensive;in fact it's quite tame. If he wanted to be extreme he doesn’t go nearly far enough. There are, at several points in the book, a few tantalising seconds of some unspecified and unspeakable horror, not quite visible beyond a slamming door. These are the closest we get to truly spine-shivering moments, and they are unfortunately only hints of what might have been. WHAT HAPPENS: Thug wins lottery in prison, becomes celebrity, learns nothing. IN A WORD: Misfire. WHY READ?: For the occasional verbal fireworks. WHY NOT?: Paper-thin plot, piss-weak characters, out of touch satire. Olivia Cole in GQ: ‘As combative and as vicious as ever, skewering the noughties as cruelly, as inventively and with as much screwy black comedy as he did in Money did the Eighties.’ ‘Verbal hand grenade.’ Sameer Rahin in The Daily Telegraph: ‘Lionel Asbo is one of Amis’s best novels for years because he feels such a wicked affinity with his central character.’ ‘Makes you laugh on nearly every page.’ Nicola Barker in The Guardian: ‘Amis is the daddy.’ ‘Is this an offensive book? Hell, yes. Deeply. But then maybe modern England needs offending. Is this a readable book? It's a Big Mac made from filet mignon.’ ‘It is every inch the novel that we all deserve. So let's give thanks that Martin Amis was bad enough and brave enough to write it.’ David Annand in The Daily Telegraph: ‘Stylistically unmatched.’ ‘There are hints, too, of a new sensitivity.’ ‘Incapable of writing an inelegant line.’ ‘None of the ambition of Money or London Fields.’ ‘A cheap, cloth-eared dig at the underclass.’ Leo Robson in The New Statesman: ‘A contentedly throwaway piece of work.’ Tim Martin in The Guardian: ‘Being this out of touch doesn’t bode well for what’s clearly intended as a state-of-the-nation novel.’ ‘However grotesque and refracted; as it is, long stretches come off either as daft Little Britain cliché or as reactionary bluster.’ D.J. Taylor in The Independent: ‘Had me roaring with laughter.’ ‘Martin Amis is one of those writers about whom it is increasingly difficult to find anything worth saying.’ Theo Tait in The Guardian: ‘Sentimentally incontinent’ ‘Lionel Asbo isn't a book that you'd press into someone's hands, like Money or The Rachel Papers.’ ‘A thin comedy plot collides with dark, fevered visions, along with some deeply emotional, transparently autobiographical material.’ ‘A clueless foray into popular culture and working-class life, conducted with Amis's trademark gaudy, repetitive insistence.’ ‘A serious relapse.’ Emma Brockes in The Guardian: ‘With a few big exceptions – the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books have yet to pronounce – most of the US reviews for Lionel Asbo, Martin Amis's latest novel, are in. And they're not pretty.’

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Martin Amis recently abandoned London for Brooklyn, and now he’s published a satire of Britain’s moral decrepitude subtitled “State of England.” Just a coincidence, Amis claims, but naturally the Brits are feeling a bit stung by this one-two punch. And if “Lionel Asbo” is the sort of ham-fisted novel we get in the bargain, maybe we should send him back. Amis’s previous offering, “The Pregnant Widow,” was a flawed book laced with one brilliant, witty sentence after another. Unfortunately, “Lionel Martin Amis recently abandoned London for Brooklyn, and now he’s published a satire of Britain’s moral decrepitude subtitled “State of England.” Just a coincidence, Amis claims, but naturally the Brits are feeling a bit stung by this one-two punch. And if “Lionel Asbo” is the sort of ham-fisted novel we get in the bargain, maybe we should send him back. Amis’s previous offering, “The Pregnant Widow,” was a flawed book laced with one brilliant, witty sentence after another. Unfortunately, “Lionel Asbo” is a far more meager meal. The story opens with a bloom of grotesque comedy: A 15-year-old orphan named Des Pepperdine is in a relationship with an older woman. “The sex is fantastic and I think I’m in love,” Des writes to a newspaper advice columnist. “But ther’es one very serious complication and i’ts this; shes’ my Gran!” As he readily admits, “It’s not an ideal situation,” but incest and statutory rape are only minor concerns; Des’s real problem is that if his uncle Lionel Asbo finds out, he’ll kill him. Welcome to the fictional borough of London called Diston, “where calamity made its rounds like a postman.” The schoolchildren — “all morbidly obese” — suffer from diseases not seen elsewhere in years. This is a place famous for its “auto-repair yards, sawmills, and tanneries, and for its lawless traffic . . . its burping, magmatic canal, its fizzy low-rise pylons, its buzzing waste.” The most outrageous character in this hellhole is Des’s guardian, Lionel Asbo, a Dickensian contraption of implacable muscle. “Des saw his uncle every day,” Amis writes, “and Lionel was always one size bigger than expected.” The teeth in his giant bald skull are broadly spaced, like “a cut-out pumpkin on Halloween.” British readers will hear Lionel’s last name as an acronym for Anti-Social Behavior Order, a kind of restraining order introduced by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to combat everything from swearing to arson. Lionel set a national record when he was arrested at age 3. Since then, he’s grown into a shocking thug, “a subsistence criminal” who crashes through life accompanied — during brief respites from prison — by two psychotic pit bulls that he keeps hyped up on liquor and Tabasco sauce. “They not pets,” Lionel reminds his nephew. “They tools of me trade.” The first section jangles along with some broad comedy and even offers a little suspense as Des tries — with deadly repercussions — to keep Uncle Asbo from discovering his tryst with Gran. There’s something sweet about this bright young man and his “anti-dad,” his “counterfather.” Asbo doesn’t understand his bookish nephew — “Do something useful,” he tells him. “Steal a car” — but he watches out for the boy and allows him to grow up under the protection of his citywide terror. The novel quickly falls apart, though, when Lionel wins 140 million pounds in the lottery and becomes a national media sensation. “It’s like a fairy tale,” Des tells his uncle, but it’s actually like a wheezing burlesque show about the crude desires of an ignorant, violent man and London’s appetite for reading about him. Rowdy reporters and paparazzi follow the “Lotto Lout” from brothel to brawl as he storms around in his “shahtoosh dinner jacket (woven from the wool of the chiru, an endangered Tibetan antelope).” His grasping brothers slither in to get their share, but Lionel won’t give them a pence as he enjoys a lunch that costs thousands of pounds, orders a Bentley and moves into a 30-room Gothic mansion built during the 14th century. His crass new girlfriend is a half-silicone creature named “Threnody,” who publishes saccharine poetry and hawks a line of “intimate garmenture.” “Glamour and myself are virtually synonymous,” she tells the Daily Mail. Don’t low-bred people say the darndest things!? I haven’t laughed so hard since my butler got his head stuck in a bucket. Even Lionel’s accent is over-mined for comic effect, as though Amis were Henry Higgins shaking his head over Eliza Doolittle’s dialect: “Truck: pronounced truc-kuh (with a glottal stop on the terminal plosive.). . . . ‘Labyrinth’, for instance came out as labyrinf, rather than the expected labyrimf.” A little of this goes a long way (pronounced “a looong way”). As Amis’s class mockery curdles, we’re left with a misanthropic vision of human suffering compounded by venality and lust. The novel’s meandering middle section has the grating tone of an episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies” sketched on the back of an envelope by England’s finest stylist. If only Amis watched more TV, he’d know from “Roseanne” just how badly things go when a crass lower-class family wins the lottery: 1. Describe an outrageous purchase. 2. Describe a hilarious misunderstanding. 3. Repeat until ratings crash. The problem is really one of initiative, even effort. In “Super Sad True Love Story,” you could smell Gary Shteyngart sweat as he labored to keep his outrageous satire one step ahead of dismal current events. Here, Amis seems unwilling to exert more effort than it would take to change the channel from “Jersey Shore” to “Half Pint Brawlers.” He’s ambling years behind The Situation and the Kardashians, serving up blanched stereotypes on the silver platter of his prose as though it contained enough spice to entertain or even shock. “You go numb,” Lionel tells his nephew. “Not happy. Not sad. Numb.” Halfway through, persistent readers will feel the same way. Does any other truly great writer make us wonder whether his brilliant parts are worth the wearisome whole? Almost every page in “Lionel Asbo” contains an example of Amis’s marvelous style, from “the muscular violence that lies in coiled clouds” to “the unlooked-for prettiness of young wasps” to Lionel dressed as the “supervillain in a risque cartoon.” Hearing the details of his uncle’s sex life, Des “felt that a damp cobweb was being dragged across his face.” And at the end, Amis offers a surprisingly tender portrayal of a new father’s love — a section that echoes the author’s recent statements about the delights of parenthood that he’s rediscovered late in life. But enduring this frayed satire for these moments of pleasure is a deal only the most devoted Amis fans should accept.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    Mitch Hedberg used to joke that people either liked him, hated him, or thought he was okay. Given Martin Amis’ penchant for satire utilizing characters who are unlikable grotesques, it’s safe to say there aren’t many people in the third category for his novels. In his latest, Lionel Asbo, he’s kind enough to divide people right from the book’s opening lines, which describe Desmond (“Des”), a 15-year-old boy, having an affair with his 39-year-old grandmother, Grace. The affair is short-lived, but Mitch Hedberg used to joke that people either liked him, hated him, or thought he was okay. Given Martin Amis’ penchant for satire utilizing characters who are unlikable grotesques, it’s safe to say there aren’t many people in the third category for his novels. In his latest, Lionel Asbo, he’s kind enough to divide people right from the book’s opening lines, which describe Desmond (“Des”), a 15-year-old boy, having an affair with his 39-year-old grandmother, Grace. The affair is short-lived, but the fear and shame of it stay with Des forever, particularly since his uncle and caretaker, Lionel, a violent, semi-crazed career criminal, makes his mother’s lovers either disappear or bleed profusely. The novel is centered on Des and Lionel’s relationship, with most of the narrative thrust coming from Lionel’s transition from a two-bit criminal into a national celebrity after he wins around 140 million pounds from a lottery ticket he stole from someone he assaulted. Overnight, he’s given alliterative nicknames like “the Lotto Lout,” starts dating another faux celebrity whose name requires quotation marks (“Threnody”), and living in a stately mansion he names after the jail he’s spent so much time in. Lionel Asbo has been pretty widely panned for a whole variety of reasons, with reviwers primarily claiming that it pales in comparison to Amis’ other novels (particularly Money) or noting that the “worthless person becomes tabloid celebrity” plot feels like a decade-late critique of reality TV culture, but I haven’t read enough Amis to feel the former, and I liked the writing, characters, and humor too much to agree with the latter. The biggest problem may have been that awful subtitle, “State of England,” which implies A Serious Look At London Today, With Much Tsk-Tsking And Clucking Of Tongues About How Yesteryear Was Ever So Much Better that fortunately isn’t in the book. Instead, there’s a dynamic established between Des, who turns out to be incredibly sweet (despite the affair), who is slowly succeeding through hard work and education, and Lionel, whose violent and sociopathic nature is always threatening to ruin all that he has as well as everything Des has worked for. There’s a great deal of tension created by Lionel’s unpredictability and dangerousness, and at the same time, Amis’s hyperbolic portrayal of Lionel’s evil nature (e.g., he’s first arrested at age 3; he changes his last name to “ASBO” to reflect his diagnosis with Anti-Social Behavior Order) makes it clear that the satire’s fairly tongue-in-cheek. I found it funny, well-written, and very enjoyable, but maybe I just need to read Money so I can complain about everything else Amis has ever done.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Judith

    I know this book has been generally panned if not blasted by the reviewers but I enjoyed it very much. I have always been a Martin Amis fan though I have also criticized a fair number of his books myself. This one I found genuinely fascinating. The basic storyline is that a nasty thug wins the lottery in between his many prison terms. When I read the reviews I pictured this guy as a colorful petty thief who might be redeemed by the great windfall. I was surprised to discover that he was a really I know this book has been generally panned if not blasted by the reviewers but I enjoyed it very much. I have always been a Martin Amis fan though I have also criticized a fair number of his books myself. This one I found genuinely fascinating. The basic storyline is that a nasty thug wins the lottery in between his many prison terms. When I read the reviews I pictured this guy as a colorful petty thief who might be redeemed by the great windfall. I was surprised to discover that he was a really bad person as well as a criminal, with only one minor redeeming quality. He took his nephew under his wing when his sister (the boy's mother) died. He wasn't really very nice to him, but he did provide protection from other thugs. The story was well-written, the characters fully formed, and the setting deeply moving. I have no hesitation in highly recommending it. Please don't read anymore of this review if you intend to read the book because I have to ask the general Goodreads population a question about this book that is driving me crazy. How did baby Cilla get into the trash can? And why were the dogs outside on the balcony by the time Desmond reached the kitchen? (assuming that someone had let them in.)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    One detail I loved: the title character, Lionel Asbo, dates a woman names "Threnody" (the quotation marks are part of the name). We learn that the press sometimes refers to them as Thrionel, or even "Thr"ionel. "Thr"ionel is fantastic! One detail I loved: the title character, Lionel Asbo, dates a woman names "Threnody" (the quotation marks are part of the name). We learn that the press sometimes refers to them as Thrionel, or even "Thr"ionel. "Thr"ionel is fantastic!

  25. 4 out of 5

    George

    Is this book a social satire or a modern fairytale? A work of entertaining fiction or an attempt to tackle some of the prevalent issues of modern British society? Perhaps it can be all of those. 'Lionel Asbo' is a novel from an author who seems to never fail to stoke up some kind of sentiment and comment -- be it positive or negative. It becomes apparent from the first chapter that you, as a reader, are in the hands of an exquisite and masterful writer whose understanding of language is above and Is this book a social satire or a modern fairytale? A work of entertaining fiction or an attempt to tackle some of the prevalent issues of modern British society? Perhaps it can be all of those. 'Lionel Asbo' is a novel from an author who seems to never fail to stoke up some kind of sentiment and comment -- be it positive or negative. It becomes apparent from the first chapter that you, as a reader, are in the hands of an exquisite and masterful writer whose understanding of language is above and beyond the norm. A renowned lover of words, Martin Amis focuses his ability, in this latest work of his, on a part of England that many would consider to be 'low-life'; the text seems to present the reader not with a judgement regarding social tiers but a multi-faceted portrait (typically Amisian -- warts-and-all, caricature etc.) that challenges the reader to form his or her own opinion. For me, that's brilliant. The tale is set in Distin Town, a fictional suburb of London in which no one seems to live to see the age of sixty, the winters are 'medievally cold', pylons seem to stretch across the terrain - along with high-rise tower blocks of flats - and crime (of most kinds) is a normality. Distin is a place where 'nothing really out of the ordinary happened', we are informed a number of times, but it is where the 'ordinary' is a mix of social lows, criminal extremes and futile dreams. It's where none of us want to live but where a lot of us seem societally forced to. The main characters: The eponymous Lionel Asbo, a twenty-something ex-young offender who views prison as a place to get your mind sorted and crime as a way to rebalance the economic inequality between the rich and the poor -- a street-savvy, inglorious English bloke who loves a can of Cobra, KFC, and psychopathic pitbulls, and changed his name from Pepperdine to Asbo (inspired by the British Anti-Social Behaviour Order) because he felt that it suited him better. On the other hand we have Desmond Pepperdine, Lionel's nephew -- a 15 year old at the start of the novel -- who, while growing up amidst more-or-less the same culture, harbours ambitions of going to study at university and doing something worthwhile with his life; of opening his mind and enhancing his intelligence. Already, at the beginning of the novel, we're presented with two people who differ from one another but relying upon each other for emotional (to an extent) and economic support as well as for company. They're family in the bog of Distin. And although the characterisation appears to set the reader up against Lionel and in favour of Desmond there are aspects of each's life and story that continually make us doubt: Desmond (or Des) engages in an early and secret affair with his own gran Grace -- Lionel's mother -- which creates an incestual haunting that stays throughout the story and is constantly in the background; and Lionel, for all his flaws and crimes, is slightly redeemed by the audience's awareness of his unfortunate social circumstances from birth and the way that he serves as a guardian-like surrogate father to the orphaned Des. The novel picks up once Lionel Asbo, serving time in the West London prison Wormwood Scrubs after causing a mass brawl at a wedding (the finest set-piece in the novel -- a fantastic chapter), discovers that he is the lottery winner of a huge £140,000,000 and enters the public life as 'Lotto Lout'. (Does that ring any bells?). This crucial event triggers a great shift in the tale and an abundance of questions about class division, social prejudices and discrimination, the distortion and pollution of the mass media, the influence of money, and much more. Without explicitly doing so, and forcing themes into your mind, the portrait of culture offers an interpretation of the modern 'world city' and forces an inquiry into its structure, morals, and integrity. While the novel is enjoyable on a lot of levels -- it can be hilariously relevant, satirically brilliant, and also bitingly "real" -- I found that, at some points, the questions that the text asks aren't always pursued or fully explored. I grew into liking the different characters in the novel -- a fantastic cast of individuals -- but at times I thought that the novel dragged along slowly and relied upon the technical excellence of its prose style to keep me, as a reader, interested. Perhaps these are minor flaws; I reckon that they are worth stating though. Overall I'd recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good, intelligent read, and an interesting view into contemporary English culture, and I think that the flaws of the book (that I found) aren't enough to detract from its greater quality. An enjoyable British novel, whilst also being thought-provoking and wryly observant -- it's not your standard story and may be a rare gem that stays in your mind for quite a while afterwards.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A very enjoyable novel, despite what it's about. The cover flap informs me that Amis is living in Brooklyn. This is downright shocking and surreal. Rather than hearing that Joyce lived in Trieste, it's more like hearing something crazy - like Orwell lived in San Francisco (he didn't) or Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World while vacationing in Hawaii (he didn't), or that the novels of Evelyn Waugh were actually just senior high school class projects by the graduating class of Akron, Ohio, over th A very enjoyable novel, despite what it's about. The cover flap informs me that Amis is living in Brooklyn. This is downright shocking and surreal. Rather than hearing that Joyce lived in Trieste, it's more like hearing something crazy - like Orwell lived in San Francisco (he didn't) or Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World while vacationing in Hawaii (he didn't), or that the novels of Evelyn Waugh were actually just senior high school class projects by the graduating class of Akron, Ohio, over the course of 3 decades (they were). However, I think that this fact, of Amis living, waking up, reading the newspaper and watching the news, in America, goes towards explaining why this novel exists. Amis is more disgusted with England than he usually is, and perhaps this novel is his attempt to disabuse people of the notion that England is a place a bit like Downton Abbey, and that London is still Conan Doyle's London, or some weird amalgam of the Beatles' "swinging sixties" and a Dickens novel. It isn't. Most of metropolitan London is as nasty, polluted, and garbage strewn as any horrible American downtown. It's offensively overpriced, to the point that prices seem like they are inflated just to get a shock out of people. e.g., I've seen a family spend £600 on a single shopping cart of groceries at Waitrose, and over by Sloan street its Maseratis and Lambos up and down the street, many of them the color of florescent hi-liters. Despite the prices, nothing in London looks very nice, and the architecture had me considering a life of crime. Anyway, I wonder what Amis thinks of Brooklyn? Where does he live? Can you picture him riding the L train through Brooklyn, getting off on dirty 3rd Avenue to stroll down to St. Marks Bookstore? Do hipsters spot him at the Bedford stop? Does he have to buy groceries & produce at the corner bodega that's 110 Fahrenheit in the summer, maybe cooling off with one of those 99¢ Ice Teas in a can in the horrible sun (intensified by all that concrete), as the elevated subway trains go screeching past overheard? What neighborhood could he POSSIBLY fit in? The answer is "none". Anyway, while this book has received a critical hammering, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/... http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n12/adam-mar... (it was his turn to be out of fashion, wait another 10 years and he'll be back in the limelight), it is a fully functional Amis novel. And by that, I mean, an unmissable, essential work of fiction by a master of language and storytelling, more enjoyable than The Pregnant Widow or his other recent work, and perhaps up there with his best, which is Time's Arrow, The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000, and The Information. The ending was decently climactic, and Amis excels not just in his dexterous descriptions, but in his expressions of human feelings. While these feelings are most often disgust, guilt, revulsion, and portrayals of thoroughly horrible people, like Dickens, his grotesque characters instill some type of edifying message to the reviled reader. At least I hope.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chris Gager

    I just started last night, going from "Jane Eyre" to this. Quite a change but we're still in England, just in a different "part". Very entertaining so far and surprisingly poignant. All the lingo is a bit dense to an American and I suspect to many English people too. No doubt MA owes a debt to Anthony Burgess... rogan josh - Persian lamb dish I could have sworn that Mean Mr. Mustard kept a ten-MARK(not bob) note up his nose... Oh well? Acc. to the interweb it is "bob," but I'm holding out. What doe I just started last night, going from "Jane Eyre" to this. Quite a change but we're still in England, just in a different "part". Very entertaining so far and surprisingly poignant. All the lingo is a bit dense to an American and I suspect to many English people too. No doubt MA owes a debt to Anthony Burgess... rogan josh - Persian lamb dish I could have sworn that Mean Mr. Mustard kept a ten-MARK(not bob) note up his nose... Oh well? Acc. to the interweb it is "bob," but I'm holding out. What does "selling on" mean relative to "reset"??? Almost done as Lionel struggles to cope with his new life. The satire of the "New" English culture is relentless but I'm more interested in the fate of Lionel. Can he change? Is he change-able? Will he have to pay for his sins in a previous life? Amis gets that a brutalising social/cultural background can and will produce narcissistic and often destructive personalities. Li's intelligence and compassion are wan but growing but can they save him(and others) from disaster? We'll see. There's and obvious link between this book and "The Information" in which the character of the psycho criminal Scozzie is important. He and Lionel are very similar but Uncle Li has a bit more going for him humanity-wise. Lionel reminds me of Christopher Walken's character in the movie "At Close Range". Good movie but not well known and a real downer. All done now and I'll not reveal which of Lionel's warring selves wins out. It's a hard book to rate. MA's a fun writer to read but at what point do we look for more than style and light entertainment? What's to be done about English culture? Who knows I suppose, but books aren't likely going to save it. And don't get me started on our own mess in America. I have to give a 3.75* for the fun read. That makes it barely a 4*. I've been thinking a bit about Lionel's last hideous act and I'm wondering how credible the logic of it really is. A point too far perhaps? A stretch?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Beaulieu

    Oh Martin Amis! He's funny, he's angry, he's cynical, he's got an eye for the absurdity of modern life - what's not to love? Sadly for me, this book. I liked it, yes. But Lionel himself is so terrifying, I could not enjoy the humor (and there's alot of humor that I saw, but just couldn't laugh at, as I was too busy trembling.) There is a scene with Lionel and a lobster that had me gasping for breath laughing - but that was the only one - I guess because poor Desmond was nowhere to be found in th Oh Martin Amis! He's funny, he's angry, he's cynical, he's got an eye for the absurdity of modern life - what's not to love? Sadly for me, this book. I liked it, yes. But Lionel himself is so terrifying, I could not enjoy the humor (and there's alot of humor that I saw, but just couldn't laugh at, as I was too busy trembling.) There is a scene with Lionel and a lobster that had me gasping for breath laughing - but that was the only one - I guess because poor Desmond was nowhere to be found in that scene, so I could relax a little bit. At the end I was just flipping pages reading as quickly as I could, my heart up in my throat, hoping for the best for poor Desmond. So, I was definitely drawn in and invested ... I just feel - drained, that's the word. It was a harrowing experience. I could have used a little more laughing, less terror. But that's just me. The man, he can write. And the scene with the lobster almost makes up for anything else. (Actually, after thinking about it, I wish I had just looked at the last few pages, found out what happens and gotten it over with, and then after adjusting, I could have read perhaps with less dread. That's what I would recommend if you're reading and having trouble. Because it is funny, and a delightful skewering of things we all hate, if you can just get out from under that constant menace ....)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mick O'Dwyer

    Read this while on a break in Cumbria, far from the concrete peripheries of Lionel Asbo's world; those blocky towers of faulty lifts and sodden pisswells of historical insignificance. I hadn't read Amis before, so this was a wonderfully spiteful introduction to his work. Asbo's a thoroughly distasteful character, full of short rages and indignant justification and petty selfishness. There is a fascination with watching someone get everything they want, only to discover that it leaves them numb t Read this while on a break in Cumbria, far from the concrete peripheries of Lionel Asbo's world; those blocky towers of faulty lifts and sodden pisswells of historical insignificance. I hadn't read Amis before, so this was a wonderfully spiteful introduction to his work. Asbo's a thoroughly distasteful character, full of short rages and indignant justification and petty selfishness. There is a fascination with watching someone get everything they want, only to discover that it leaves them numb to everything they thought they wanted to be. Having Lionel win over one hundred million pounds is fun, seeing him struggle to define himself afterwards - even with the help of PR experts who massage his more public fuck ups - is well worth the read. The humour on display, while at times savage and mocking, has some delightful phrases that surprise with the bitter and sad after-taste of what might have been or what could still be ... If anyone cared enough. The only downside is that it all seems so effortless to Amis. Having such a contemptible main character allows you to shoot fish in a barrel all day long, which could become rather boring. Amis isn't boring, but neither do I think he is really stretching himself.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Roderick

    On a recent interview I heard Martin Amis say, "When one examines my writing they will notice that one thing I never write about is the middle-class. I have no interest in the middle-class. I either write about the upper-class or the criminal element of society." I won't expand on the plot or characters since enough people have done that here already, but I will say that this book was much more engaging and enjoyable than THE PREGNANT WIDOW. LIONEL ASBO: STATE OF ENGLAND was far more enjoyable t On a recent interview I heard Martin Amis say, "When one examines my writing they will notice that one thing I never write about is the middle-class. I have no interest in the middle-class. I either write about the upper-class or the criminal element of society." I won't expand on the plot or characters since enough people have done that here already, but I will say that this book was much more engaging and enjoyable than THE PREGNANT WIDOW. LIONEL ASBO: STATE OF ENGLAND was far more enjoyable than what I was expecting based upon the reviews I had read from both the North American and British literary circles and audiences. Being a public school teacher in New York City, I don't think the characters and problems Amis addresses in this novel are unique to England. Amis' fictional setting of Diston inhabits many of the same problems, characters, and social issues of any westernized inner city. Many parts of ASBO were very funny and, despite an obviously different narrative, there were even shades of what Burgess addressed in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Although this wasn't as engaging as Amis' other previous novels such as MONEY or TIMES ARROW, but it was a big step forward from THE PREGNANT WIDOW. This was very much worth the read!

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