State of England
By Martin Amis
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307948083, 272pp.)
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
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Des Pepperdine is a boy out of place. He lives on the thirty-third floor of a London housing project; while his peers pick fights, Des retreats to the public library. What’s more, Des’s uncle and guardian, Lionel Asbo, is one of the most notorious petty criminals in the city. Yet Lionel, full of inept devotion to his nephew, dutifully teaches Des the essentials of becoming a man (always carry a knife; pornography is easier than dating; pit bulls should be fed Tabasco sauce). To survive these lessons, Des seeks solace in a covert romantic union that would fill Lionel with rage. But just as Des begins to lead a healthier life, Lionel wins £140 million in the lottery. The money ushers in a public-relations firm for Lionel, along with a cannily ambitious topless model–poet. Through it all, Lionel remains his vicious, oddly loyal self, and his problems, as well as Des’s, only seem to multiply. By turns outrageous and touching, Lionel Asbo is an exuberant Dickensian satire of crime, celebrity, and modern culture.
MARTIN AMIS is the author of twelve previous novels, the memoir Experience, two collections of stories and six of nonfiction. He lives in Brooklyn.
“Amis is a force unto himself. . . . There is, quite simply, no one else like him.” —The Washington Post
“One of Amis’s funniest novels.” —The New Yorker
“Amis’s language is electric, his wit as sharp and precise than it has been in a decade.” —USA Today
“Full of heart and warmth . . . an unexpected reward for readers.” —People
“At heart an old-fashioned novel. . . . Amis is, like Dickens, an insistently moral writer, satire being an edifying genre with a noble cause: the improvement of society.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Breathtaking. . . . A great big confidence trick of a novel—an attack that turns into an embrace—a book that looks at us, laughs at us, looks at us harder, closer, and laughs at us harder and still more savagely. 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.” —The Guardian (London)
“Shockingly, savagely funny. . . . Martin Amis represents the best of contemporary British literature—serious, hilarious, unsettling and provocative.” —Huffington Post
“Lionel Asbo bears a strong resemblance to the trio of novels . . . that made Amis’ reputation. . . . But Lionel Asbo may be even better than these ambitious works of fiction, more disciplined, funnier and more inventive. . . . To say that it is a return to form is an understatement—it might be his finest work.” —The Denver Post
“Full of Amis’ trademark virtuoso prose and wit. . . . Technically brilliant, dazzling in style, manic in energy and driven by a narrative momentum impossible to resist.” —The Toronto Star
“Little in fiction is more entertaining than Martin Amis at his pithy best. . . . ‘Lionel Asbo: State of England’ posits plenty of pith and cutting cultural criticism. It is wild. It is whacked. . . . [It] swings between wildly funny and harshly real.” —The Plain Dealer
“Amis’ portrait of someone who feeds Tabasco-splashed meat to his pit bulls in order to enrage them and toughen them up is surprisingly tender. . . . Fond, too, is Amis’ approach to Asbo’s mixed-race nephew, who serves as the vehicle for the moral conclusion of what in form is in fact not satire but a fairytale . . . Amis’ plea . . . would seem to be that nobody is beyond redemption.” —The Daily Beast
“An Amis sentence is mordant and coruscating, unpredictable and unruly, its own singular music. No surprise, these creations gather into paragraphs of propulsive insights, mini-essays in satiric spin and compression. There may be no better paragraph writer in the language, either. . . . The novel mingles in genuine characters with the usual comedic grotesques, and is tender, almost earnest, in its emotions.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Crackles with brilliant prose and scathing satire. . . . He riffs like a jazz master, in and out of vernacular, with brief gusts of description, all driven by a tight bass line of suspense.” —Publishers Weekly
“In his 13th novel—one of his most compulsively readable—wily, dead-on satirist and consummate artist Martin Amis is grandly acerbic, funny and unnerving. . . . With crisp insights, rollicking storytelling and acrobatic wit, Amis has created a peppery, topsy-turvy Pygmalion fable and hilarious dismantlement of our cherished rags-to-riches fantasy.” —Kansas City Star
“This deliciously shivery, sly, and taunting page-turner provokes a fresh assessment of the poverty of place, mind, and spirit and the wondrous blossoming of against-all-odds goodness.” —Booklist