By Martin Amis
(Vintage Books, Paperback, 9781400077274, 352pp.)
Publication Date: January 4, 2005
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When "dream husband" Xan Meo is vengefully assaulted in the garden of a London pub, he suffers head injury, and personality change. Like a spiritual convert, the familial paragon becomes an anti-husband, an anti-father. He submits to an alien moral system -- one among many to be found in these pages. We are introduced to the inverted worlds of the "yellow" journalist, Clint Smoker; the high priest of hardmen, Joseph Andrews; and the porno tycoon, Cora Susan. Meanwhile, we explore the entanglements of Henry England: his incapacitated wife, Pamela; his Chinese mistress, He Zhezun; his fifteen-year-old daughter, Victoria, the victim of a filmed "intrusion" that rivets the world -- because she is the future Queen of England, and her father, Henry IX, is its King. The connections between these characters provide the pattern and drive of Yellow Dog.
If, in the 21st century, the moral reality is changing, then the novel is changing too, whether it likes it or not. Yellow Dog is a model of how the novel, or more particularly the comic novel, can respond to this transformation.
But Martin Amis is also concerned here with what is changeless and perhaps unchangeable. Patriarchy, and the entire edifice of masculinity; the enormous category-error of violence, arising between man and man; the tortuous alliances between men and women; and the vanished dream (probably always an illusion, but now a clear delusion) that we can protect our future and our progeny.
"Meo heard no footsteps; what he heard was the swish, the shingly soft-shoe of the hefted sap. Then the sharp two-finger prod on his shoulder. It wasn't meant to happen like this. They expected him to turn and he didn't turn -- he half-turned, then veered and ducked. So the blow intended merely to break his cheekbone or his jawbone was instead received by the cranium, that spacey bulge (in this instance still quite marriageably forested) where so many delicate and important powers are so trustingly encased.
He crashed, he crunched to his knees, in obliterating defeat. . . . "-- from Yellow Dog
"From the Hardcover edition.