(Guardian UK) The writer Martin Amis, who has died aged 73 of oesophageal cancer, delighted, provoked, inspired and outraged readers of his fiction, reportage and memoirs across a literary career that set off like a rocket and went on to dazzle, streak and burn for almost 50 years.
Well, if you can get that said about you when you’ve left this world, you’ve pretty much done okay. And if you want to know the bits and pieces of his life there are plenty of better obituaries than I could write.
For me, the famous of our lives are best examined by their quotations
Do I want to know of Churchill’s dreary days at the Admiralty? Do I give a damn that his wife was American? Not likely, show me what he said. And so it is with Martin Amis, a top-drawer wordsmith. Here are a few I treasure:
“Probably human cruelty is fixed and eternal. Only styles change.”
“Love is an abstract noun, something nebulous. And yet love turns out to be the only part of us that is solid, as the world turns upside down and the screen goes black.”
“And meanwhile time goes about its immemorial work of making everyone look and feel like shit.”
How can you know a man you’ve never met better than by his words?
A few more:
“Closure is a greasy little word which, moreover, describes a nonexistent condition. The truth, Venus, is that nobody gets over anything.”
“You can kill time in a number of ways but it always depends on the kind of time you’re fighting: some time is unkillable, immortal.”
“The first thing that distinguishes a writer is that he is most alive when alone.”
“He didn’t want to please his readers. He wanted to stretch them until they twanged.”
“It was the tiredness of time lived, with its days and days. It was the tiredness of gravity- gravity, which wants you down in the center of the earth.”
And a note on war, in a time of war:
“They did more than take our youth away. They also took away the men we were going to be.”
And how will we remember him?
“So if you ever felt something behind you, when you weren’t even one, like welcome heat, like a bulb, like a sun, trying to shine right across the universe – it was me. Always me. It was me. It was me.”