Friday, February 16, 2007

Amis as Lucky Jim

Imagine the scene: you've spent the last few months of your creative writing course slaving over the final draft of what you consider to be your magnum opus, a remarkable meditation on contemporary society that echoes Houllebecq, Jeliniek and Monzo, while owing an acknowledged debt to Nabokov, Bellow and Beckett. You await the reaction of the diminutive but haughty celebrity author turned creative writing professor who has seen fit to cast an eye over your work. Finally summoned to his office, he throws the manuscript at you and says, "On reading this effort, I first felt species grief, then species shame, then species fear."
At least Martin Amis is clear about why he is taking up a post as professor of creative writing at Manchester University: he is out of touch and needs new source material. In exchange, the students will be taught by the best prose writer of the last thirty years. It's a fair cop. But I wonder what Amis will teach them? Go west? Don't romanticise the Soviet Union, especially not Stalin? An awareness that they are writing in the age of horrorism? Interesting times ahead for the Mancunians.

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