Right of Response
It seems there is some sort of brouhaha over reviews of Martin Amis’s new book, The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom, a collection of essays about terrorism, jihadism, and other -isms. One of the earliest write-ups here in the United States was by Michiko Kakutani, who hated it:
Indeed “The Second Plane” is such a weak, risible and often objectionable volume that the reader finishes it convinced that Mr. Amis should stick to writing fiction and literary criticism, as he’s thoroughly discredited himself with these essays as any sort of political or social commentator.
A few weeks later, Jim Sleeper rose in defense of Amis:
It would be too easy to read Martin Amis’ slim book on Sept. 11 in a day and to dismiss it with a politically correct glare. The dozen essays, columns and reviews and two short stories in “The Second Plane: September 11, Terror and Boredom” are more illuminating than that, though deeply, sometimes self-indulgently flawed.
This weekend, Leon Wieseltier rendered this judgment:
I have never before assented to so many of the principles of a book and found it so awful. But the vacant intensity that has characterized so much of Amis’s work flourishes here too.
Now Jim Sleeper has another retort/defense. You can find out more about the literary quarrel from Ron Hogan at Galleycat.
I find these disagreements quite healthy, but also very amusing, as it seems no one thinks it necessary or useful to ask a reviewer of the Muslim persuasion to take a look at the The Second Plane, a book that is, after all, largely concerned with Muslims: their religion, their beliefs, their politics, their life in Britain, and the violent encounters of the jihadist among them with the West. When Amis says:
There’s a definite urge – don’t you have it? – to say, ‘The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.’ What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.”
and then proceeds to write a whole book in which he expands on these ideas, shouldn’t the reading public have a chance to find out what one of the people he seems so concerned about make of his work?