Review by John Freeman
House of Meetings
This swift, weird little novel by Martin Amis is his best fiction in years. Two stories pivot on the axis of a profoundly gripping voice. In the background, two brothers fall for a young Jewish woman in Moscow in the period after World War II but before Stalin’s murderous purges. One is a sensitive poet—the other a pragmatic killer.
As the book opens, the loser in this battle for her heart returns to Norlag, the gulag where he spent a dozen-plus years, dredging up old feelings, ruminating on what he expects to get from seeing the source of his deprivation and torture again. His twisting, self-lacerating narrative, we are to believe, is a letter to his step-daughter.
As the years have gone on, believing in Amis' fiction has presented more and more hurdles. That a man would write this way to his family—"in a state of permanent lost temper"—seems unlikely, but Amis' prose is worked to such a fine, filthy froth here it's easy to overlook this minor quibble. This is a powerful story about envy and decline, and the long-term corrosive effects of crime on the soul, in which brotherhood emerges not a bloodline but a kind of fatal embrace.
I Never Sang for My Father at Santa Fe Playhouse
Gene's plans to move to California to be with his girlfriend are thrown into disarray after his domineering father expects him to stay and watch over him. Talk-back after the performance.
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