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Malcom’s haughty English accent brings just the right combination of condescension and child-like wonder to Amis’ playful prose. His performance, especially in the first half of the book, is reminiscent of Jeremy Irons’ pitch-perfect reading of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. He sounds annoyed and repulsed by the crude characters surrounding him, and yet also completely captivated by everything he sees and hears. Malcom makes Amis’ seemingly simple sentences soar, illustrating exactly why critics regard Amis as one of the best writers of his generation.
Time’s Arrow seems like a simple trick. The book starts at the end of Dr. Tod T. Friendly’s life and goes backwards. Harold Pinter’s powerful play Betrayal uses a similar storytelling strategy to chronicle an adulterous affair. This time, Amis raises the stakes beyond mere sins of passion to describe in detail the casual cruelty of a Nazi prison camp doctor. There’s another twist as well. Amis astutely decides not to have Tod T. Friendly as narrator. Instead, a voice in Friendly’s head that’s completely unaware that time is running backwards tells the story. This unnamed voice (perhaps Friendly’s subconscious) believes the end is the beginning. As a result, everything that happens comes as a surprise to the narrator.
The more you listen to Time’s Arrow, the more you’ll be amazed by Amis’ brilliance. And based on his always entertaining interviews, Amis seems to know just how clever he can be in one book after another. Then again, Houdini was one of the greatest self promoters ever, and everyone was still mesmerized by his astounding illusions. —Ken Ross
As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Martin Amis' book, you'll also get an exclusive Jim Atlas interview that begins when the audiobook ends.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Darwin8u on 04-06-14
A minor experiment from a very good author.
I liked the prose and liked the execution, but there was still something a bit off. A tooth is missing in time's reverse cog making this Amis story rock rather than roll in reverse. I enjoyed the narrative told backward; extracting the real meaning while reading the meaning back to front is a funky brain trick. I loved having a Nazi doctor at the center of the story. The movement from physical and moral corruption to a form of innocence uncovered a bit more of the lizard brain for me.
The problem, however, is bending this story without a need for infinite folds in time. There is no gliding back with prose. There are only jumps back with glides forward. Amis is forced to skip back in time, translate, and then relate the narrative forward. Again and again and again. It was a bit like walking the dog with a yoyo. You are unspooling the story one direction, but the narrative SAH|HAS to keep spinning in a reverse direction. The skips are necessary, but still disruptive to the narrative. Anyway, I liked it. It was a good thought exercise, just not great literature. A minor experiment from a very good contemporary writer.
10 of 13 people found this review helpful