Daily Archives: September 2, 2012

Book Review: Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis

Title: Lionel Asbo: State of England
Author: Martin Amis
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 978-0-224-09621-8
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

Martin Amis’s writing is weird and I say this with utmost respect. It is also intellectually appeasing and at the same time takes the road, not taken by many writers, that of experimentation in terms of plot and characters that are as anti as they can be.

His characters oscillate between wanting to do the right thing and tempted always to do the wrong thing and go that road. That is why I like reading what he writes. I have always admired what he has written in the past. I then started reading Lionel Asbo and it caught me off-guard a bit.

“Lionel Asbo: State of England” is his latest offering. Let me tell you something about the plot: Desmond Pepperdine is a teen resident of the hopeless borough of Diston Town and shares the home of his late mother, with his uncle Lionel Asbo, the criminal.

Lionel wants Desmond to work according to his crude principles but Desmond wants to be educated – to read and to write. He meets Dawn Sheringham, who becomes his first girlfriend and is just right for him. Desmond also sleeps with his mother’s mother at the beginning of the book. Lionel should not know of this or he will kill Desmond.

Lionel also wins a grand amount of 140 million in the National Lottery and doesn’t want to share the amount with his family. He is on this boisterous buying spree and has a new glamorous girlfriend. The twist in the tale is Lionel finding out about Desmond sleeping with his mother.

So that pretty much is the story of Lionel Asbo (Asbo taken from “Anti-Social Behaviour Order). The writing is funny and odd but I could not handle it after a point of time. It did not have the same effect as Amis’ The Rachel Papers or Money.

I loved some lines like this one that Lionel says, “When you in prison, you have you peace of mind. Because you not worried about getting arrested.” But these lines are few and far in between in the book. Otherwise the book is laced with progressive parade of crudeness throughout, which also I could handle, but then it became monotonous.

Yes the novel has to be experienced for the plot, but that is about it. Desmond’s character does not hold much water and is quite fleshy in places. Lionel on the other hand has an awesome characterization, but obviously. So if you have to read the book, then read it for Lionel. Grace (Lionel’s mother) also has her funny bits but that is about that.

The book is not a masterpiece. It is a fun read in bits and parts. There is sarcasm and there is observation of England. It is not an enjoyable read in other parts. I wanted to feel attached to the book but could not. Having said that, because I am still a Martin Amis fan, I will look forward to his latest book, whenever that is slated for release.

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The Book and the E-Reader

The battle of the physical books and the e-books has officially begun. Everyone has a viewpoint and rightly so. At least the people who read and treat reading as something beyond this realm.

I was one of those who used to think that I will not be a sellout. I will not purchase the Kindle, but I ended up doing that and to a large extent I enjoy reading books on it. I think it has got to do more with the fact that I can finish reading quicker on a Kindle than I would have in the physical format. That is a fact and somehow I find it being true for most people who own an E-Reader.

Physical books on the other hand, never lose their charm and never will. Sometimes I am scared that they just might stop publishing the book in the physical format. But I am sure that will not happen or hope that it will not.

E-books do not give the experience of reading a book. Books sometimes become too heavy to be carried around. E-books also on the other hand cost less. However, they do not smell like books and a handmade bookmark cannot be used to mark the page.

My mother cannot get used to the idea of reading on a Kindle, but she loves the fact that the font can be increased, so reading becomes convenient. At the same time, it is only Kindle Fire and a couple of other e-readers that provide the option of a backlight. I cannot read my Kindle in an auto rickshaw at night-time.

Books on the other hand, have their own charm and that cannot be lost. The smell of the pages, the picking of a book from a bookshelf and a stack of unread books by the bedside table cannot be replaced by an E-reader for sure.
So there are times, when I am reading the book in its physical form and the same book is being read on the reader. I do not know why I do that, but I do and that somehow fastens the reading process. Strange, but works for me all the time.

And then again, the magic of a book cannot be replaced. Thankfully in this area, no one has to keep up with the times if they do not want to. Though technology is ever-changing and I am sure there will be dozens of E-readers to choose from, but for those who cannot bear to be separated from their books, there will always be books in their physical form. The ones you can touch, feel, smell, get scared that the spine will break, lend and hound your friends till they return them, misplace and buy another edition, search for it in bookshops and libraries and sink in to your favourite spot and devour it for hours.