The Second Plane: Book summary and reviews of The Second Plane by Martin Amis

The Second Plane

September 11: Terror and Boredom

By Martin Amis

The Second Plane
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2008,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

A master not only of fiction but also of fiercely controversial political engagement, Martin Amis here gathers fourteen pieces that constitute an evolving, provocative, and insightful examination of the most momentous event of our time.

At the heart of this collection is the long essay “Terror and Boredom,” an unsparing analysis of Islamic fundamentalism and the West’s flummoxed response to it, while other pieces address the invasion of Iraq, the realities of Iran, and Tony Blair’s lingering departure from Downing Street (and also his trips to Washington and Iraq). Amis’s reviews of pertinent books and films, from The Looming Tower to United 93, provide a far-ranging survey of other responses to these calamitous issues, which are further explored in two short stories: “The Last Days of Muhammed Atta,” its subject self-evident, and “In the Palace of the End,” narrated by a Middle Eastern tyrant’s double whose duties include epic lovemaking, grotesque torture, and the duplication on his own body of the injuries sustained by his alter ego in constant assassination attempts.

Whether lambasted for his refusal to kowtow to Muslim pieties or hailed for his common sense, wide reading, and astute perspective, Amis is indisputably a great pleasure to read—informed, elegant, surprising—and this collection a resounding contemplation of the relentless, manifold dangers we suddenly find ourselves living with.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[The Second Plane] fires a welcome, left-tending salvo…Amis proves eminently readable, his observations enlightening." - Kirkus Reviews.

"In this bracing and corrective collection of intense and perceptive responses to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Amis is doing far more than performing literary pyrotechnics or playing provocateur…[He] writes with vehemence, daring and verve because he schools himself in harsh truths, and because he cares." - Booklist.

"[Amis's] prose is subtle, elegant and witty – and certainly never boring." - Publishers Weekly.

"'He was quite unable,' Amis writes of Blair, 'to find weight of voice, to find decorum, the appropriate words for the appropriate mood.' In placing these pieces side by side, shifting as they do from apocalyptic solemnity to cultural in-joking, Amis sometimes invites against himself the same censure. His writing remains capable of anything, except perhaps humility." - The Guardian.

"Fear and anger have radicalised Amis. He needs to rethink before he completely transforms into one of his own vivid stereotypes." - The Daily Telegraph.

"This pretentious, formalistic argument underscores Mr. Amis’s efforts to deal with a vast historic tragedy with preening, self-consciously literary musings — the same sort of musings that made parts of his 2002 book on Stalin, “Koba the Dread,” so enraging to read." - The New York Times.

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Author Information

Martin Amis Author Biography

Photo: Isabel Fonseca

Martin Amis was born Martin Louis Amis on 25 August 1949, the second of three children to Kingsley and Hilary (Hilly) Amis (nee Bardwell). He is the author of twelve previous novels, the memoir Experience, two collections of stories and six of nonfiction. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Link to Martin Amis's Website

Name Pronunciation
Martin Amis: AIM-as

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