A RECENT STUDY SUGGESTS THAT while artists in general may lean toward depression and occasional madness, writers in particular suffer from social anxiety. Martin Amis and I illustrated this point when we first met. We sat stiffly at a small table, talking awkwardly for almost half an hour before he moved to take off his rain-dampened trench coat, and before I offered to take the coat from him. I kept checking my tape recorder; the voice-activation feature occasionally shut off under the soft tones of Amis' British accent.

I was phrasing my questions carefully. I said, "Are you living in New York, or still in England?"

He said, "I live in London. I've always lived in London."

I mentioned I'd heard a rumor that he'd moved to the U.S., and he said, "I know, so have I." He said, "That's from something I said at a reading. I said that when my boys were grown up I would want to spend more time in America, and suddenly that was on the front page of the Sunday Times, and a new way of being hostile to me was to say that I was unpatriotic. You know how fond the English are of saying, 'Well, if you don't like it here then bugger off. We don't need you.'"

Despite his intellect and strengths as a writer, Amis has often been attacked by the press. In 1984 one of his novels, Money, was disqualified from the short list for a Booker prize due to alleged misogyny. In an interview with Will Self, Amis mentions looking at the sexual attitude of his protagonist in another novel, The Rachael Papers, and reeling under "a kind of jelly-kneed fear of the political thought police," but then adds, "that book is so pre-feminist anyway." In another interview he says, "the audience has an agenda now, in a way it didn't used to; sometimes the press does too."

I didn't want to come across as the press with an agenda, but I wanted to ask how he could write so much about sex with so little description of actual sex. I wanted to talk about the image of the "black man" throughout The Information.

Amis' recent novel Night Train is different from his previous work in that it's narrated from a female, first-person point-of-view, and takes the form of a detective novel. Night Train has a steady thread of plot, a clear central focus. Critics have called it a "serious writer's holiday." I asked how he felt about this description.

He said, "I don't mind it too much... it certainly felt like more of a page turner. It can be read quicker and doesn't slow the reader down as much as I like to do. Night Train took eight months to write. The Information took five years. And that's what I feel the big difference is. So much less anxiety involved, less to keep in the head; so although it's very dark, it felt lighter as I wrote it. I suffered anxiety, as you must do, but it was 160-page anxiety, not 500-page anxiety."

Anxiety again, the writer's life. I asked, "Is it true that Night Train was written as a response to your critics?"

He said, "I wouldn't write anything as a response. Some review said that it was a response to my critics because I was showing that I could do women and that sort of thing. Totally wrong. I would never write a postcard as a response to my critics."

Moving onto unsteady ground, closer to that press with an agenda, I said, "In The Information, as a reader, I kept coming up against female characters who were so clearly not interested in writing or in literature. Anstice, for example, is the secretary for the Little Magazine, but only reads trashy novels." Of other characters, Amis writes, "Demeter, like Gina, had no connection with literature other than marriage to one of its supposed practitioners." Demeter is defined by her "use of conflated or mangled catchphrase," her "speech-bargains," and general inability with language.

Amis agreed. "Early on in the conception of that book I thought maybe I ought to have a woman poet, but then I thought no, don't bus in all these chicks just to satisfy some sort of political anxiety. This is a novel about the male ego. And many, many a writer has a wife who... why should they be interested in literature? For the most part, if you're a writer it's because you've got the bent, you've got the calling, and you can't cultivate that if you haven't got it."

Perhaps as an apology, a nod to housewives or the "political thought police," he added, "And, I've noticed that being a famous writer gives you absolutely no clout in the home. None at all."

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