2012 Book #22: Lionel Asbo

lionel asbo.jpgHere’s another one I can’t review for the library. At the very beginning, we learn that our protagonist is having an affair with his very own grandmother. “WAIT,” you say, “last I heard, Martin Amis wrote this book. He’s respectable, right?” Yes, he is. The only other novel of his that I’ve read is very respectable: Time’s Arrow is a masterpiece. (You should read it: it’s written backwards, sentence by sentence, so you don’t know what started it all until the end. And the text still flows well, so you don’t end up confused.)

Lionel Asbo is awesome, too, though it’s so different. I know that all of Amis’s books aren’t the same (he’s no DeLillo!), but I wasn’t expecting such a huge departure. But I really liked it! I enjoyed the experience of reading it. Is it another Time’s Arrow? Of course not. It’s lighter and more fun. “But the incest!” you say. Yeah, just read it.

The plot is complicated, so I’ll just give the briefest of summaries. There are two main characters, Lionel Asbo and his nephew, Desmond Pepperdine. Lionel is a chronic criminal, constantly in and out of jail for fighting and generally causing trouble. Desmond, who is 15 at the novel’s beginning, lives with him. He gets by doing the opposite of what Lionel says – he’s a good kid. Except, of course, that he’s tupping his own grandmother, Lionel’s mother. Lionel has issues about his mother having sex with anyone: since her husband died, Lionel has insisted that she remain celibate. He threatens and even harms people he finds sleeping with her. She’s only 39, by the way. Anyway, Lionel goes to jail again, and while he’s there, he finds out that he’s won £240 million in the lottery. And that’s as far as I’m going with this one.

Lionel Asbo is a super-fun book. I found myself giggling a lot. It’s also very English. I missed so many cultural references, and times I had issues with the dialect (which is not, by the way, as annoying as Dickens or Lawrence can be). But that doesn’t matter. After this one, I’m definitely looking into Amis’s other books. I had no idea.

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