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A fond farewell to the great Martin Amis

Blog | By James Hughes-Onslow | Jun 12, 2024

Portrait of Amis by Javier Arce

Martin Amis 1949-2023

The Rev Richard Carter introduced the memorial service for Martin Amis at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

It opened with chamber music by Bach and Handel and ended with jazz by Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Oscar Peterson.

Ian McEwan listed his favourite Amis quotations, including the noise of a man in a lavatory cubicle – like ‘emptying a sack of melons into a deep well’. Amis described Michael Crichton’s prose as ‘herds of clichés, roaming free.’

Magazine supremo Tina Brown, an old flame, said of commissioning Amis: ‘Whenever his copy arrived, it was Christmas Day in the office: so eagerly awaited, never a disappointment.’

When Brown asked Amis to write about a new play by David Hare, his first question was: ‘Do I have to see it?’

All that Kingsley Amis, Martin’s father, said about Brown, was “Nice tits.”

Amis’s son, Louis Amis, revealed his father was a ‘glory-hunter’, frantically switching allegiances between top football teams. He loved players’ celebrations: ‘Witnessing exuberance in other people was one of his favourite things.’

Delilah Jeary said, ‘I was 18 when I found out he was my father. I entered a world of outrageous novelty. He felt we had a duty to be cheerful. We should cultivate our paranoia. Love flowed.’

Fernanda Amis said, ‘He was less a Dad type and more of a cool guy who lived in our house. He was suspicious of the humourless and religious.’ He was only dictatorial in his choice of the films: the first quarter of Airplane; the last third of Pulp Fiction.

Novelist Zadie Smith said, ‘Talking with Martin was like reading Martin but more so. It was funnier, more vituperative, more outrageous, but also far kinder.’

Poet James Fenton recalled meeting Amis in 1968 in his Oxford rooms with Christopher Hitchens.

Amis’s widow Isabel Fonseca spoke about his last few months. Having never gone for country life – ‘I like to see a shop’ –he became ‘a regular outdoorsy guy’ in Florida. ‘He kept his first and only New Year’s resolution, to resume smoking.

‘He did everything he wanted to do and almost none of what he didn’t. He had a nuclear family with no animosities. It was a happy ending.’

Bill Nighy read from The Information and Inside Story. Nick Laird read from William Blake’s Songs of Experience.