Martin Amis's short stories make his novels look prim. They are also more frankly satirical. Whole words are created - or inverted. In 'Straight Fiction', everyone is gay (apart from the beleaguered 'straight' community); in 'Career Moves', screenplay writers submit their works to little magazines, while poets are flown first-class to Los Angeles; in 'The Janitor on Mars', a sardonic robot gives us some strange news about life in the solar system. Largely absent in the novels, the middle classes get a showing in 'Let Me Count the Times', where a man has had a mad affair with himself. 'Heavy Water', portrays the exhaustion of working-class culture, 'State of England' its weird resuscitation. And in 'The Coincidence of the Arts' an English baronet becomes entangled with an African-American chess hustler. The earliest story, 'Denton's Death', was first published in 1975, but the bulk of the collection can be firmly labelled 'most recent work'.
"Career Move" and "Straight Fiction" are both based on the idea of reversing two familiar concepts (in one case poetry is a billion-dollar industry based in LA, whilst screenplays are published in little magazines; in the other heterosexuals are an oppressed minority living in Greenwich Village and the Castro): this is amusing for the first two or three paragraphs, but very soon becomes boring in both cases. The "Janitor on Mars" is a horribly tedious bit of science fiction, whilst "Let me count the ways" is annoying for precisely the same reasons as Rachel. The only story in the collection I enjoyed was "The state of England", about a night-club bouncer attending the sports day at his son's posh prep school. It also rambles on a bit too much, but along the way it does bring out a few penetrating social insights.
Basically, this is a fairly short collection at just a little over 205 pages that I read on the plane to California last night that was overall disappointing and made me wish I had chosen a different book to bring with me instead .
I will have to add a couple of quotes to this when I get back to Chicago .