Julie and Martin’s chummy kiss and tell


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Julie Kavanagh revisits her relationship with Martin Amis in an article for the Economist’s Intelligent Life, writing that publication of ‘The Rachel Letters’ gave him ‘Byronic magnetism.’ The accompanying photo, in which Amis is wearing a velvet jacket and a come-hither gaze, proves her point.

The piece has plenty of kiss and tell -- Amis and Kavanagh struck up an affair in 1974 when she was living with another man, and she tallies his dalliances that led to their eventual breakup.


What’s unusual is the amicability with which the story has been pieced together. Like David Carr did for ‘The Night of the Gun,’ Kavanagh has gone back and researched her own past, creating memoir via biography. The people she interviewed about her relationship with Amis include key members of his cohort: Christopher Hitchens, poet Craig Raine, James Fenton -- and Amis himself.

She writes:

Martin recently reminded me that I would insist we took our books to the café. ‘We’d have a drink before dinner and we’d read. I thought at the time how wonderfully civilised this is.’

Later she asked him about an affair she caught him in:

‘You were heartbreaking,’ Martin remarked in April. ‘You said, ‘I know you’re only human.’ ‘ Remembering the lipstick, he doubles up laughing, ‘I was so bad at it. At duplicity.’

It’s positively chummy. No rancor, no bitterness, just a generally agreed-upon version of what happened, with a few long-forgotten poignant moments thrown in for good measure.

Would Claire Bloom have interviewed Philip Roth before writing ‘Leaving a Doll’s House’? Isn’t there something to be said for telling one’s own side of the story? Isn’t the power of memoir in its subjectivity?

Perhaps this shared history is something that Amis and Kavanagh agreed upon together. Amis’ next novel -- ‘The Pregnant Widow’ -- will be, according to the article, ‘blindingly autobiographical.’ Would it be too much to expect a little anger, arrogance or hurt?


-- Carolyn Kellogg