Author: Riley Moore

Why We Should Read Martin Amis

Written after his father’s passing, Martin Amis’s memoir Experience highlighted my project in the first chapter in the second footnote: When you review a film, or appraise a film-director, you do not make a ten-minute short about it or him (or her). When you write about a painter, you do not produce a sketch. When you write about a composer, you do not reach for your violin. And even when a poet is under consideration, the reviewer or profilist does not (unless deeply committed to presumption and tedium) produce a poem. But when you write about a novelist, an exponent of prose narrative, then you write a prose narrative. So, when a reviewer drafts a poor review, he or she is subject to the following question, “And was that the extent of your hopes for your prose—bookchat, interviews, gossip?” Answering his own question, Amis writes, “Valued reader, it is not for me to say this is envy. It is for you to say that this is envy.” Amis is a British novelist and essayist, who, …

The Heretical Impulse: Zamyatin and Orwell

I  In a 1931 letter to Joseph Stalin, Russian novelist Yevgeny Zamyatin adopted a respectful tone by way of introduction: “My name is probably known to you.” The author of We, the dystopian science fiction novel that influenced Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, had written to Stalin to contest censorship and misrepresentation, and to request permission to migrate—accompanied by his wife—so he could write without the threat of violence or suppression: “To me as a writer, being deprived of the opportunity to write is nothing less than a death sentence.” Zamyatin’s contemporary Rainer Rilke echoed this conviction in his famous Letters to a Young Poet: Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Above all, in the most silent hour of your night, ask yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, “I must,” then build your life upon it. Zamyatin’s revolt against Stalin occurred in the midst of dekulakization—the …