Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis
Subtitled State of England, Lionel Asbo is a satirical look at the ruthless tabloid and celebrity culture of England and in particular, the celebration of violence. The story centers on a violent criminal who wins the lottery and becomes a household name overnight and has been described by some as a final attack by Mr. Amis on his home country.
Reviewer: Nicola Barker
"It is a great big confidence trick of a novel – an attack that turns into an embrace – a book that looks at us, laughs at us, looks at us harder, closer, and laughs at us harder and still more savagely. It is every inch the novel that we all deserve. So let's give thanks that Martin Amis was bad enough and brave enough to write it."
Reviewer: Jonathan Barnes
"Lionel Asbo is a minor work, though one not without magnesium flares of brilliance....as in much of the Amis oeuvre, the narrative unfolds in an almost lackadaisical manner, its convulsions desultory, its moments of surprise or high drama thrown away....It may be no surprise, then, to learn that the new novel’s most successful elements occur strictly on the level of the individual sentence."
Reviewer: Theo Tait
"Lionel Asbo isn't a book that you'd press into someone's hands, like Money or The Rachel Papers. It is basically incoherent. Yet there's something powerful and authentic about "its wrongness, its deafened bad dream feel"."
Reviewer: Mark O'Connell
"Amis is all over the shop here, but even when he hits his tee shots into the car park, there’s always a significant chance that he’ll wind up with a birdie. It’s frustrating and disappointing, and frequently maddening to watch, but it’s rarely boring."
Reviewer: Kathryn Harrison
"But whereas the grotesqueries of “Money” accrue the weight of tragedy, “Lionel Asbo” does not. Under its sordid costume, it’s a simpler and far less troubling book, probably because John Self is a fully realized character while Lionel remains a caricature."
Reviewer: Michiko Kakutani
"The book isn’t ambitious or persuasive enough, however, to earn such a subtitle. It reads less like a big “state of England” novel than a smallish postcard mailed from there some years ago."
Reviewer: Dan Cryer
"Amis' virtues are self-evident - brief, tautly constructed scenes; sharp dialogue (including lower-class argot that many Americans will not comprehend); and vivid, muscular prose....But the coiled tension of Amis' prose never meshes with his directionless plot."
Reviewer: Ellen Wernecke
"Amis is never subtle in his disapproval of the whole British celebrity ecosystem, but the diffuseness of his objections and his own taste for cataloguing sins rather than rooting for their sources wafts over Lionel and everything around him without coming to an original point."
Reviewer: Lionel Shriver
"I hate to say this, because my hopes were high, but this novel becomes well and truly dull....Worst of all, for its whole last half this novel just isn’t funny. Far from being a “final insult”, Lionel Asbo isn’t insulting enough."
Reviewer: Ron Charles
"Almost every page in “Lionel Asbo” contains an example of Amis’s marvelous style...But enduring this frayed satire for these moments of pleasure is a deal only the most devoted Amis fans should accept."
Reviewer: Carolyn Kellogg
""Lionel Asbo" — which has the unfortunate subtitle "State of England," as if it aspires to be some referendum on the country that Amis recently left behind for America — is too thin for its own good. Minor characters aren't fleshed out; the seven uncles pass by like wraiths. And no one changes"
Reviewer: Adam Mars-Jones
"Of course ‘Lionel Asbo’ is overwritten – it’s by Martin Amis! The problem is that it’s under-overwritten. And there it is, the voice in a generation’s ear, charming without charm, insistently dazzling, milking the paradoxes until their teats are sore and they have no more nourishment to give. It’s easy to write Amislike sentences, hard to write good ones, and there are signs that Amis feels this too."
Reviewer: Sam Sacks
"in truth "Lionel Asbo" presents the perfect distillation of the tedium and condescension that have always coexisted in Mr. Amis's fiction....sketchiness is endemic in "Lionel Asbo," and it requires the reader to go through a grim process of elimination just to figure out what the point of the book might be."
Reviewer: Tim Martin
"Being this out of touch doesn’t bode well for what’s clearly intended as a state-of-the-nation novel, however grotesque and refracted; as it is, long stretches come off either as daft Little Britain cliché or as reactionary bluster backed up by some fairly large-scale plundering of previous successes..."