The Rub of Time: Bellow, Nabokov, Hitchens, Travolta, Trump: Essays and Reportage, 1994–2017

Knopf. Feb. 2018. 416p. index. ISBN 9781400044535. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525520252. LIT
In this collection of previously published newspaper and magazine work by novelist, essayist, and critic Amis (The Rachel Papers; Money; London Fields), the author comes across as a close and sensitive reader of literature and culture, his language erudite and complex. A significant portion of this volume features Amis's book reviews and responses to literature, and he returns multiple times to several touchstones, including John Updike, Philip Larkin, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, and Vladimir Nabokov. It is a testament to his writing that these pieces remain approachable, even if the works under examination have not all been themselves read. In addition to the literary work, another standout is Amis's popular culture reportage, which shines a bright light on America and celebrity. His profile of John Travolta, efforts to compete in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, and critical reading of President Donald Trump's books The Art of the Deal and Crippled America, published prior to the election, are all especially good.
VERDICT Amis is a savvy, biting writer who still manages an engaging, conversational tone. Any reader seeking an introduction to the books he spends time with, or a new perspective on our sometimes chaotic culture, will enjoy this collection. [See Prepub Alert, 8/28/17.]
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