Spare a thought for Martin Amis. If it’s not his Dad Kingsley sounding off about his novelistic style (“Little sod said on TV you had to read it twice. Well then he’s FAILED hasn’t he?”), then it’s teeth, advances, Julian Barnes, Islamofascism, feminists, Katie Price, the elderly, and now the mother of his god-daughter nip, nip, nipping away at him.
He must feel like the lone defending space-tank confronting wave after wave of cephalopod shock troops. I know he does – since a little known Amis volume came out in 1982 and has never been reprinted. It was his first non-fiction book, Invasion of the Space Invaders, a study of the then-futuristic arcade game. I read it a long time ago, and it’s the kind of essay that Geoff Dyer or Andrew O’Hagan would do well now. I can’t wait for the inevitable academic study to be written on the influence of Space Invaders on the Amis canon. There’s the obsession with games, particularly ones you inevitably lose at. There’s the resonance of crumbling psychological shields.
We got an Atari home console when I was nine, and I still remember the initial thrill of playing Space Invaders. Then there was the bathos of realising that each level was going to be the same, only more difficult. Then finally the sheer tedium of predictability. A bit like some novelists’ careers.