Inside Story is...digressive and centrifugal, its freewheeling structure, which flits among memories nonchronologically, suggestive of what remembering the past is actually like ... his 'destined mood'...is one of slow-burning happiness, a buoyant wonder at the daily recurring miracle of existence. Some readers will find this all deplorably smug (a charge levelled at Amis on more than one occasion), but the self-pleased protagonist may be no more of a confection than the customary self-loathing one ... it’s hard to shake the suspicion that the author is playing a taunting game of preëmption, puffing up his narrator so as to later tear him down ... the pages on [Philip Larkin] here represent a valuable supplement to an already ample body of criticism ... the book’s hybrid genre, the way it teasingly straddles the fact-fiction borderline, begins to pay off ... Amis has written about love and lust so many times before that in the Phelps sections of Inside Story, vivid though they sometimes are, he seems to be relying on imaginative muscle memory. The same cannot be said about the book’s treatment of male friendship, a relatively novel theme for Amis ... some of the book’s most powerful moments come when we glimpse a simmering competitiveness beneath the tranquil surface of [Amis and Hitchens's] friendship ... Such vignettes are a main attraction of Inside Story, whose narrative elements—including the Phelps affair, the gossipy observations and asides, and the lit-crit musings and creative-writing tips—retain, across the book’s five hundred pages, a miscellaneous quality, as if Amis’s grab-bag structure had been masking some measure of creative lassitude, even appetitive excess ... it’s hard to fight the feeling that the novel’s air of achieved ambition has come at the cost of a more substantial achievement. Whatever else it may be, Inside Story is unmistakably the work of a man with nothing left to prove.
The book is a 'novelized autobiography' — an unstable and charismatic compound of fact and fiction. Amis revisits stories he told in his memoir Experience. Some other passages have been grafted from his essays and speeches. He reproduces a New Yorker article in its entirety ... Amis feels a bit like a beloved vice these days. You read him through your fingers. As a critic, he remains strong and original. His memoir is a model of the form ... Inside Story is rife with dreams, sex fantasies and maundering meditations on Jewishness, a longstanding obsession. The book feels built to baffle. It is an orgy of inconsistencies and inexplicable technical choices ... Most maddening of all, Inside Story also includes some of Amis’s best writing to date.
Martin Amis begins this baggy, curious book with an account of how it nearly wasn’t written. He had a go at it more than a decade ago, he confesses … We start…with the author, like Jagger on the opening leg of the latest farewell tour, cranking himself up to deliver the hits … There have always been two extremes in Amis’s writing, that brilliant observational gift for ironies and a sort of elevated melodrama that stands in for a fuller range of emotion. Both still compete for attention here. There are perfectly crafted scenes that capture the creeping shocks of mortality …but they are rarely left to speak for themselves. Instead, they are bookended with mannered, self-absorbed reflections on the Holocaust, or the state of Israel, or the fall of the twin towers, or hangovers, or full stops.