Published: April 27, 2008
On Sept. 10, 2001, nobody in America seemed to know anything about Islam. On Sept. 12, 2001, everybody seemed to know everything about Islam. Well, not quite; but it is really a wonder the way the arcane particulars of an alien civilization now trip off every tongue. People who would not know if a page of Arabic is upside down or right side up helpfully expound upon the meaning of jahilliyah.
THE SECOND PLANE
September 11: Terror and boredom.
By Martin Amis.
211 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $24. ( Jonathan Cape - NZ $44.99- UK12.99))
First Chapter: ‘The Second Plane’ (April 27, 2008)
Essay: Amis and Islam (March 9, 2008)
'The Second Plane,' by Martin Amis: Novelist’s Crash Course on Terror (April 8, 2008)
Times Topics: Martin Amis
In “The Second Plane,” his collection of noisy, knowing writings about theocracy and terror, Martin Amis goes out on a limb. He denounces both. Really, he does. He hates Islamism and he hates Islamist murder. And so he should: if certain forms of evil are not hated, then they have not been fully understood. Amis enjoys the moral element in contempt, and he is splendidly unperturbed by the prospect of giving offense. But he appears to believe that an insult is an analysis. He wants us to remember, about the Islamists in Britain, “their six-liter plastic tubs of hairdressing bleach and nail-polish remover, their crystalline triacetone triperoxide and chapatti flour.” He knows for a fact that Islamists “habitually” jump red lights, so as “to show contempt for the law of the land (and contempt for reason).” Iranians, he teaches, are “mystical, volatile and masochistic.” Amis seems to regard his little curses as almost military contributions to the struggle. He has a hot, heroic view of himself. He writes as if he, with his wrinkled copies of Bernard Lewis and Philip Larkin, is what stands between us and the restoration of the caliphate. He is not only outraged by Sept. 11, he is also excited by it. “If Sept. 11 had to happen, then I am not at all sorry that it happened in my lifetime.” Don’t you see? It no longer matters that we missed the Spanish Civil War. No pasarán!