NEW YORK — Over the past few years, Martin Amis has made himself a defining figure in the literary conversation, with novels about sexual predation and grandiosity and social mores. That he has also been through a nine-year bout of depression has hardly put a damper on his prose, however. Which is why it is interesting that on Tuesday night his first novel in nearly a decade came out in the United States, called The Semi-Tidings. Written while Amis was in a deep state of melancholy, it seems to capture the writer at a particularly delicate moment in his career. And who knows what it might lead to in his already massive chart of career milestones?
The big attraction was an 85-minute talk in which Amis delivered a panoply of witty pieces. In conversation with author Chris Kraus, they delved into his willingness to write sad stuff — “I don’t know, maybe I take a lot of little risks,” he said — and what influenced his writing of The Semi-Tidings, which is set during the holidays. It is a story about a mother and father whose bourgeois bubble is broken by the suicide of a child. The man flees into depression, from which his mother recovers, and by the end it all feels absurd, more foolish than dark.
“I feel I have nothing to lose,” he said.