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Harvard Book Store is pleased to welcome novelist MARTIN AMIS for a discussion of his new book, Lionel Asbo: State of England.
Lionel Asbo, a terrifying yet weirdly loyal thug (self-named after England’s notorious Anti-Social Behaviour Order), has always looked out for his ward and nephew, the orphaned Desmond Pepperdine. He provides him with fatherly career advice (always carry a knife, for example) and is determined they should share the joys of pit bulls (fed with lots of Tabasco sauce), Internet porn, and all manner of more serious criminality. Des, on the other hand, desires nothing more than books to read and a girl to love (and to protect a family secret that could be the death of him). But just as he begins to lead a gentler, healthier life, his uncle—once again in a London prison—wins £140 million in the lottery and upon his release hires a public relations firm and begins dating a cannily ambitious topless model and “poet.” Strangely, however, Lionel’s true nature remains uncompromised while his problems, and therefore also Desmond’s, seem only to multiply.
“A joy—and strangely life-affirming. . . . It certainly has much of the dazzling prose that made his earlier works so stand-out. As ever he makes the dreadful funny, the grotesque poetic. But there’s something else, a tenderness and humanity. . . Amis seems to have affection for all his characters [in what] could be seen as a meditation on social mobility. . . . Though it satirises a society in decline it is also, in the end, a story about the triumph of education over ignorance, love over hate.” —The Times [U.K.]