Book Review Not by Me

Here’s a New York Times Sunday Book Review review of a new book about Islamism. The review is by Leon Wieseltier and the book is The Second Plane by Martin Amis.
I’m just going to post random sentences, some of which contain really great zingers.

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.

From the maxim that we must know our enemy, we infer that our enemy may be easily known.

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 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 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.”

…there is at least one way in which he has been thoroughly untouched by the atrocity: he is still busy with the glamorous pursuit of extraordinary sentences.

His book reminds me of what Heath Ledger is said to have remarked, in disappointment, about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar: “I thought it was for the best acting, not the most acting.”

Aw, snap!

Among the many theories about Islamism and Islamist terror that appear in these pages, the writer’s favorite is the carnal one: he believes that 2,992 more people would be alive today if 19 Middle Eastern men had only found some satisfaction of the flesh. Like Updike, he chooses to impute the malignity in the terrorist’s heart to lust. More precisely, to frustrated lust; still more precisely, to frustrated male lust. Osama bin Libido!

In the only really funny sentence in his book, Amis declares that “geopolitics may not be my natural subject, but masculinity is.”

The genital theory of history may be novelistically useful, but it is analytically silly.

He cleverly hits upon a perplexity that has nagged at every thinking person for seven years — that in Europe the numerical shorthand for the calendar is the other way around; and then he resourcefully proposes that the attacks in London on July 7, 2005, furnished a palindromic solution to the problem, with “7/7”; and then he mordantly reflects that this solution will work only if the horrors of the future occur on Jan. 1 or Feb. 2 or March 3 or April 4 and so on.

I have never before assented to so many of the principles of a book and found it so awful.

Is it a coincidence that “The Second Plane” is appearing in the same season as “Human Smoke,” or is it a malign providence?

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Filed under books, Islamic relations

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