Martin Amis will be forgiven a touch of literary precocity for being the son, now 24, of Kingsley Amis, the British poet, critic and novelist. But lest Kingsley be accused of collaboration, hear him disclaim any patronage of son Martin’s just-published and well-acclaimed first novel The Rachel Papers: “Martin didn’t let me see a word until it was far too late,” says Kingsley. “He kept it away from me as if it were a porno magazine.”
A magazine it’s not. But there are passages in young Amis’ deftly cynical chronicle of a ribald adolescence which contain, to borrow a phrase from the novel, “a few noteworthy points of contrast between sexual arousal and rabies.”
Unlike The Rachel Papers’ picaresque protagonist Charles Highway, whose story ends as he is matriculating at Oxford, Martin Amis has taken a degree from that august institution of such distinction—a “formal first,” the university’s highest—as to earn him a welcome on the editorial staff of the prestigious London Times Literary Supplement, where he handles fiction and poetry.
Martin, who claims to have begun “thinking theoretically” about a novel at the age of 12, actually started writing at 22. “I’m a slow writer,” he adds. “What I care most about is sentences: the right words and a well-turned phrase.” Such a stylist is not going to burn himself out on an assembly-line schedule. Martin contemplates publication no more regularly than every two or three years, but confesses to being already well along on a second novel to be called Dead Babies. A bachelor who admits a certain fondness for a tumbler of whiskey, Martin lives alone in a London flat. His father’s pleasure in a son’s success is not without some reservations: “I’m not ready yet for people to say to me, ‘Kingsley Amis? Any relation to Martin Amis?’ ”
Nina Dronova is only 16 today, but she would have represented the Soviet Union as a gymnast at the Munich Olympics two years ago had her foot not been injured at the time. Dubbed the “Mozart of Gymnastics” by the press, because of the unique fluidity of her floor exercises, Nina has recently blown gold-medalist Olga Korbut off the beam in competition in Japan. To prove her victory was no fluke, Nina spellbound judges at the “Champions All” tournament at London’s Wembley Stadium last month, walking off with the women’s title.
Like Olga, Nina, who hails from the Georgian capital of Tblisi, is a product of the no-nonsense Soviet system which recruits promising gymnasts at grade school level and grinds them through a long and disciplined regimen. One result of Nina’s London triumph was the expectation raised for her anticipated appearance at the ’76 Olympics in Montreal. In the meantime, a Russian team including both Nina and Olga is expected to dominate the world gymnastic championships in Bulgaria this autumn. Despite her sobriquet, “Mozart” is not deaf to heavy rock. Following her Wembley triumph she tumbled off to a London performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.