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“We are all of us held together by words. And when words go, nothing much remains.” 

That’s Martin Amis, writing about his father, Kingsley, toward the end of his life.  And it’s true, of course, isn’t it? But how many of us are ready to locate our selves in the language we have at our command? I guess all writers live by the pen (or maybe the pixel, these days), but like two of his literary heroes, Shakespeare and Vladimir Nabokov, Martin Amis belongs to what in every generation feels like a vanishing breed: the writer with an almost Kabbalistic reverence for the power of words themselves. In Amis’ novels and essays, this often translates into intense, photographic lucidity. Other times, we get the verbal shiv—a wickedly hilarious twist of the knife in the gut of something bloated and stupid, like the present American moment. 

His newest collection of essays is called The Rub of Time. Its subjects include Porn, John Travolta, Tennis, Saul Bellow, and the strange business of literary interviews like this one. 

Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode

A.O. Scott on comedians as public intellectuals, Toni Lane Casserly on the future of artificial intelligence

Martin Amis Quote: If one word sums up what you’re doing [as a writer], it is ‘love’. Updike said that description itself is an act of love. And even the writers who are most proud of their alienation and gloom—even they are lovers of life. Because why set it down? 

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.


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