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THE L: That brings me to a question about aging, a big concern of this novel. You recently turned 60. I don't think anyone needs reminding of the horrors of getting old. What, if any, consolations have you found?
MARTIN AMIS: Well, I sort of agree with Gogol, who said that old age is bitter and irreducible. It gives nothing back. Nothing. But I do think it gives one or two things back. Apart from my wife and children, the most important thing in my life is writing, and I feel more on top of it than ever before. I don't know how long that will last. Since finishing The Pregnant Widow, I'm coming to the end of another novel that came very quickly. And I know what the next novel is going to be.
THE L: By the way, I really enjoyed The Pregnant Widow. I know this is a dangerous comment to make, but I thought it was your best novel. Loved it.
MARTIN AMIS: Well, thank you very much. Oh and by the way, on the women front, I've still got this misogynist tag. It's sort of a hand grenade that gets thrown now and again. It's like "racist," you know. You're always forgiven for saying it because you can't be too vigilant about these things. I think, honestly, I talk more about women's rights and women's causes than any other novelist of my generation. Ask my wife of 18 years if I'm a misogynist.
THE L: It strikes me that you do have one thing in common with your father on that score. I feel that in both your novels and your father's, the women characters come across most strongly when they are acting as the conscience for the male characters.
MARTIN AMIS: Yeah, I thought he did that a bit too much. It was all a bit too predictable that the girl would give him a dressing down at the end. But there is something in that.
THE L: I thought that happened a bit with Keith's girlfriend, Lily, in The Pregnant Widow. She has a good sense that Keith seems to lack. And she comes across as a very strong, convincing, likable character.
MARTIN AMIS: Yeah. Men do think of women as their conscience. They do measure their behavior against women.
THE L: In recent years, you've come to be seen as something of a political pundit. You've written a work of non-fiction. You published a selection of essays inspired by the attack on the World Trade Center. Do you see any conflict between those non-fiction activities and your artistic ambitions?
MARTIN AMIS: No. It's only in the last 10 years really that I've had any interest in politics at all, although I wrote a novel about the Holocaust and I wrote a book of short stories about nuclear weapons. But when I wrote the book about Stalin, I realized I was giving myself a political education. And I feel interested and fascinated by all of that. But writing non-fiction is like writing left-handed; it's not the same thing at all.
THE L: There is an argument that a novel achieves an emotional truth through factual lies and that this doesn't leave a novelist in a good position to deal with serious non-fiction. Do you have any sympathy for that point of view?
MARTIN AMIS: I find it fairly seamless going from one to the other. Writing about politics is actually easier than writing literary essays, in my view, because your blood gets up a bit. Writing 5,000 words about Nabokov or someone like that is, by far, the hardest thing I do. Whereas writing about politics involves the passions a bit more.