Thursday, January 31, 2008

How Powerful Can Words Be?

In an excellent article in this month's Prospect magazine Tom Chatfield reviews Martin Amis's new book of essays (and two short stories), The Second Plane: September 11: 2001-2007.

It's a lucid and compelling piece in which Chatfield pinpoints an issue which was skirted over (as he says) in the December Manchester University debate in which Amis took part:
...if words were rendered irrelevant by 11th September, they were also in some sense crucial to it. For this was an act performed in the name of holy words. If literature is nursed by the hope that the right words are morally awakening, experience qualifies this by suggesting that in books we can find a rationale for any and every kind of act.
Discussing Amis's book, Chatfield anatomizes the ways in which Amis struggles in these essays but ultimately fails in the task of using language either to transcend the divisions of terrorism or to disarm its proponents, and shows how his polemical pronouncements ultimately lack the understanding of evil which his novels display.

Only subscribers can get the full article online, so if you'd don't subscribe I urge you to buy a copy.
Post a Comment