Martin Amis
House of Meetings.
Knopf, 256 pages, $23

The nameless narrator of Martin Amis’s House of Meetings, a survivor of the Gulag who has become rich and lives in America, spills most of the beans in his italicized preamble, which takes the form of a note to his stepdaughter Venus, a young African-American “as well-prepared as any young Westerner could hope to be, equipped with good diet, lavish health insurance, two degrees, foreign travel and languages, orthodonture, psychotherapy, property, and capital.” (In other words, far, far from the war, the terror, the cold and starvation that he himself got. Perhaps Amis is so conscious of avoiding cliché that clichés have come alive in his mind and recast themselves, for what’s this if not “When I was your age I had to walk four miles to school in the snow?”) The narrator has assembled this book, a “heap of degradation...


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