M. ‘I’ve spotted him!’
M. ‘Down there. Having a coffee. On his own.’
Me. ‘Hey. Do you think he’d like it if we joined him?’
M. ‘I doubt it. He’s reading a book.’
D. ‘God, is he reading his own book? Unbelievable. He’s reading Yellow Dog.’
M. ‘No it’s not. I think it’s Hitch 22.’
Me. ‘Yeah well, whatever it is, look, he’s almost at the end. You know how it is when you’re nearly at the end of the book. You want to prolong the moment. So we’d be doing him a favour.’
M. ‘You can if you want to. I’m staying here.’
Me. ‘Coward. What about you, D?’
D. ‘Well we’ve come all this way. Seems a shame not to try…’
Back home in England, you’d never get away with it because: a) it would be considered a touch infra dig, and b) he’d never present such an obvious sitting target for such a prolonged period of time. But here in Dubai, the rules are different. That’s what we’re calculating. Indeed, I think it’s secretly one of the main reasons my friends D, M and I decided to come to this Emirates Festival of Literature. To hang with The Mart. The great Martin Amis.
Yeah, yeah, I know it sounds pathetic. At least it will if you’re a girl. I haven’t met a girl on the entire planet — apart from his wife Isabel, of whom more later — who gets excited by The Mart to nearly the same degree as boys do. But that’s because The Mart doesn’t really do girls’ books. He writes books about foul characters called Keith, and darts, sports cars called Fiascos, and the fantastic breasts of aristocratic blonde 20-year-olds in Italian castles, with glorious show-off, willy-waggling sentences and fantastic adjectives like ‘rangy’. I don’t know why, exactly, but when you’re a boy — at least a boy of a certain generation — this sort of thing really hits the spot. You feel you’re in the presence of greatness and you want a bit of it to rub off on you, ideally by getting some sort of quality time with the man.
But how? Interviews don’t count — they’re too one-way, too much of a performance. Bumpings-into-at-parties don’t count either — they’re too fleeting and unsatisfactory, as I’ve discovered many times before. The first must have been in my late twenties, when I said: ‘People say I look a bit like you. Do you think I look like you?’ and I can’t remember what his reply was but it must have been pretty boring, otherwise I suppose I would remember it.
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