“Do you have an inner yob?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, I had my yob periods. Nothing violent but certainly loutish. I think it’s frustrated intelligence. Imagine that if you were really intelligent and everyone treated you as though you were stupid and no one tried to teach you anything—the sort of deep subliminal rage that would get going in you. But then once it gets going, you make a strength out of what you know is your weakness, which is that you are undeveloped.”
I asked him for his reflections on masculinity.
“It’s without doubt my main subject. The way masculinity can go wrong. And I’m something of a gynocrat in a utopian kind of way.”
Love the word “gynocrat.” Has more credibility than men who say they’re feminists.
“I can imagine,” he says, “in a century or two that rule by women will be seen as a better bet than rule by men. What’s wrong with men is that they tend to look for the violent solution. Women don’t.”
“I was rereading Money,” I told him, “and there was one passage where John Self [the dissolute main character] says, ‘Everything about my relations with women has to do with the fact I can beat them up.’ The men in your novels are truly mystified by women. What do you think,” I asked him, “is the most mystifying thing about women?”
It was at this point—I’m not making this up—that footsteps are heard in the hall. Amis’ wife, Isabel, has come home; she’s a slender, attractive 50-year-old who looks like a grad student.
Amis greeted his wife and told her, “I’ve just been asked why men don’t understand women.”
“Oh, I’d better leave,” she says good-naturedly.