New York The Manhattan tattoo artist Craig Dershowitz had already spent $60,000 fighting a desperate legal battle with his ex-girlfriend for custody of their ‘son’ before he appealed to the public a few weeks ago. He needed another $20,000 so he can keep going, he said. Had the helpless victim at the centre of this tug-of-love been a real boy, Mr Dershowitz could have kissed his campaign goodbye.
If you wanted a little more excitement in this year’s Olympic marathon, you could do worse than imitate the race in 1908 — the first time the Games were held in London. Competitors, running from Windsor Castle to Shepherd’s Bush in the boiling heat, were given hot and cold Oxo, rice pudding and milk, but no water. Still, there was free eau de cologne and champagne — that’s what did for the South African leading at the halfway mark.
It’s a hot and crowded afternoon in Manhattan. Martin Amis is in the New York Public Library, relaxing on a small purple sofa. He’s tired, but he takes the time to answer a few questions about his new novel Lionel Asbo about poetry, porn and modern Britain. Spectator: You grew up in 1960s Britain with all that rebellious rock ’n’ roll culture, but your father, Kingsley Amis, was part of the establishment and knighted to boot.
In 1992, I wrote a book called The Conservative Crack-Up, and my liberal adversaries were joyous. Which is not to say they read the book. American liberals never read a book by a conservative, not even an essay, not even a letter to the editor. What gave wings to their spirits was that 1992 was an election year, and they thought I had somehow provided them with ammunition. They neglected to note that some years before I had written another book, The Liberal Crack-Up, in which I had said that the future for liberals looked even gloomier.
The fact that you cannot perform a U-turn in a train is one of the limitations of that form of transport. When the line ahead is blocked, locomotives form long queues, unable to go anywhere until the problem is solved. It is scarcely any easier performing a U-turn with a high-speed rail project, especially after you have spent several million pounds compensating people who live in blighted properties along its route, and several years promoting it as central to your vision for a modern Britain.
The first Saturday of the Hay Festival is always a bit like the first day of term — bumping into people you’ve haven’t seen in months, sometimes for a whole year. Then there are the people down from London, dressed in mufti, sporting inappropriate sunglasses and crumpled linen jackets that haven’t been out of the wardrobe since the previous Hay Festival. I like to pick up my tickets, hang out in the green room and generally reacquaint myself with what is undoubtedly the greatest literary festival in the world.