a well traveled young man
Martin Louis Amis was born on August 25, 1949 in Oxford, England. He had an older brother, Philip, and a younger sister, Sally, who died in 2000. His mother, Hillary A. Bardwell, the daughter of a civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture.
Martin attended over a dozen schools as a result of his father’s travels on the academic circuit following the success of “Lucky Jim” in the 1950s and ’60s. He said that the constant need to make new friends helped make him funny. The Amis family spent a year in Princeton, NJ, a stay that introduced Martin to America, with which he maintained a lifelong fascination.
The Amis family was permissive. Mr. Amis compared it in a 1990 interview with The New York Times Magazine to “something from early Updike, with ‘Joints’ bubbly and a fair amount of drinking.” He wrote in his memoir that if he had lit a cigarette under the Christmas tree at 5 o’clock it would have left without a trace.
He was devastated by his parents’ divorce when he was 12. He mostly read comic books and was “pretty illiterate”, he said, until he was 17. It was then that her stepmother, novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, urged her to read Jane Austen. He enrolled at Exeter College in Oxford, where he graduated with honors in English in 1971.
After leaving Oxford, Mr Amis held a series of journalistic and literary jobs in London. He became editorial assistant at The Times Literary Supplement in 1972, and two years later became its fiction and poetry editor. In 1975, he joined the editorial staff of The New Statesman magazine and within about a year he became its literary editor at the age of 27. It was here that he began his long friendship with Mr. Hitchens.