YELLOW DOG by Martin Amis (Knopf), 347 pages, $35.95 cloth. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Yellow Dog shouldn't have gone wrong. Author Martin Amis is smart, fearless and funny, and those qualities brought to the themes of medical trauma, tabloid journalism, the sex industry and life inside the royal household ought to be a literary slam dunk. But no. Reading the novel, you can practically feel Amis straining. It unfolds in three strands. Model family guy husband Xan - a writer and actor - gets whacked in the head and watches himself as he slowly develops a sexual interest in his four-year-old daughter. Tabloid journalist Clint digs up dirt and looks for love online.
The King of England tries to deal with a brewing sex scandal concerning his daughter, the princess. A plane about to crash figures in there somewhere, as does a gang of thugs from Xan's family past.
The narratives collide and eventually converge, but where the structure is ultra-complex, Amis's intentions come across as weirdly simplistic. His rightly aimed rant at the pornography industry - delivered through the perspectives of two porn stars, one male and one female - should be horrifyingly funny but winds up being almost earnest.
Yellow Dog's language is sometimes overwhelmingly gorgeous, reminding you that Amis can throw words around like nobody else. And when the princess starts flirting with Islam you get inklings of a blistering satire worthy of this writer.
But those moments displaying the depths and heights to which Amis could have gone only make the rest look very thin.
Anglophiles might get more out of it. Diehard Amis fans will love it.
But Yellow Dog is one sick puppy.
Amis reads with Audrey Niffenegger at the Rivoli Tuesday (November 25). See readings, this page.