The Second Plane

September 11: Terror and Boredom

Publisher: Vintage Canada
“The English language bows deeper to Amis than anyone else.” The Daily Telegraph (UK)

A master not only of fiction but also of fiercely controversial political engagement, Martin Amis here gathers fourteen pieces that constitute an evolving, provocative and insightful examination of the most momentous event of our time.

At the heart of this collection is the long essay “Terror and Boredom,” an unsparing analysis of Islamic fundamentalism and the West’s flummoxed response to it, while other pieces address the invasion of Iraq, the realities of Iran and Tony Blair’s pallid departure from Downing Street. Amis’s reviews of pertinent books and films, from The Looming Tower to United 93, provide a wide-ranging survey of other responses to these calamitous issues, which are further explored in two short stories: “The Last Days of Mohammed Atta,” and “In the Palace of the End,” narrated by a Middle Eastern tyrant’s double whose duties include epic lovemaking, grotesque torture and the duplication on his own body of the injuries sustained by his alter ego in constant assassination attempts.

Whether lambasted for his refusal to kowtow to Muslim pieties or hailed for his blunt common sense, Amis is indisputably a great pleasure to read–informed, elegant, surprising–and this collection a resounding contemplation of the relentless, manifold dangers we suddenly find ourselves living with.

From the Hardcover edition.


It was the advent of the second plane, sharking in low over the Statue of Liberty: that was the defining moment. Until then, America thought she was witnessing nothing more serious than the worst aviation disaster in history; now she had a sense of the fantastic vehemence ranged against her.

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“[Amis is a] writer who is arguably the most gifted stylist of his generation, and who may be genetically incapable of a dull sentence . . . The Second Plane and the furor surrounding its inception represent the debate an open and confident society should be willing to sustain about such fundamental, if difficult, matters.” –Toronto Star

The Second Plane is an essential snapshot of a moment in time, of private reactions to a world in transition set against a collective anger and despair.” –Edmonton Journal

“Novelist Martin Amis’s bent for punchy sentences and reason-as-the-only-fit-yardstick geopolitical analysis both surface early in this provocative collection of non-fiction essays, reviews and short stories. . . . Tough, and controversial, stances abound in The Second Plane. . . . Amis’s command of language is a joy to read.” –Winnipeg Free Press

“The great value of this book is that it does not permit us the armchair luxury of relativizing or compartmentalizing the War on Terror. By shifting the stage from the local to the global and raising the bar from the actual to the potential, Amis holds both sides to the same standards.” –The Gazette

“Amis is a highly intuitive writer. . . . The views Amis presents are worth reading for their wit, their vibrant phrasing, their ring of conviction.” –National Post

“[V]erbal thrill . . .[Amis’s] writing remains capable of anything” –The Observer

“What Amis [has] really done, as the chronologically ordered pieces in this collection demonstrate, was to go on a political journey. . . . [P]ossibly the most fully engaged writer of our age.” –The Times

“Amis is famously audacious, sardonic, and excoriating. But in this bracing and corrective collection of intense and perceptive responses to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 . . . Amis is doing far more than performing literary pyrotechnics or playing provocateur. . . . [He] writes with vehemence, daring, and verve because he schools himself in harsh truths, and because he cares.” –Booklist

From the Hardcover edition.