The Wall Street Journal's Weekend section had an interesting juxtaposition today: features on Joyce Carol Oates and Martin Amis on facing pages.
The prolific Oates appeared at the end of the real estate section, reminiscing about her childhood growing up on a farm. The Amis feature was keyed to the arrival soon of a new novel, "Zone of Interest," about a love affair in a World War II concentration camp.
Amis, the son of famed English novelist and curmudgeon Kingsley Amis, now lives happily in Brooklyn with his wife and children. A picutre showed a great jaw and dental structure after excruciating surgery related many years ago now in his excellent memoir, "Experience."
The once bad boy of English literature said he didn't feel qualms about writing about the Holocaust. I was puzzled that the subject would be considered off-limits for fiction, since several writers have placed novels in Nazi camps. William Styron's "Sophie's Choice" comes readily to mind.
The feature also gave the enticing news that Amis is also engaged in a new novel based on his relatiionships with writers, including his father and the late Christopher Hitchens. I confesss that I find that more appealing than another look at concentration camps and the Holocaust. Amis has always been an erratic writer for me. "Experience" was one of the best books I've read, and I liked a collection of his short stories. While critics hated his last novel, I enjoyed it. But some of his work I've found among the worst I've tried to trudge through.
As for Oates, no word on whether she'll be publishing a new book. Given her record, one or more is likely in the pipeline. She lives in Princeton, a bookend on the other side of the New York metro area from Amis' Brooklyn.
The Wall Street's right wing editorial and op-ed pages are often a caricature of radical conservative thought. The editors seem to see how outrageous they can be, such as with the editorial this week about Iraq titled "Dick Cheney was right."
But the newspaper's news and cultural pages often show better writing, editing and conception than The New York Times, sad to say. The Jounral's Saturday Review section can turn stuffy, but the range of subjects and writing is more ambitious than the Times' increasingly shallow Sunday Book Review.
The Oates-Amis conjunction offered more interest than anything the Times had Friday. Has the Times lost its creative edge? More and more, that appears to be the case.