This article explores the encounter between autonomous aesthetics, mass genre and the publishing category of literary fiction in Martin Amis’s Night Train. Taking the confused critical response to the novel as a starting point, I argue that the novel confounded the conventions governing the writing, circulation and consumption of contemporary literary fiction. In analyzing the narrative and stylistic strategies Amis deploys in exploiting the conventions of crime writing, I give an account of the relationship between high autonomous aesthetics and mass genre that made Night Train inimical to the category of literary fiction. Putting Amis’s term “postmodern decadence” to use as a way of conceptualizing this relationship historically, we are able to reorientate our sense of Amis’s place in the cultural field and understand the set of factors that have determined his vexed reputation in contemporary literature.


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pp. 37-59
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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