Britain’s newspapers have been buzzing for months about Martin Amis’ upcoming novel “The Pregnant Widow” (Jonathan Cape), which comes out in February and reportedly is filled with autobiographical details and descriptions of Amis’ friends and former lovers. But this week, one of Amis’ old flames grabbed the media spotlight with her own kiss-and-tell in the summer issue of The Economist’s magazine Intelligent Life. Julie Kavanagh, author of biographies, including “Nureyev: The Life,” and half-sister of the late literary agent Pat Kavanagh, lived with Amis in the mid-Seventies, not long after his first book, “The Rachel Papers,” came out. Both were then in their 20s and Kavanagh was working as London editor of WWD and W, having first met the charismatic Amis during an interview for this paper.
Now her short article, titled “The Martin Papers,” has unleashed a frenzy among the Amis-obsessed British press, which has been lapping up details of the affair and Kavanagh’s descriptions of the novelist’s sweet and nasty sides, insecurities, infidelities and the well-known problems with his teeth. Kavanagh wrote the article with Amis’ blessing — she interviewed him for the piece in April — and said she had no intention of scooping him or promoting his next book. “I wanted to write a gripping story, a classy kiss-and-tell that wouldn’t enrage Martin or make me cringe,” she told WWD. Her story touches on more than the affair with Amis. It is a coming-of-age tale and a detailed snapshot of London’s literary scene in the Seventies, starring Christopher Hitchens, Kingsley Amis, Julian Barnes (who would become Kavanagh’s brother-in-law and would subsequently have a famous falling out with his best friend Martin Amis), Clive James and even “a kittenish” Anna Wintour. “This relationship had a life-changing effect on me,” said Kavanagh. “It’s my story, and I wanted to tell it in my own words.”
This story first appeared in the June 5, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Kavanagh said she hasn’t decided whether she’ll turn the article into a book, but she already has some competition. According to a media source, Emma Soames, another former Amis paramour, is penning her version of events for The Daily Mail. A spokeswoman for the newspaper did not return calls Thursday seeking comment.