"It has been Martin Amis month in Britain," writes James Button, who then proceeds to spread the pleasure to Australians with a half-page spread in the Sydney Morning Herald, for "The British author Martin Amis has a particular slant on the motives behind the September 11 hijackings."
Into the head of a terrorist reads the headline, and the caption to the photo leads with Searching for insight.
His Atta, while flying on a Spanish airline in 1999, saw 15 or 16 white-robed, turbaned men suddenly crowd into the aisle and get to the floor, "humped in prayer". Over the intercom the captain ordered them to return to their seats or he would return to Dubai.
A stewardess appeared - tall, long-necked, beautiful: "swinishly luxurious". The effect on Atta is electric. He watches her bellow at the prostrate men: "Vamos, arriba, c----!" Let's go, get up, she orders, cursing them with a word for female genitals. Atta "would never forget the face of the stewardess . . . and how much he wanted to hurt it."
"It is an improbable scene," writes Button, who then goes on to try to analyse the reason for Amis putting it in, coming up with Atta's hate for women as described by Amis. Of course!
So why did Button say the scene is improbable? Sure it was over the top for her to say "Vamos, arriba!" But the scene was redeemed with "c---!"
Actually, this use of c--- is an issue that should be addressed, so I'm pleased that Amis brought it up. Just say "Mucho gracias" to a Spanish stewardess when she hands you your nuts, and she'll spit out "Cunt!" (woops. I forgot the dashes, but at least I haven't printed what Swedish stewardesses say).
All the women I know say cunt! to insult a man. We use it as this stewardess did, because you see, we hate women, or do we hate men? I forget, but I'm sure Amis (who's thinking a lot about women these days) would know. He's probably in our heads already, searching.
But back to the point of his searching, this "ambition" to get into the head of a terrorist, not just the words of an everyday person, as I think the stewardess would be classified.
All that observation, that depth of understanding necessary. All that leaping out of one's own ruts to insight away. It could be considered a conceit if he weren't "one of the world's finest living writers".