9781400096008

The Second Plane

by
  • ISBN13:

    9781400096008

  • ISBN10:

    1400096006

  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-04-07
  • Publisher: Vintage
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Summary

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 lingering departure from Downing Street (and also his trips to Washington and Iraq). Whether lambasted for his refusal to kowtow to Muslim pieties or hailed for his common sense, wide reading, and astute perspective, Amis is indisputably a great pleasure to readinformed, elegant, surprisingand this collection a resounding contemplation of the relentless, manifold dangers we suddenly find ourselves living with.

Author Biography

Martin Amis's best sellers include the novels Money, London Fields, and The Information, as well as his memoir, Experience.

Excerpts

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.

I have never seen a generically familiar object so transformed byaffect(“emotion and desire as influencing behavior”). That second plane looked eagerly alive, and galvanized with malice, and wholly alien. For those thousands in the South Tower, the second plane meant the end of everything. For us, its glint was the worldflash of a coming future.

Terrorism is political communication by other means. The message of September 11 ran as follows: America, it is time you learned how implacably you are hated. United Airlines Flight 175 was an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, launched in Afghanistan, and aimed at her innocence. That innocence, it was here being claimed, was a luxurious and anachronistic delusion.

A week after the attack, one is free to taste the bile of its atrocious ingenuity. It is already trite but stringently necessary to emphasize that such amise en scènewould have embarrassed a studio executive’s storyboard or a thriller-writer’s notebook (“What happened today was not credible” were the stunned and wooden words of Tom Clancy, the author ofThe Sum of All Fears). And yet in broad daylight and full consciousness that outline became established reality: a score or so of Stanley knives produced two million tons of rubble. Several lines of U.S. policy were bankrupted by the events of last Tuesday, among them national missile defense. Someone realized that the skies of America were already teeming with missiles, each of them primed and cocked.

The plan was to capture four airliners in the space of half an hour. All four would be bound for the west coast, to ensure maximum fuel load. The first would crash into the North Tower just as the working day hit full stride. Then a pause of fifteen minutes, to give the world time to gather round its TV sets. With that attention secured, the second plane would crash into the South Tower, and in that instant America’s youth would turn into age.

If the architect of this destruction was Osama bin Laden, who is a qualified engineer, then he would certainly know something about the stress equations of the World Trade Center. He would also know something about the effects of ignited fuel: at 500°C (a third of the temperature actually attained), steel loses 90 percent of its strength. He must have anticipated that one or both of the towers would collapse. But no visionary cinematic genius could hope to re-create the majestic abjection of that double surrender, with the scale of the buildings conferring its own slow motion. It was well understood that an edifice so demonstrably comprised of concrete and steel would also become an unforgettable metaphor. This moment was the apotheosis of the postmodern era—the era of images and perceptions. Wind conditions were also favorable; within hours, Manhattan looked as though it had taken ten megatons.

Meanwhile, a third plane would crash into the Pentagon, and a fourth would crash into Camp David (the site of the first Arab-Israeli accord) or possibly into the White House (though definitely not into Air Force One: this rumor was designed to excuse Bush’s meanderings on the day). The fourth plane crashed, upside down, not into a landmark but into the Pennsylvanian countryside, after what seems to have been heroic resistance from the passengers. The fate of the fourth plane would normally have been one of the stories of the year. But not this year. The fact that for the first few days one struggled to find more than a mention of it gives some idea of the size of the American defeat.

My wife’s sister had just taken her chi

Excerpted from The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom by Martin Amis
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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