When the Guardian last week revealed that Martin Amis was to become professor of creative writing at Manchester University, it lapsed into a dangerous piece of journalistic shorthand: "Amis, who is often described as Britain's greatest living author . . ."
Is he? By whom? Using what criteria? One agitated reader was moved to write to the paper - and threatened the ultimate sanction: "If the media refer to Martin Amis as 'Britain's greatest living author' once more," wrote Kathy Love from south London, "I shall kill myself. The fact that such a misconception exists at all is enough to make most people with a passion for books want to emigrate to Uruguay immediately. Please save my life and don't do it again."I tracked her down to an internet cafe. "I have never enjoyed a Martin Amis book," she e-wailed. "Most of them I have flung across the room unfinished. I hate his self-conscious literary style, his pathetic posturing. More importantly, he has nothing to say. Greatness in a writer can only be awarded posthumously. Let them snuff it first, I say. Then we'll decide."