Amsterdam was received with mixed reviews. Although it has brilliant plotting, the story focuses on the nastiness in human behavior. Few readers are likely to feel great pain in witnessing, for example, Vernon Halliday’s decline and fall. As the editor of a respectable newspaper, he resorts to the tactics of the tabloids to increase sales. He is so convinced that his views are right that he attempts to destroy the reputation of a politician who does not share his liberal views. Vernon deludes himself into thinking that his exposure of Julian is for the good of the country and not for his own satisfaction in discrediting and humiliating another person.
Clive Linley is a more problematical character, in large part because he is an artist. Society is not simply more tolerant of the shortcomings of artists, who are often expected to be different; society tends to revere those whose art may last forever. William Faulkner, arguably one of America’s greatest novelists, was asked by an interviewer whether he thought writers have to make sacrifices: Faulkner said that “If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the Ode on a Grecian Urn is worth any number of old ladies.” Amsterdam demonstrates the dangers of this view, especially for those artists, like Clive, who work alone and can easily lose a sense of perspective. Clive, for example, deludes himself into believing that his music will not be understood, much less appreciated,...
(The entire section is 605 words.)