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Uncle Kingsley

Patrick Parrinder, 22 March 1990

The folks that live on the hill 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 246 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 0 09 174137 8
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Kingsley AmisAn English Moralist 
by John McDermott.
Macmillan, 270 pp., £27.50, January 1989, 9780333449691
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In the Red Kitchen 
by Michèle Roberts.
Methuen, 148 pp., £11.99, March 1990, 9780413630209
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See Under: Love 
by David Grossman, translated by Betsy Rosenberg.
Cape, 458 pp., £13.95, January 1990, 0 224 02640 2
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... The folks that live on the hill? It’s not exactly what you’d expect of a Kingsley Amis title, but in another two years the old devil will be 70 and perhaps he is beginning to mellow. John McDermott remarks in his appealing study of Amis’s novels that the hero-as-shit, at large in a world of mutual animosity and obsessive self-interest, is one of their most characteristic figures ...

Sorry to go on like this

Ian Hamilton: Kingsley Amis, 1 June 2000

The Letters of Kingsley Amis 
edited by Zachary Leader.
HarperCollins, 1208 pp., £24.99, May 2000, 0 00 257095 5
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... When Philip Larkin first met Kingsley Amis at Oxford in the early 1940s, he was appalled, he later said, to find himself ‘for the first time in the presence of a talent greater than mine’. Did he really believe this, or was he just measuring his own late adolescent bumptiousness? And what did Amis feel? According to his 1991 Memoirs, Kingsley found Larkin just a shade offputting ...

Kingsley and the Woman

Karl Miller, 29 September 1988

Difficulties with girls 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 276 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 9780091735050
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... A recent photograph of Kingsley Amis shows him with a cat – a hairy cat with arched back, which is manoeuvring in relation to the author’s typewriter. The author’s face wears a witch’s smile of appreciation. He is clearly familiar with and fond of that cat. The smile may have come as a surprise to connoisseurs of pictures of the author which have been issued to the world ...

A Dingy Start to the Day

Frank Kermode, 10 September 1992

Kingsley AmisModern Novelist 
by Dale Salwak.
Harvester, 302 pp., £24.99, April 1992, 0 7450 1096 2
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London Calling: V.S. Naipaul, Postcolonial Mandarin 
by Rob Nixon.
Oxford, 229 pp., £27.50, May 1992, 0 19 506717 7
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... and laboured. His is the second book in recent memory expressly to demand recognition for Kingsley Amis as a moralist; the other, John McDermott’s, is actually called Kingsley Amis: An English Moralist. McDermott says ‘moralist’ clearly and right away, whereas Salwak’s subtitle sounds ...

One for the road

Ian Hamilton, 21 March 1991

Memoirs 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 346 pp., £16.99, March 1991, 0 09 174533 0
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... Kingsley Amis has a reputation for not liking other people, but – these so-called Memoirs might seem to permit us to enquire – does anyone, could anyone, like him? Is Kingers himself, at the end of the day, the sort of bloke you’d want to run into at – well, at the end of the day, at the club, or the pub, or at some crappy dinner party? On the face of it, no thank you ...

Do you think he didn’t know?

Stefan Collini: Kingsley Amis, 14 December 2006

The Life of Kingsley Amis 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 996 pp., £25, November 2006, 0 224 06227 1
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... Giving offence has become an unfashionable sport, but Kingsley Amis belongs in its hall of fame, one of the all-time greats. When Roger Micheldene, the central character in his 1963 novel, One Fat Englishman, is warned that he’s about to say something he’ll be sorry for, he replies, ‘those are the only things I really enjoy saying’ – and there isn’t much sign that Micheldene or his creator did feel sorry afterwards ...

Humiliations

Michael Irwin, 4 December 1980

Collected Short Stories 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 303 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 09 143430 0
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World’s End 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 211 pp., £6.50, October 1980, 0 241 10447 5
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Packages 
by Richard Stern.
Sidgwick, 151 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 283 98689 1
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Oxbridge Blues 
by Frederic Raphael.
Cape, 213 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 9780224018715
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The Fat Man in History 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 186 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 571 11619 1
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... In the introduction to his Collected Short StoriesKingsley Amis strongly implies that the genre is not at present in a healthy state. He claims that subsidisation by the Arts Council, or other such bodies, of the magazines in which short stories often appear, fosters self-indulgence. Certainly this is a term that came to my mind more than once when reading the works under review ...

Pushing on

John Bayley, 18 September 1986

The Old Devils 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 294 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 09 163790 2
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... and his two novels certainly provide one, as does his poetry. Is the same true of his friend Kingsley Amis, who hazarded the shrewd guess that Larkin published no more novels because he feared failure, in that genre, of the power to keep going with his own separate world of art? It seems likely that Amis has done ...

Pffwungg

John Bayley, 19 January 1989

The Amis Anthology 
edited by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 360 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 09 173525 4
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The Chatto Book of Nonsense Verse 
edited by Hugh Haughton.
Chatto, 530 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 7011 3105 5
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... vocal authority. It makes us attend. In a rather memorable and haunting poem, ‘The Masters’, Kingsley Amis stressed the point, substituting other activities for the poetic one, but really talking about the nature of the poem itself. That horse whose rider fears to jump will fall, Riflemen miss if orders sound unsure; They only are secure who seem ...

Diary

Zachary Leader: Oscar Talk at the Huntington, 16 April 1998

... In February 1987, partly to finance the purchase of a larger house, Kingsley Amis sold his papers (483 catalogued items) to the Huntington Library in Southern California. Amis professed to hate ‘abroad’, but he was only intermittently a cultural nationalist. When Philip Larkin, in his capacity as librarian, canvassed him in 1960 for his views on the export of manuscripts, he received the usual robust reply: I will sell any of my manuscripts to the highest bidder, assuming such bidder to be of reputable standing, and I have no feeling one way or the other about such bidder’s country of origin ...

Performance Art

John Bayley, 16 November 1995

... In 1948 I was sitting in my college room trying to work when Kingsley Amis opened the door and looked in apologetically. We must have been conscripted at the same point in the war, but being older he had already been up at Oxford: now he was a graduate, starting a BLitt. Since he was already quite famous in university circles I knew who he was although we had never met ...

Bugger me blue

Ian Hamilton, 22 October 1992

The Selected Letters of Philip Larkin 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 759 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 571 15197 3
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... a kind word for any contemporary writer who might be thought of as a threat to his pre-eminence. Kingsley Amis seems to be the exception but actually isn’t, quite: in this complicated case, the kind words are often double-edged. And as Larkin got older, he became increasingly disposed to downgrade the literary heroes of his youth. Auden, once ...

Blooming Symbols

Adam Lively, 27 May 1993

Dr Haggard’s Disease 
by Patrick McGrath.
Viking, 180 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 0 670 85195 7
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Griefwork 
by James Hamilton-Paterson.
Cape, 238 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 9780224037174
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... but of the way in which artsy modernist writers (it’s amazingly easy to start sounding like Sir Kingsley Amis once you start following this line of thought) load their novels with pretentious structures of symbolism instead of getting on with the business of telling stories about ‘life as it is’. The point being that symbols and structures are ...

Red Souls

Neal Ascherson, 22 May 1980

Russian Hide and Seek 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 240 pp., £5.95, May 1980, 0 09 142050 4
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... being Len Deighton’s SS-GB. Now the idea can be extended, made more topical. This new satire by Kingsley Amis – a ‘melodrama’, as he calls it – treats of England under the Russian boot, something worth paying a high price in blood to avoid (and it’s significant that his lost war was apparently a conventional one, or at least a conflict which ...

The Great NBA Disaster

John Sutherland, 19 October 1995

... explanatory sub-heading ‘Discount War Begins on Top Titles’ and an unflattering mugshot of Sir Kingsley Amis over the caption: ‘Book Likely to be Cheaper’. Other national papers, while noting it as something of interest, did not conceive the collapse of the Net Book Agreement and a 20 per cent reduction in the retail price of The Biographer’s ...

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