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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 KingsleyAmis 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 ...
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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... than if you worship the very paper they write on. Rob Nixon is censorious and lively; Dale Salwak is reverent and laboured. His is the second book in recent memory expressly to demand recognition for KingsleyAmis as a moralist; the other, John McDermott’s, is actually called KingsleyAmis: An English Moralist. McDermott says ‘moralist’ clearly and right away, whereas Salwak’s subtitle sounds like ...

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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... KingsleyAmis 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 ...
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 KingsleyAmis 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 ...

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 KingsleyAmis 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 ...

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 Stories KingsleyAmis 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 ...

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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... The first thing a novelist must provide is a separate world.’ So Philip Larkin pronounced, and his two novels certainly provide one, as does his poetry. Is the same true of his friend KingsleyAmis, 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 ...

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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... All poetry that really works has immediate vocal authority. It makes us attend. In a rather memorable and haunting poem, ‘The Masters’, KingsleyAmis 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 ...

Diary

Zachary Leader: Oscar Talk at the Huntington

16 April 1998
... In February 1987, partly to finance the purchase of a larger house, KingsleyAmis 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 ...

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 KingsleyAmis 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 ...
16 November 1995
... In 1948 I was sitting in my college room trying to work when KingsleyAmis 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 ...

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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... is given a few slap-downs here and there. All in all, I think it is true to say that Larkin has not a kind word for any contemporary writer who might be thought of as a threat to his pre-eminence. KingsleyAmis 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 ...
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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... here not of a smattering of metaphorical language at the micro-level (as in the previous sentence), but of the way in which artsy modernist writers (it’s amazingly easy to start sounding like Sir KingsleyAmis 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 ...

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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... The theme of Britain under Nazi occupation has already produced a shelf of fiction, much the best being Len Deighton’s SS-GB. Now the idea can be extended, made more topical. This new satire by KingsleyAmis – 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 ...
19 October 1995
... the Times chose to lead with on Wednesday morning was BOOK PRICING AGREEMENT IS SHATTERED, with the explanatory sub-heading ‘Discount War Begins on Top Titles’ and an unflattering mugshot of Sir KingsleyAmis 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 ...

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