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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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... endearing moments involve Amis in conflict with his mischievous machine. (The wondrously thorough Zachary Leader wisely retains all of Amis’s mistypes, as though he, too, suspects that quite a few were half-deliberate. With ‘though’, for instance, the suggestion is that any word dumb enough to spell itself like this deserves everything it gets.) In ...

Floating Hair v. Blue Pencil

Frank Kermode, 6 June 1996

Revision and Romantic Authorship 
by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 354 pp., £40, March 1996, 0 19 812264 0
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... death. This multiplicity creates all sorts of problems, and they are among the issues meditated in Zachary Leader’s carefully written book. He has two objectives. At a rather abstract level he wants to know what notions of identity underlie the assumption that a poet in his twenties could be identical with the poet who, in his seventies, was still ...

Bad Character

Andrew O’Hagan: Saul Bellow, 21 May 2015

The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915-64 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 812 pp., £35, May 2015, 978 0 224 08467 3
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... be said with certainty is that, of the three, Bellow got the best biographer. This first volume by Zachary Leader might be the most intelligent, fair-minded and most carefully furnished Life of a contemporary novelist I have read. I’m not sure Bellow would agree, and that’s one of its strengths: it challenges both the official and the fictional ...

The Unstoppable Upward

James Wolcott: ‘The Life of Saul Bellow’, 24 January 2019

The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 864 pp., £35, November 2018, 978 0 224 10188 2
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... anthology of received opinions’ to the mast in the Los Angeles Times Book Review.* Zachary Leader, formerly the biographer of Kingsley Amis, prudently avoided such horn toots of hubris in the amassing of his two-volume Life of Bellow, the authorised and definitive biography that groans with the graven heft of stone tablets. He doesn’t ...


Stefan Collini: The Movement, 25 June 2009

The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 336 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 19 955825 4
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... over English poetry in the decades that followed’. As all this indicates, the ground which Zachary Leader and his platoon of contributors are attempting to occupy in The Movement Reconsidered has been much fought over. One of the chief strengths of the many good essays in this collection lies in their cutting through these adventitious polemics to ...

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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... and memorably funny. In the introduction to his excellent edition of Amis’s letters (2000), Zachary Leader remarked that one of Amis’s qualities that did not seem to decline much with age, among so many that did, was his ‘comic aggression’. It’s an accurate phrase, if leaning towards pleonasm, and it underlines the need for targets; giving ...


John Sutherland: Conrad’s letters, 4 December 2003

The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. VI: 1917-19 
edited by Laurence Davies, Frederick R. Karl and Owen Knowles.
Cambridge, 570 pp., £80, December 2002, 0 521 56195 7
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... avidly as the single-volume edition of The Letters of Kingsley Amis, which contains, as its editor Zachary Leader records, some eight hundred letters ‘from a trawl of several thousand’. Leader trawls, so that the reader can scud along. The Amis Letters made it into the bestseller lists. That did not happen to the ...


Frank Kermode: Being a critic, 27 May 1999

... learned people, though not as a rule dons, have, historically, done much of the best reviewing. Zachary Leader explains that Coleridge had such terrible trouble writing books that he found doing shorter pieces to strict editorial deadlines a godsend. De Quincey frequented what Grevel Lindop calls ‘the fluid frontier between the academic and the ...

In the Company of Confreres

Terry Eagleton: ‘Modern British Fiction’, 12 December 2002

On Modern British Fiction 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 328 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 0 19 924932 6
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... During the half-century since 1950, Lindsay Duguid writes in an essay in this collection, ‘the lady novelist turned into the woman writer,’ the historical novel became respectable once again, crime fiction became respectable for the first time, and the English novel was reborn as the British novel. Indian novelists revealed a ‘fondness for identical twins’, while angels, giants, babies and women who pass as men grew curiously fashionable ...

Manly Voices

Bernard Porter: Macaulay & Son, 22 November 2012

Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain 
by Catherine Hall.
Yale, 389 pp., £35, October 2012, 978 0 300 16023 9
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... and in their mission to spread it globally. It’s in this sense that Tom Macaulay and his father, Zachary, can be regarded as ‘architects of imperial Britain’. George Scharf, ‘The Funeral of Thomas Babington Macaulay’ (1860). Image: National Portrait Gallery. That is one of the two main themes of Hall’s unusual joint biography. The other is ...

Keep yr gob shut

Christopher Tayler: Larkin v. Amis, 20 December 2012

The Odd Couple: The Curious Friendship between Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin 
by Richard Bradford.
Robson, 373 pp., £20, November 2012, 978 1 84954 375 0
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... Experience (2000) softened the prevailing image of him as the meanest drunk at the Garrick, and Zachary Leader’s biography wasn’t unkind. Amis’s ogreish ways weren’t news anyway: annoying feminists and lefties had been, for him, half the point. Since then his novels have been refloated as period pieces and his lower profile in the US has helped ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust, 19 July 2018

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... tomes. Even such a minuscule figure as Kingsley Amis has been encased in an obese 995 pages from Zachary Leader. Hilary Spurling’s Life of Anthony Powell breaks with this pattern. The longest-lived of all significant novelists of the last century, his 94 years are covered in fewer than 450 pages of text. In part, that’s because she confines the ...

A Topic Best Avoided

Nicholas Guyatt: Abraham Lincoln, 1 December 2011

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery 
by Eric Foner.
Norton, 426 pp., £21, February 2011, 978 0 393 06618 0
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... of disloyalty to the troops. Then the Whig Party confirmed its meretriciousness by nominating Zachary Taylor, a returning general, as its presidential candidate for 1848. Lincoln campaigned for Taylor, a Louisiana slaveholder, but was passed over for an appointment when Taylor captured the White House. With little to show for his time in the capital, he ...


Alan Bennett: What I Didn’t Do in 2007, 3 January 2008

... want the money. It’s harmless enough but it makes literature a nastier world. 8 January. Reading Zachary Leader’s biography of Kingsley Amis, though not with much relish. She was ‘a good drinker’, Leader says of the Swansea original of Mrs Gruffydd-Williams, and while one feels this is very much an Amis-type ...

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