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John Lanchester: Martin Amis, 6 July 2000

by Martin Amis.
Cape, 401 pp., £18, May 2000, 0 224 05060 5
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... surprisingly, of the other type (and his intensely focused Patrimony is somewhere in the middle). Kingsley Amis’s riotous Memoirs are lifelike, too much so for some. Terence Kilmartin once said that the book was ‘fantastically idle’ – which was part of the point. In a sense, it’s logical for a novelist to choose this second course, since a ...

Better than Ganymede

Tom Paulin: Larkin, 21 October 2010

Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 475 pp., £22.50, October 2010, 978 0 571 23909 2
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... the high tone of the poem. Larkin is obviously hurt in his next letter when he tells Monica that Kingsley Amis wasn’t interested in the poem, though he was ‘quite polite’ about it (he didn’t like the use of ‘blent’). In a letter written after hearing ‘Mr Bleaney’, with its complaints about rented rooms (‘Bed, upright chair, sixty-watt ...


Christopher Ricks, 2 August 1984

The Faber Book of Parodies 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 383 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 571 13125 5
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Lilibet: An Account in Verse of the Early Years of the Queen until the Time of her Accession 
by Her Majesty.
Blond and Briggs, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1984, 0 85634 157 6
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... parody of Yeats’s anthology piece, any more than Beckett’s Worstward Ho is a parody of Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho!. Brett has therefore come up with almost the only way of being calumniatingly unjust to Ezra Pound. And, even-handedly, to Pound’s impugners. J.B. Morton was often funny and acute, but his philistine squib against Pound,‘Another ...


Frank Kermode: Angry Young Men, 28 November 2002

The Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950s 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Allen Lane, 244 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 0 7139 9532 7
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... and there can have been but few occasions when the whole company of Angry Young Men was assembled. Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin and John Wain knew one another at Oxford, but had little to do with autodidacts like Colin Wilson, John Osborne and Alan Sillitoe – this last name less often mentioned in this context than might have been expected, doubtless ...

Boss of the Plains

D.A.N. Jones, 19 May 1983

The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 284 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 19 503102 4
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... 1983.) An American professor of English literature, with a strong admiration for George Orwell and Kingsley Amis, Fussell uses his nation’s Handbook in their fierce, blustering way, to challenge the conceptions of trendy-left and radical-chic folk, explaining to them that a boy who tries to obey Scout Laws, whatever else he does, will not grow up like ...

Here comes Amy

Christopher Reid, 17 April 1986

What the light was like 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 110 pp., £4, February 1986, 0 571 13814 4
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Facing Nature 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 110 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 233 97798 8
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by Jeremy Reed.
Cape, 128 pp., £4.95, November 1985, 0 224 02346 2
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by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, 36 pp., £8.95, December 1985, 0 906427 98 3
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Dramatic Verse: 1973-1985 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, 448 pp., £20, December 1985, 0 906427 81 9
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Sky Ray Lolly 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, April 1986, 0 7011 3046 6
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The Tower of Glass 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Mariscat, £3, September 1985, 0 946588 07 4
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Making cocoa for Kingsley Amis 
by Wendy Cope.
Faber, 65 pp., £7.95, March 1986, 0 571 13977 9
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... depress me – Met Stetson and gave him an earful. Cope’s first collection, Making cocoa for Kingsley Amis, contains a good deal that is as inventively funny as this. Her habitual stance is the sly one, less modest than might appear at first sight, of marginal annotator, ruthlessly mocking literary pretentions and absurdities. Her creation of the ...

Down, don, down

John Sutherland, 6 August 1992

Decline of Donnish Dominion 
by A.H. Halsey.
Oxford, 344 pp., £40, March 1992, 0 19 827376 2
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Millikan’s School: A History of the California Institute of Technology 
by Judith Goodstein.
Norton, 317 pp., £17.95, October 1991, 0 393 03017 2
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... More did mean worse – although not quite in the way Kingsley Amis feared. He and his Black Paper colleagues misjudged what would happen to ‘standards’ after the expansionist Robbins Report. The British university product – the education of undergraduates and scholarly research – has never been better than it now is, nor its international reputation higher ...

Flying the flag

Patrick Parrinder, 18 November 1993

The Modern British Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 512 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 436 20132 1
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After the War: The Novel and English Society since 1945 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 310 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 9780701137694
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... sociological interest, even though Taylor often doesn’t much like them. At one extreme there is Kingsley Amis, whose novels are said to have ‘enormous importance’ and are discussed in great detail even though Taylor admits that they are not to his taste. At the other extreme, something called the ‘average post-war novel’ makes regular ...

Call Her Daisy-Ray

John Sturrock: Accents and Attitudes, 11 September 2003

Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol 
by Lynda Mugglestone.
Oxford, 354 pp., £35, February 2003, 0 19 925061 8
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... how, say, a long vowel differs audibly from a short one. I was once at a lunch at which the late Kingsley Amis gave the table a hilarious and I’m sure exquisitely accurate resumé of the Great Vowel Shift in English, and how it would have sounded had it all taken place between courses, in roughly a minute and a half. That, I reflected at the time, is ...

Faculty at War

Tom Paulin, 17 June 1982

Re-Reading English 
edited by Peter Widdowson.
Methuen, 246 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 416 31150 4
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Against Criticism 
by Iain McGilchrist.
Faber, 271 pp., £12.50, May 1982, 0 571 11922 0
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... of female instruction which were founded in the latter half of the 19th century. Charles Kingsley, in his inaugural lecture as Professor of English at Queen’s College, London, argued that the reading of English would help towards an understanding of the ‘English spirit’ and would therefore counteract the notion that ‘the minds of young women ...

Barrage Balloons of Fame

Christopher Tayler: We need to talk about Martin, 8 October 2020

Inside Story 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 521 pp., £20, September, 978 1 78733 275 1
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... Fifty years later he’s still up in the treetops: he never touches the ground again. Martin Amis began a similar feat of heroic resolve in the 1970s, and whatever you make of his commitment to an all-consuming idea of style, you can’t say he makes things easy for himself up there. In his new book, his 25th, statements like ‘the doorbell rang’ or ...

Main Man

Michael Hofmann, 7 July 1994

Walking Possession: Essays and Reviews 1968-1993 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 302 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 7475 1712 6
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Gazza Italia 
by Ian Hamilton.
Granta, 188 pp., £5.99, May 1994, 0 14 014073 5
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... by contrast to the poems. The novel section, for instance, is either about the work of friends (Amis and Barnes) or American megalos: and Hamilton, interestingly, is an American specialist in these essays, never happier than when insolently ribbing the latest big-ticket imports. The poetry section is still weirder: Larkin one can understand, from ...


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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... It is unlikely that they will be read as 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 ...


Karl Miller: Ten Years of the LRB, 26 October 1989

... Fiction in the Eighties’† – the very fiction which he supposes not to matter. Kingsley Amis is present there as a ‘joke figure of the right’ who once asserted that ‘more will mean worse’ in the field of educational provision, and whose novels have got worse in the course of his thirty-five years of production. Taylor likes ...

A Funny Feeling

David Runciman: Larkin and My Father, 4 February 2021

... The last letter​ Philip Larkin wrote was to Kingsley Amis on 21 November 1985. He was too ill to hold the pen himself and dictated it to be typed and signed by his secretary at the Brynmor Jones Library in Hull. He told Amis he was going into hospital that day for more tests – ‘only tests, but of course they are looking for something, and I bloody well hope they don’t find it ...

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