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Julian Barnes, 2 May 1985

A Classical Education 
by Richard Cobb.
Chatto, 156 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 7011 2936 0
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Still Life: Sketches from a Tunbridge Wells Childhood 
by Richard Cobb.
Chatto, 161 pp., £3.95, April 1985, 0 7012 1920 3
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... And my air tickets.’ Odd, then, to keep returning to the book with benevolence and admiration. Kingsley Amis has admitted – with only a measure of self-parody – that he doesn’t want to read any more books that don’t begin: ‘A shot rang out.’ Richard Cobb’s second volume of autobiography, nominally about Shrewsbury and Oxford, opens with ...

Vies de Bohème

D.A.N. Jones, 23 April 1987

A Sport of Nature 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Cape, 396 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 224 02447 7
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by Mary Flanagan.
Bloomsbury, 290 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 7475 0001 0
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... that ‘the bookshelves are wet with South African tears’ and reminded me of an old novel by Kingsley Amis, in which a young seducer at a party takes a girl to the kitchen and makes her cry over South Africa. Another, Ezekiel Mphahlele, told me once that the only novel about South Africa he had enjoyed was William Plomer’s Turbott Wolfe, a ...

Indian Summa

John Lanchester, 22 April 1993

A Suitable Boy 
by Vikram Seth.
Phoenix, 1349 pp., £20, March 1993, 1 897580 20 7
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... came to us like summer “andhi”, / Sweeping the dungs and dirt, was M.K. Gandhi’). Kingsley Amis has famously remarked that in reading his son’s books he feels the lack of simple declarative sentences, along the lines of ‘having nothing more to say, they finished their drinks and left.’ He should like A Suitable Boy, which contains ...


Frank Kermode, 5 June 1997

The Untouchable 
by John Banville.
Picador, 405 pp., £15.99, May 1997, 0 330 33931 1
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... Russian contact of what Syndics are and do in that university. But of course the great thing, as Kingsley Amis pointed out, is to sound as if you know some things well, and the rest will be taken on trust (except by readers who happen to have privileged information). For the rest, this novel (sometimes possibly a shade too expansive, as in the accounts ...


John Bayley: In defence of Larkin, 22 April 1993

... independence, or irresponsibility, is all the more striking because it was always there. Amis, Wain, even Conquest, were once conventionally of the left, as the thing to be: Larkin gave it all the cold shoulder. And they remained politicised in a way that he did not. He made fun of it all in his own way, as the late poem ‘Aubade’ makes a joke and ...


John Bayley: Serious Novels, 10 November 1994

... so; and it may be that in taking up a novel readers would rather get away from all that. Kingsley Amis in the past could hardly have been accused of being PC, but in his latest there are impalpable traces of it, like mist beginning to thicken round a craggy old mountain. Although far from being one of his best, You Can’t Do Both is certainly ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... over the teacups. The story that Mai Zetterling told of her encounter with Peter Sellers and Kingsley Amis, at the time of the filming of Only Two Can Play, moves easily enough from life to fiction. ‘Want to see my Aertexes?’ asks the disgraceful Rex Martin, the Amis offprint. What happens is that world fits ...

On the Blower

Peter Clarke: The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt, 18 February 1999

The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt: Volume I 
edited by Sarah Curtis.
Macmillan, 748 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 333 74166 8
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... Wyatt at the time (or at most with revisions in the same week). Wyatt was vain, but no fool. When Kingsley Amis showed that he knew as much as Wyatt himself about Mexican myths, the comment is characteristic in its mutually admiring embrace: ‘He knows a lot, Kingsley.’ Wyatt’s vanity insulated him against both ...

English Changing

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1980

The State of the Language 
edited by Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks.
California, 609 pp., £14.95, January 1980, 0 520 03763 4
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... from English then.’ Still, there are other arguments on the side of the decadence party. Kingsley Amis contributes his elegant though not unfamiliar jeremiad on the loss and confusion arising from the habitual misuse of certain words: flaunt for flout, refute for deny, perpetrate for perpetuate, and so on. There is the notable case of ...


Susannah Clapp: On Angela Carter, 12 March 1992

... suggest. She was a decade too old and entirely too female to be mentioned routinely alongside Amis-Barnes-Ishiguro as among the younger pillars of British fiction. She was two years too young to receive a full entry in Margaret Drabble’s 1985 edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature, which featured only writers born before 1939. She wrote ...


Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... doesn’t even mention him in his new survey of post-war fiction. In the late Fifties and after, Kingsley Amis, Johns Wain and Braine, Alan Sillitoe and Co struck a new, demotic note. The ‘traditional’ English novel of good and bad manners was radicalised and updated. Karl Miller helped to institute a new criticism which seemed to owe more to a ...

Damp-Lipped Hilary

Jenny Diski: Larkin’s juvenilia, 23 May 2002

Trouble at Willow Gables and Other Fictions 
by Philip Larkin, edited by James Booth.
Faber, 498 pp., £20, May 2002, 0 571 20347 7
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... keep a few Oxford friends – Bruce Montgomery (Edmund Crispin), Diana Gollancz and the dreadful Kingsley Amis – amused. Brunette’s work was read aloud to Montgomery and Gollancz after evenings at the pub, and its progress discussed in salacious detail in letters designed to persuade Amis that Brunette’s ...

Sabre-Toothed Teacher

Colin Kidd: Cowling, 31 March 2011

The Philosophy, Politics and Religion of British Democracy: Maurice Cowling and Conservatism 
edited by Robert Crowcroft, S.J.D. Green and Richard Whiting.
I.B. Tauris, 327 pp., £54.50, August 2010, 978 1 84511 976 8
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... George G. Ale). Through Pat Gale, a Swansea girl (whom Cowling would eventually marry), and Kingsley Amis, who taught at Peterhouse in the early 1960s, Cowling had links with the boozy set fictionalised in Amis’s The Old Devils (1986). These two South Londoners, Amis, whose ...


Julian Barnes: A Portrait of Lucian Freud, 5 December 2013

Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud 
by Martin Gayford.
Thames and Hudson, 248 pp., £12.95, March 2012, 978 0 500 28971 6
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Breakfast with Lucian: A Portrait of the Artist 
by Geordie Greig.
Cape, 260 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 224 09685 0
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... Geordie Greig’s accounts of Freud’s behaviour reminded me at times of two unlikely novelists: Kingsley Amis and Georges Simenon. When Amis’s second wife and fellow novelist, Elizabeth Jane Howard, saw him, at eleven o’clock on the morning he was due to lunch at Buckingham Palace, standing in the garden ...

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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... and delightfully muddled. This delight in messiness was not in fact confined to her art, as Martin Amis points out in a brief, reprinted piece: in the Murdoch-Bayley ménage, ‘even the soap is filthy,’ while odd shoes and socks lie about the house as if, in Bayley’s words, ‘deposited by a flash flood’. No wonder her most famous essay is entitled ...

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