Kingsley Amis

I must be getting old. Or I'm growing up (at 42?) I used to think Kingsley Amis was some sort of literary Anti-Christ, representing everything that was old and stolid and Establishment and boring in the world of writing. I had arrived at this conclusion without ever reading a word he'd written, but I'd seen an interview with him on tv; and I'd occasionally paused to disapprove of his poetry selections in the newspaper column he had for a while. I am a man who likes to do my research before offering a categorical opinion.

Now, though, I think Amis is fantastic. Novels like Lucky Jim and One Fat Englishman and Jake's Thing are confirmed favourites of mine. Incompatible with my minor status as a champion of lost geniuses and unappreciated new stars on the alternative side of the writing game? I don't really care, to be honest. I just do what I do, with no conscious calaculation involved. If people like it, fantastic.

The correspondence of Kingsley Amis is some of the best and funniest I've ever read, especially his 1940s letters to Philip Larkin, who went on to become probably the most influential poet (though not the best, by a long chalk), of the post-War generations in the UK. In Amis' book we don't have Larkin's answers, but we don't really want them; Amis provides a rich enough feast of scatological humour and scandalously judgemental, snobbish , politically incorrect (and very funny), one-liners for a second course (provided by Larkin's letters, if you get the way I'm stretching the metaphor), to be unnecessary.

Just two examples:

I read some rhyming words by Emily Dickinson. I DON'T SUPPOSE YOU'VE EVER LET ANYBODY SAY SHE WAS GOOD, BUT IF YOU HAVE, DON'T LET THEM DO IT AGAIN.

I also read some american short stories, and think on the hole that american men should stick to making noises with musical instruments.

I don't know how well the humour travels, but to me, as a grumpy middle-class Englishman, it's hysterical. I have to be careful where I read the book because it makes me laugh out loud.

And, I have to point out, the English is beautiful. Perhaps, like I said, I'm getting old, but it seems to me people don't care enough about that sort of thing anymore.

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