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In Success Amis pens a mismatched pair of foster brothers--one "a quivering condom of neurosis and ineptitude," the other a "bundle of contempt, vanity and stock-response"--in a single London flat. He binds them with ties of class hatred, sexual rivalry, and disappointed love, and throws in a disloyal girlfriend and a spectacularly unstable sister to create a modern-day Jacobean revenge comedy that soars with malicious poetry.
Why, I jolly well showed her, the minx. Look at all this stuff, she said: how clever. A month later her thin moist face poked up from beneath the sheets; she rested her chin on my chest and frowned. I believe it’s very nutritious, I whispered with a smile. She crinkled her nose — a gesture which in her indicated uncertainty rather than distaste. I’ll probably get used to it, she said, and added: What will you do when I go like Mama? — But I had sent my sweetheart packing down the bed again, and I
up in rows, seeming to nod unanimous mocking assent to all the horrors of schooldays and death? Remember how you longed just for a guilty friend, someone like yourself, a partner in grime, a sharer of your shame? Remember that. We have a rule now, Ursula and I, that whenever she starts to suffer from anxiety without an object, or whenever she says something that has nothing to do with anything anyone else has said recently, or whenever she suggests doing something impossible or incoherent or
don’t even fancy me, not any longer. They pay me exactly half the nationalaverage wage, less than anyone I know or have ever heard about. And they say that this will soon be cut, because they are going under too. I worry about money all the time — I feel like the buckled L of a pound sign or like a note on a thin rippling banner. I daren’t open letters any more. I’ve sold whatever I had that I could sell. That ‘expensive’ green car of mine (absent, you’ll have noticed, for some while now) went
car edged up the pebbled drive, and through its rear-side window Rivers Hall was framed for me once again. A nylon drizzle hung from warlike clouds: the place looked all full up with autumn. We disembarked; I was led into a hall — everything bright and various suddenly — then guided into the kitchen by the housekeeper, Mrs Daltrey (these days referred to as ‘the staff’ by Gregory), who made some tea while Mr and Mrs Riding signed what was presumably a receipt and listened to the valedictions of
too, while it’s light.’ He turned to me with a half-smile. ‘Goodbye then,’ I said. ‘Goodbye, Terry.’ ‘When are you coming back?’ I called as he started off. He looked over his shoulder. ‘I’m not coming back,’ he said. Nor am I, I thought, as an hour later I took my seat in the restaurant car of the 5.15. Life is finished there. It’s just a damp house where I grew up. Let them stay for as long as they can. I hope they’ll be all right. Now I’ve got the flat to myself for a bit — I’ll sell it