The Letters of Kingsley Amis
The Letters of Kingsley Amis
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In 1954, Kingsley Amis grabbed the attention of the literary world as one of the Angry Young Men with his first novel Lucky Jim. He maintained a public image of blistering intelligence, savage wit, and belligerent fierceness of opinion until his death in 1995. In his letters, he confirms the legendary aspects of his reputation, and much more. This collection contains more than eight hundred letters that divulge the secrets of the artist and the man, with an honesty and immediacy rare in any biography or memoir.
Amis, so assured in his pronouncements on fellow writers, grapples privately with fears, self-doubts, ambitions, and personal disasters. He is wildly funny, indulging in mordant gossip and astonishing frankness with his intimate friends and lovers. Some letters are dashed off with signature frustration; others are written with painstaking and painful circumspection. They make vivid the triumphs and tumult of his life and his times, from post-war Britain through the Thatcher era, as well as his attractions to women, jazz, drink, and the comic possibilities of the English language.
As an intellectual pugilist who took no prisoners, Kingsley Amis had few peers. These letters, at times scandalous, at times tragic, reinforce his historical relevance and literary stature.
including the new Anthony Powell.8 This I suggest should be sub-titled From a find to a check; it is the most inconclusive book I have ever read. A question of upbringing? Whose upbringing? What question? Who’s asking it? What’s the answer? So much so that it is the sort of book where you wonder whether someone has torn the last quarter out. It travels imperceptibly on its way, steadily losing direction, shedding feeling and discarding tension for the end. There are some bits of Flann O’B, in it,
money, won’t you? Of course I can quite see that that in itself may be rather inconvenient, since so much of your life is arranged around saying you can’t afford this or that, and that’ll sound a bit thin when you’re pulling in fifteen hundred nicker, may find yourself having to treat hey hey no need to take it that way leggo a jokes a joke. You’ll be able to come here more often, or at any rate to somewhere like Oxford where we can meet, and this is cheering. I laughed at your allegations of
at the stage of contemplating a synopsis. Provisional title Pay Up and Look Pleasnat (you know) or is that too vulgar? Or too long? Well just write me a letter dear boy and get it ready to send off when I drop you my new address. Wish you were here, and no fooling. Visitors to Portugal will notice the superb quality of local bum, K. Love fra Milly4 [TLS: Bodleian] TO ROBERT CONQUEST – 31 JULY 1955 Estoril and so on, Portugal Dear Bob, I hope this non-stop writing isn’t getting you down. I
starts again, have a vivid picture of my study with the rain running down the window, gas-fire burning, all snug, buttered toast for tea in twenty minutes, and me working away like a demon AT MY WIRE, IS IT? Yes, that’s what it is. It’s a question of whether you like art or life best, you sam. You do a bit of art and as a result you begin having a much better time. Nothing to make you write then, if you follow mam. Ah well, it’s a puzzle. It’s a puzzle now. Hungry as a bastard now. It’s that
What Amis finds ‘faintly uncivil’ about the circular may derive from its passive constructions: ‘It is felt that it is important that’; ‘It is considered that no writer should conceive’ ‘It will be appreciated that’. Eric W. White (1905–85) joined the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (which became the Arts Council of Great Britain) in 1945, and served as Director of Literature, Arts Council (1966–71). He was also a composer, editor and translator. 2. Amis sent a copy of the