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Memoirs (Vintage Classics) [Paperback]

Kingsley Amis
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 July 2004 Vintage Classics
Elegant, provocative and hugely entertaining, Kingsley Amis's memoirs are filled with anecdotes, experiences and portraits of famous friends, family, acquaintances (and a few eminent foes). From his childhood days to Oxford and army life, his travels abroad and his years as a successful novelist, Memoirs offers extraordinary insights into a unique literary life.

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Memoirs (Vintage Classics) + The King's English (Penguin Modern Classics) + Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (1 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099461064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099461067
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 390,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Endlessly entertaining... Good, rollicking stuff, and a delight to read... Sir Kingsley Amis is surely one of the funniest men alive" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Horribly enjoyable... The chief feeling is shame at laughing quite so much" (Independent on Sunday)

"Kingsley Amis's funniest book since Lucky Jim. It's humour is heart-warmingly malicious" (Sunday Times)

"He is nasty about people that have amply deserved it one way or the other; he deflates pretension; he exposes doublethink...he also excels in hailing poets and truepennies" (Guardian)

"Amis can be sharp and even brutal as well as funny and indiscreet...he has evidently written Memoirs with relish" (Sunday Telegraph)

Book Description

'Endlessly entertaining... Good, rollicking stuff, and a delight to read... Sir Kingsley Amis is surely one of the funniest men alive' Auberon Waugh, Sunday Telegraph

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs Kingsley Amis 16 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Thought this book would be far more entertaining than it was. The anecdotes were - for the most - quite boring.
Can't recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fire in a gypsy's bucket 28 May 2013
I first discovered Amis's work when (like most people of my age, I should imagine) I read "Lucky Jim" in the early 1970's. Bowled over by it, I spent the next few years reading everything I could by and about him, seeking out the minor works such as "Girl, 20", "I want it now" and "One Fat Englishman" and loving it all.
Then, round about 1976, with "Ending Up", I started to notice a change. He was becoming bitter and unpleasant; a streak of nastiness that had been just noticeable but largely sublimated in the surrounding humour was coming to dominate his work. After "Jake's Thing"(1978) I gave up on him.
The years passed. One day I found a copy of his "Memoirs" in a junk shop. Moved by the memory of what he had once been, I bought it, more out of plangent curiosity than by any expectation of enjoying it or even reading much of it at all. Opening it at random, I started reading...
and I just kept on.
It reminded me of what it had once been like to read his work - the sense that you weren't reading something written miles away by somebody else, but that he was sitting in the same room, talking to you, one friend to another. It was good to rediscover that sensation, and gave me a feeling that my early enthusiasm hadn't been wasted or foolish, but had instead been validated, as if his later, unpleasant works had somehow been relegated to a distant irrelevance in the greater scheme of things.
To call them "Memoirs" is, to say the least, stretching a point. They are more a collection of essays on different aspects of his past, and deal with whatever it took his fancy to write about. There are essays/chapters on, inter alia, Family, George Gale, USA(1&2), the Army, Tibor Szamuely and the Booker Prize.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and very funny 17 Aug 2013
By Philip Mayo VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kingsley Amis tells us in the preface to this book that it is not about himself, or only so inasmuch as he features in relation to others. He describes it as a series of sketches about people that he knew well, or not very well, and there are many, including, to name only a very few, Philip Larkin, Robert Conquest, Terry Thomas, Lord Snowdon, John Betjeman, Anthony Burgess, Malcolm Muggeridge, Enoch Powell and Margaret Thatcher. He also includes some essays on periods of his life such as his time in the army, his time in America and a final piece about a stay in hospital (due to a broken leg) which gave him a glimpse of the final act which he felt was not too far distant. And indeed it wasn't - he died 4 years later.

He also tells us that writing about himself would be repugnant to him. Who would want to read about his dull (!!) life? he asks, and also he makes the valid point that to write honestly about his own life would involve hurting people that he was close to - people who he once, or still, loved. Fair enough. So this is not the book in which we get to know the real man. But it is a book in which he displays his wonderful command of the language, his wit, his ability to disarm with charm or mortally lay bare with the barbed comment. We also get to know at least a little more about a host of people, many of whom I knew very little about, other than their names, and their marketed profiles. This gives us a much closer look at the real people, caught in vignette form, and always in a way that makes us smile.
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4.0 out of 5 stars an interesting life 14 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Kingsley Amis was (IMHO) one of the best of the post-WWII novelists: amusing, acerbic, his observation was acute and his mimicry of ways of speech unparalleled; as well as all that, his novels and short stories were amazingly varied in setting and storyline. Reading these memoirs, one can see the basis for many of the episodes and characters in his writings. You'll probably enjoy the Memoirs more if you've read some of the novels previously, otherwise the references to them may not be revealing.

Since he is careful not to enlarge on episodes that might cause pain to those nearest to him, a brief overview of his life will enhance understanding of some of the shifts in his circumstances that are not fully explained here. It is well worth the trouble of doing this, for it was a life of considerable interest.

When I read the Memoirs, I wish that I'd known him personally and could have talked with him, or even just listened to him talking with others; it might easily not have been a cosy experience, because he was not a glad sufferer of anything approaching a fool, but it would have been memorable, and I'd have been able to put it in my own memoirs - if only I hadn't been too idle to write them.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A last round for (or on) his friends 7 Oct 2002
By The Sanity Inspector - Published on
The famous founder of the original Angry Young Men offers up these mis-named memoirs. It is not an autobiography but more a collection of pub performances in written form. Which is no handicap to enjoying the collection: conversation remained an art in England long after it became extinct in America.
Some of the people profiled are not friends or enemies, but neglected writers whose stars Amis hoped to revive. The writer Elizabeth Taylor is one of these. Others, like Anthony Burgess and Enoch Powell, are simply famous people who were barely acquaintances, but with whom Amis had notable run-ins.
The profiles of his literary friends are mostly strings of amusing faux pas or escapades, usually drunken. He sportingly lingers over his own social pratfalls as much as over others'. Or maybe fair play has nothing to do with it; he just recognizes good material no matter who the subject is. In his own telling, he spends much of these events half in the bag, to the point of being unable to reconstruct them from memory later. Except for a passing opinion or two, he stays away from politics and literary theories, even giving Robert Conquest's limericks more ink than his Sovietology. He sticks to the same approach even with his nearest and dearest: his wives and novelist son only appear as part of some anecdote or other.
His view of America is like Frances Trollope's. Gleeful japes at the Ugly American abound, each more devastating than the last. Well, H. L. Mencken did it earlier and better. And no charge for saving England's bacon so many times, old top.
Here and there genuine affection for his closest friends bubbles to the surface. Philip Larkin appears throughout the collection, in addition to his own chapter, and Amis frequently quotes from Larkin's uncollected poetry. Under Amis' treatment, the mopey old onanist almost becomes a tragic figure. Other people like post-conversion Malcolm Muggeridge make no sense to him, as Amis does not have or at least does not display any spiritual side.
Taken altogether, this is a very English, sometimes acidly English, survey of one writer's circle of acquaintances, but not much of their era.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witheld 17 Nov 2012
By John the Reader - Published on
As I struggled to be subjective and fair to Kingsley, whom I much admired in my younger days, I read a review posted by another reader who encapsulated exactly what I wanted to say myself. Without a blush then, I quote ... "Sportingly" says the American reviewer, "he reveals his own social pratfalls as much as others. Or maybe fair play has nothing to do with it; he just recognizes good material no matter who the subject is ... this is a very English, sometimes acidly English, survey of one writer's circle of acquaintances."

The `survey' does not reveal too much - or even enough - of them as Kingsley himself suggested ... quoted in a Kirkus review ... " Amis says his holding back saves pain". But it does not help a `life' very much, leaving the reader with a rather flat account of his friends, their meetings, and even such famous acquaintances as Phillip Larkin are gently brushed in. Having so enjoyed and remembered from early readings Kingsley's sparkling prose in "Lucky Jim" and "Take a girl like you" I was expecting rather more.

Disappointing read then, and only recommended for those already acquainted with the main body of his works which provide the evidence of this author's true ability in his craftsmanship and wit.
2.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs? 5 April 2014
By reading man - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you consider many chapters of anecdotes about your family and friends to be "memoirs", then you'll enjoy this book.

The rest of us can only wonder why such a format, most of which is vitriolic betrayal of long-time friends was ever published.

Or, rather, we wonder why Kingsley consented to allow his publishers to promote his image as a boorish snob to sell a book that apparently wound up as a remainder.

His essays on Larkin, his "best friend", and Edmund Crispin (Bruce Montgomery) should never have seen print. He concludes that Montgomery became a hopeless drunk out of sheer boredom, which would serve as an autobiographical statement.

The accounts of others in this book are both trite and mean-spirited. You wonder what happened to the witty gent who wrote LUCKY JIM ....
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