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.