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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and very funny
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...
Published 12 months ago by Philip Mayo

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs Kingsley Amis
Thought this book would be far more entertaining than it was. The anecdotes were - for the most - quite boring.
Can't recommend.
Published 7 months ago by syd peru


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs Kingsley Amis, 16 Jan 2014
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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 Beautifully written and very funny, 17 Aug 2013
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Philip Mayo - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Memoirs (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
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.

Oddly enough, I happened to buy on the same day as this book, Martin Amis's "Experience", which is his autobiography, and although I am only a quarter way into it I can say with certainty that there is where you will find the complete Kingsley Amis, warts and all, and there were many warts. It is extraordinary, very rare indeed, to find a father and son writing dynasty. It just doesn't seem to happen. That these two writers are so superlatively good at their art and also have led such as-far-from-dull-lives as I can imagine, makes reading them one of my great enjoyments.

This is a fine book, entertaining and very funny. But I would recommend reading Martin Amis's "Experience" first, if the opportunity presents itself. Kingsley may have felt that nobody would be interested in reading about the real Kingsley Amis. He was wrong about that. And it is not a question of being voyeuristic. He was a complex man and reading about that reveals a lot, not only about him (and, of course, about Martin), but about ourselves too.

And finally, the book ends with a poem, written by Kingsley to his first wife, Hilly, many years after she left him (his fault entirely). You should read the poem, if nothing else. It is magical, and heart-breaking, and true for us all.
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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
This review is from: Memoirs (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
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. Many of them are about people or things that I'd never heard of, or knew nothing about. They are all never less than highly entertaining and hugely informative, and bear going back to time and again.
So, if your experience or opinion of Amis is only of a pompous, reactionary old windbag, have a go at this. Then read some of his earlier work - starting with "Lucky Jim" - and think again.
(The title of this review is a quote from his essay on Cambridge)

ADDENDA 12/06/13 I read a review of "Memoirs" not long after they were published which said they were "unreliable" - I took this to mean that they were highly subjective rather than inaccurate or false. However, I've just finished reading Zachary Leader's biog of Amis. Apparently many of the chapters in the "Memoirs" are full of factual inaccuracies or disputed assertions and counter-assertions about what Amis, and the people he wrote about, did or did not do or say. If you do read them, bear this in mind. They're still a good read, but possibly economical with the actualite.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read, 23 May 2014
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This is a fascinating memoir which often makes you laugh out loud. His recollections of public and literary figures are very entertaining.
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4.0 out of 5 stars an interesting life, 14 Jan 2013
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M. Hunter - See all my reviews
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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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Memoirs (Vintage Classics)
Memoirs (Vintage Classics) by Kingsley Amis (Paperback - 1 July 2004)
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