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The Letters of Kingsley Amis Hardcover – 15 May 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1264 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition/First Printing edition (15 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002570955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002570954
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 6.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 426,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

As well as being a prolific novelist, Kingsley Amis loved to write letters. And whether one views him as a comic genius or misanthropic bar-fly, his literary output alone justifies the publication of this comprehensive collection. Here are fulminations to the press, laddish porn-swapping with best friend Philip Larkin, along with numerous communications, charming and vitriolic, to editors and agents.

Those seeking revelations might be disappointed but browsers will find a treasury of poignant detail. As an undergraduate, Amis advises Larkin on girls; he's still doing so 30 years later. As a father, he cloaks pride with irony ("Scoundrelly Mart has sold his novel to the Yanks", he fumes, a propos of Martin Amis's The Rachel Papers). An avowed enemy of sentiment, he pens touching notes to his second wife, replete with pet names and illustrations. Later, he is vulnerable--terrified by alcoholism, widening waistbands and false teeth. This collection does not pretend to provide a key to his complex personality, but amply fulfils Amis's own prophecy: "What a feast is awaiting chaps ... when our ... letters come out". Not even appetites of Amis's proportions could digest this feast at one sitting--The Letters of Kingsley Amis is a book to be savoured over a lifetime. --Matthew Baylis

Review

‘You can put this book in front of people and watch them crack up’
David Sexton, Evening Standard

‘A bracing delight’
Julie Burchill, Guardian

‘Better than Evelyn Waugh’
Economist

‘A wonderful, wickedly enjoyable collection’
Andrew Vine, Yorkshire Post

‘Hugely entertaining’
Katharine Whitehorn, Observer

‘A feast’
Blake Morrison, Independent on Sunday

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
You either like Amis or you don't. I can't imagine anyone unfamiliar with him buying this off the cuff. If you have read the Larkin letters, you'll have some idea what to expect; but Zachary Leader is a more censorious editor than Anthony Thwaite, or at least freer with the ellipse. A limerick about Christopher Ricks is 'unprintable', according to Leader. Whether or not it is due to editorial trimming, what is printed is fairly tame, compared to Larkin's unsound racial comments. (The previous reviewer who thinks Amis anti-Semitic can't have read the book properly.) Also, Leader makes some fairly unimportant but conspicuously unprofessional editorial errors, such as getting the name of an Amis character wrong. However, this is probably unavoidable in such a capacious volume. Prof. Leader has certainly produced a bumper tome. Obviously, the most 'important' correspondent is Larkin, and it's a shame that Amis lost many of the letters he received from Larkin, as a separate volume of Amis-Larkin correspondence would allow a reduction in the size of Prof. Leader's book. It needs it! The binding is of insufficient quality for such a large volume. It's surprisingly irritating to have to slap glue down the spine of a brand new book. A 5 star writer, a 4 star editing job, and zero stars for the bookbinding, gives an overall score of 3 stars.
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Format: Paperback
First are the early letters from Amis to Larkin when they are angry young men, although not really about anything so dull as politics. The letters from Amis to Larkin and the vividly implied letters from Larkin to Amis are vicious, voracious and hilarious about themselves, jazz, drinking, lust, and the state of English writing. This part is fireworks. Second are the love letters addressed to his second wife, when Amis was bowled over by her. The second set of letters was not meant to be read by us, but the first probably was - although in 2300 on Mars, with us uncomprehending - given many allusions to future fame and biographers. In the second set we are snooping, but we see an energetic complex man overcome by sexual love, and that's not so bad - even edifying. These letters could be the best of Amis' "words".
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Format: Hardcover
Here is the life of one of our most eminent novelist laid out in a series of letters. From the early 1940s to just before his death in 1995. It is a fascinating study of how KA evolves from a some what self doubting literati (and a communist to boot) to the grand old man of English literature. His letters to Larkin form the early bulk of this book, and they show just how much debt is owed to Larkin for 'making' KA. These letters are fresh and eager, almost intimate enough to have been exchanged between lovers, but we know better. Like Larkin, Amis is often a misogynist and most certainly an anti-Semite but one feels compelled to forgive and blame these opinions on his times rather than on him. The later Amis is a very sad spectacle, pontificating in the press, a fat drunk caricature of himself. The one thing that is on display through out this book is the humour and love of the written word, something not diminished by drunken excesses at the Garrick or the right wing fulmination of his later life. An excellent read in tandem with his son (Martin's) recent book: Experience.
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