- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
Memoirs (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 1 Jul 2004
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"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)
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.See all Product description
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Showing 1-5 of 7 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again 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.
(I think it is safe to say if you enjoyed that book you’ll like this as well. Indeed it compliments it and gives some clues to the various characters foibles.)
Here we are in the world of headline/title subject and - mostly - pot-shot, back-stab, character assassination and amateur psychiatrist. But in a fun way. The people he actually liked or admired are written about sparingly and this is the first of his problems. The second seems to be not liking - as much - people who didn’t share his out-to-lunch-and-one-more-for-the-road lifestyle. So Anthony Burgess was more of a loner than a party animal! Did that hurt his work or make him a bad person?
Yes he writes better with the poison pen than the standard one. Certainly he lead a life which had given him many moments of great discomfort - his placements in Nashville (USA) and his meetings with Enoch Powell/Tony Benn get both barrels of the shotgun. An equal opportunity sniper in every sense of the expression.
(Even - bizarrely - breaking down into crude four letter words, such is the writer’s anger!)
As is the cliché, Amis started (politically) on left and slowly drifted to the right. He generally keeps politics out of the pages (a clear decision openly stated in the main text), apart from a short chapter praising Thatcher. Praise being an understatement. Presumably because he no longer needed any money from the educational establishment which she was hack-sawing away at. To be fair he does recognise this.
At some point in his life his drinking got out of control and became more a necessity than a social pleasure. Before this book was finished no doubt. Maybe he took women for granted - as good looking (when young) “success stories” with stable incomes often do. As a two-time husband he was a total failure. But that is another book entirely.
The nearest thing to bravery or true introspection is the discussions he had with his many psychiatrists ( here called “shrinks”) and their general failure to cure him of his various fears and phobias. He didn’t dare use the London Underground (he simply gave up) and never flew or even drove a car. In America this must have been almost life-crippling and maybe the real reason why he never settled there? But why be so dismissive of the profession? They gave him a chance to air his fears and - maybe - confront them. Instead he ran away from them. His choice.
The best reason to read this book is the chapter on Philip Larkin. A long-time friend and the subject of long and detailed ping-pong letters. Almost a platonic love affair. It is often said they brought out the worst in each other (I guess being outrageous was a game to them) but there is always pleasure in seeing the English language so well used. Even though you don’t always agree with the tone of the text or the casual dated racism. It was the only marriage that lasted to the grave anyway...
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.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?