The Golden Age of Science Fiction edited by Kingsley Amis (1981)

Science fiction is a pessimistic medium… Most of it is about things going wrong. (Amis in his preface) Amis Kingsley Amis was a grumpy old bugger. This judgement is based not only on reading his articles and reviews when he was still alive (he died in 1995), but having read and reviewed all twenty of […]

The Biographer’s Moustache by Kingsley Amis (1995)

‘She told me she saw something in one of the papers about somebody called something Scott-Thompson writing something about JRP Fane…’ (p.96) Not particularly successful, forty-something literary journalist, Gordon Scott-Thompson, pitches the idea of writing a ‘critical biography’ of 68-year-old, very posh and very out-of-date novelist Jimmie Fane, to his reluctant publisher. There follows a series […]

You Can’t Do Both by Kingsley Amis (1994)

‘This makes all the difference. Well, quite a lot of difference.’ (p.142) Robin tried to make it clear, but not too clear… (p.128) Amis was born in 1922, so he started secondary school just as Herr Hitler took power in Germany (1933) and reached manhood during the Battle of Britain (1940). He grew up in […]

MAMista by Len Deighton (1991)

In The Night Manager we saw how John le Carré reacted to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War – the subjects which had provided his fictional bread and butter for nearly thirty years. He reacted by moving the same organisation – British Intelligence […]

The Russian Girl by Kingsley Amis (1992)

Richard had reached a kind of steady state of indecision. Everything that had happened seemed to make it harder to know what to do about anything. (p.179) Richard Vaisey’s circle Another novel set among the professional middle classes in London, this time focusing on Dr Richard Vaisey, lecturer in Russian Literature at the (fictional) London […]

How to build a Kingsley Amis sentence

I find it mind boggling that the blurbs on the Penguin paperbacks routinely describe Amis as the premier serious novelist in Britain (in the late 1980s, early 1990s). Surely not for the originality of his subject matter (middle-aged white people having dinner parties in north London). Nor for his attitude (a perceptive but consistently grumpy […]

We Are All Guilty by Kingsley Amis (1991)

This is a very short novella, barely 80 pages long, written in a simple style and marketed as Puffin Teenage Fiction. I doubt it would appeal to many teenagers in 2015 and wonder how many read it in 1991. Despite its naturalistic setting, I think this is more a ‘novel of ideas’, a fictionalised pamphlet, […]

The Folks That Live on the Hill by Kingsley Amis (1990)

For more than just a moment Harry had the horrible feeling that he had finally lost all ability to understand why other people behaved as they did, and even to know what his own emotions or wishes were beyond a longing to be by himself indefinitely, unreachable by others, not necessarily in this room, just […]

Difficulties With Girls by Kingsley Amis (1988)

‘You selfish pig.’ (p.210) Difficulties With Girls is Kingsley Amis’s 19th novel and a sequel to his fourth, Take A Girl Like You, published nearly 30 years earlier, in 1960. In that book we met twenty-year-old Jenny Bunn, a northern lass come down south to be an infant school teacher, who is pursued by every man she meets […]

The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis (1986)

The area had once been called Monmouthshire but because of a decision taken in London was now called Gwent, after an ancient Welsh kingdom or whatever it was that might have formerly existed there or thereabouts. Anyway, it was Wales all right. (p.60) Overview A long novel by Amis’s standards, at 384 pages, The Old […]