`I have not laughed aloud at a book so frequently for a very long time…a major literary event’ David Lodge, Times Literary Supplement
Kingsley Amis was a prolific, brilliant and outrageous correspondent. In letters to friends like Philip Larkin and Robert Conquest he could unbutton himself to an extent impossible in work intended for publication, and as a result the more than 800 letters included in this volume contain some of his wittiest and most acerbic writings.
They reveal Amis’s youthful dissatisfactions, which would be comically recreated in his spectacularly successful first novel, Lucky Jim; his love of jazz; his frequently caustic observations about family life; the painful breakdown of his first marriage, and the subsequent souring of his second, to the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard; and his development into one of the country’s most revered, yet uniquely controversial, literary figures. Seldom can any writer have provided such a lively and coruscating self-portrait as is revealed by these letters.
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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 BaylisReview:
‘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’
‘A wonderful, wickedly enjoyable collection’
Andrew Vine, Yorkshire Post
Katharine Whitehorn, Observer
Blake Morrison, Independent on Sunday
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110006387837