A BOOK edited by Zachary Leader
Jacketed Hard Cover - ISBN 9780002570954 [£20]
Throughout his life, Sir Kingsley Amis was a prolific, brilliant and outrageous correspondent. In his letters to friends such as Philip Larkin and Robert Conquest he was able to unbutton himself to an extent impossible in work intended for publication, and as a result the more than seven hundred letters contained in this volume – the vast majority of them never seen in print before – contain some of his wittiest and most acerbic writings.
The letters reveal Amis’s youthful dissatisfactions, which would be comically recreated in his spectacularly successful first novel, Lucky Jim; his passionate love of jazz; his frequently caustic observations about the vicissitudes of family life; the painful breakdown of his first marriage, and the subsequent souring of his relationship with his second wife, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard; and his development into one of the country’s most revered – yet also uniquely controversial – literary figures.
Seldom can any writer have provided such a lively and coruscating self-portrait as is revealed by these letters. Above all, they comprise a definitive, and devastating, riposte to the simplistic but widely-held view of Amis’s life as a progression from ‘Angry Young Man’ to curmudgeonly establishment figure.a