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Something Amis

There is nothing else like the careening prose of Sir Kingsley Amis. Somehow his syntax, his diction, and his tone have a way of collapsing in sync, so that the reader is left lurching in an air pocket of laughter. I have long thought Amis to be the funniest writer in the English-speaking world, and he is that, off and on, in this latest of his productions. So the first thing to say is that if you're looking to be entertained, then Amis's Memoirs is quite a treat.

Now I've put it that way so that I will feel quite free—as a devoted fan of Kingsley Amis—to grumble about these same disappointing Memoirs. The book's a toot, but it's also lazy and evasive, a ragbag that doesn't cohere, containing as it does an uneasy mixture of sentimentality, meanness, philistinism, snobbery, complacency, and coarseness. Is it possible that this inchoate assembly might have some point or overriding idea, other than the ineffable superiority of the Amisian view? If so, it is not stated, though I think it might be intuited.

I believe I can isolate two themes either left undeveloped or else avoided by the author that hint at the structure of a real book—the one the author withheld. One of those items is intellectual, the other spiritual. The first is the story of a novelist and academic; the second is the tale of a man uneasily in search of love—a man who found sex and booze instead of...

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