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Lucky Him

A wit and a fussbudget as well as a scholar, Paul Fussell is one of the best essayists and observers around. For personal as well as literary reasons, there is no one better qualified to undertake a study of the writings of Sir Kingsley Amis. They make a natural pair. Indeed, they have been friends for some years, though that very relationship may have something to do with the flaws in Fussell's study of Amis's books and mind.

Fussell has pointedly excluded Amis's best known productions, his novels. He wants to show us Amis as a man of letters, a poet, a critic, an essayist, an academic, an anthologist, a traveler, an explorer of the good life—and on the whole, this strategy is effective. After all, there is something to be said for a man who wrote On Drink, Every Day Drinking and How's Your Glass?, and Fussell says it. There is something to be said, too, for the editor of The Golden Age of Science Fiction, The New Oxford Book of Light Verse, The Faber Popular Reciter, and the author of books on science fiction, James Bond, and Rudyard Kipling. Fussell sees Amis as a moralist, an upholder of standards, an accessible craftsman, and a civic writer. He also sees him as a good poet, faithful to his calling, whose verses fill some of the vacuum left by the inroads of modernism and the collapse of culture in the sense in which it was known not so long ago. And in making these points, Fussell is quite...

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