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Why Don’t You Just Shoot Me and Get It Over With?

The Life of Kingsley Amis

by Zachary Leader

New York: Pantheon Books;
996 pp., $39.95

No, I’m not sorry.  I’m not.  Really.  And I’m not sorry about a lot of things that we won’t go into, such as believing in the 1950’s that “we” were against communism, and such as ever believing that higher education meant very much, or such as entertaining even for a second, much less decades, the notion that my feelings about Ida Lupino would naturally be returned.

And so I have no regrets about investing my attention in some of the books of the late Sir Kingsley Amis (1922-95).  How could I regret that—and why should I?  Lucky Jim (1954) and One Fat Englishman (1963) are two of the funniest novels ever written, and the latter is a particularly subtle example of the necessary sublimation of the lower energies by its author, precisely because we cannot say “by its protagonist.”  And there are other works of different tones and methods, such as The Green Man (1969) and Ending Up (1974) and The Alteration (1976) and Jake’s Thing (1978) and Stanley and the Women (1984), not to mention other notable fictions.  There are as well collections of poetry and short stories and essays and three books on boozing, a book of...

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