Sunday, May 14, 2023

Amis & Son

Sunday, 21st May, 2023 - I'm updating this post to record the news of the death from cancer of Martin Amis on Friday the 19th of May, at his Florida home. It seems strange to have been writing about his work just a week before that - strange, too, that it should have coincided with the Cannes debut of Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest, based on Amis's 2014 novel. It was received with a six-minute standing ovation. Requiescat in Pace.

Amis fils & Amis père

The other day I was in a bookshop where they were having a "five for five dollars" sale. Even at that price, I found few items to tempt me. An old copy of Spycatcher - yes, I missed reading that at the time, back in the paranoid '80s, but my friend John Fenton assures me it's a valuable piece of social history - that went in the bag. What else? An anthology of writings about the Battle of Britain, edited by some flying ace or other; a companion volume about pioneer aviators; Andrew Motion's Selected Poems; and - Amis & Son: Two Literary Generations ...

You'd think the latter would have been a shoo-in, given my longstanding obsession with the life and works of Kingsley Amis and (to a somewhat lesser extent) his son and literary rival Martin. Not so. I already own no fewer than three full-length biographies of "Kingers", as his friends used to call him, and - to be honest - I felt a bit reluctant to add to their number.

Still: five for five dollars - not to mention the fact that there isn't, so far as I'm aware, much biographical writing as yet about Martin - or 'Amis fils', as he's sometimes called. So I duly bought it and stowed it away on the shelf devoted to just such Amisiana. Until, the other day, feeling in dire need of a bit of a laugh - and I do find both Amises irresistibly amusing at times - I picked it up and started to read it.

London Remembers: Sir Kingsley Amis

It begins, sensibly enough, with a visit to "Kingsley Amis's earliest childhood home - 16 Buckingham Gardens, Norbury, SW16." The author is quick to refute "the green plaque stating that Sir Kingsley Amis was born here" placed there by the local council. Apparently he wasn't. As for the house itself, and its immediate ambience:
Even if Buckingham Gardens hasn't gone down in the world much since the Amises lived here, it hasn't come up; only one of the houses shows the slightest hint of ownerly gentrification, and it looks out of place.
So far so good. Class insecurity is a major theme of Neil Powell's book as a whole, so this seems a good place to start. But then:
The air carries a stong and unmistakable whiff of curry, which Kingsley mightn't in one sense have minded (it was among the few foods he actually enjoyed), though in another he'd have minded quite a bit: he was no racist, but he strongly disliked the quality of English life being mucked about. [p.1]
I had to read this sentence a couple of times before its implications really began to sink in. I mean, I have lived in the UK. I do know the terrain - to some extent, at least. What Powell appeared to me to be saying was that the area has been taken over by foreigners - the kind who eat a good deal of curry. Not only that, there is - is there not? - an implication that their very presence here constitutes some kind of affront to the "quality of English life."

Carcanet Press: Neil Powell

Perhaps I'm overreading it, I thought, resisting my first impulse to throw the book across the room. Surely he can't mean that. In any case, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and persevere.

Certainly Neil Powell knows a good story when he hears one. I'm not sure that I came across many in his pages which I hadn't already encountered in Amis's Memoirs or one of the other biographies, but they were certainly just as amusing when retold here. He also quotes lengthy passages from Amis's Letters, which reminded me of just how rib-ticklingly funny that book can be - one of the few such volumes that it actually is dangerous to be caught reading in a public place. People are liable to think that you're throwing a fit.

But is this enough? Is this really a necessary book? As D. J. Taylor puts it in his own notice of Amis and Son in the Literary Review:
On the shelf beside me as I write this are, in chronological order, Kingsley’s Memoirs (1991), Eric Jacobs’s Kingsley Amis: A Biography (1995), Martin’s Experience (2000), Zachary Leader’s edition of The Letters of Kingsley Amis (2000), Richard Bradford’s Lucky Him (2001), advertised as a ‘biography’ but in fact an exceptionally astute critical survey, and Leader’s jumbo-sized The Life of Kingsley Amis (2006). They are all interesting books, up to a point, but there are an awful lot of them and the message emerging from their three or four thousand collective pages is generally the same.
I too own all of these books, and am forced - somewhat reluctantly - to concur with Taylor's opinion that "one can think of novelists twice as good who have attracted half the volume of scholarly, or not so scholarly, exegesis."

Martin Amis: Inside Story (2020)

Where there's already so much competition, justifying the appearance of yet another tome on much the same subject surely requires a bit of special pleading. So, unless Powell has an exceptionally compelling new reading of Amis père to offer (and I'm not sure that he does), his book really stands or falls on the value of any new material he can provide on Amis fils.

It's true that Powell evinces a number of opinions which are (to put it mildly) not in line with my own. He seems to take it for granted that any time spent reading Science Fiction is time wasted, and that Kingsley Amis's pioneering efforts as a critic and anthologist of the field ought therefore to be written off as simple self-indulgence. Powell even claims that Kingsley (he refers to him by his first name throughout, so I don't see why I shouldn't) would have been much better off expanding his (failed) BLitt thesis on the popular audience for Victorian poetry into a monograph than dignifying such disposable 'genre fiction' with his attention. And yet, to me, that's one of the strongest arguments in favour of Kingsley's critical acumen.

But just because I happen to disagree with many of Powell's views is no reason to dismiss them out of hand. At this point I thought it might be a good idea to see what some other readers thought of his book. There are a couple of puffs on the cover: "A delight: witty, clever and astute" - Observer, plus a blurb description of it as a "witty, opinionated and thoroughly readable critical biography"; D. J. Taylor, too, refers to it "a thoughtfully written study," in the passage from his review quoted above.

The Wheeler Centre: Peter Craven

There was at least one writer who felt much as I did about it, however. You can, if you wish, read it for yourself on the website of the Melbourne Age for July 22, 2008, but here are a couple of quotes from Australian critic Peter Craven's review:
Amis and Son, Neil Powell's would-be critical biography of Kingsley Amis, author of Lucky Jim and Take a Girl Like You, and Martin Amis, his son, author of The Rachel Papers and London Fields, is ... a silly and sickening book that is liable to be taken more seriously than it deserves.
That's going straight for the jugular! But why exactly does he think so?
It is essentially a critical book, buttressed by biographical summary that tends to be used as an increasingly impertinent crutch for the evaluative judgements that keep jumping about between the lives and the works of Amis father and son.

It is less obviously debilitating in the case of Kingsley because the burden of Powell's book is that Smarty isn't half the writer that his Dad was. Smarty Anus, you'll recall, is Private Eye's empathic nickname for Martin Amis, a homage of an epithet if ever there was one.
Certainly this is a problem if, as I've argued above, the book's raison d'être really has to be providing a substantive reading of Martin's work, rather than rehashing the far more readily available material on Kingsley. But Powell, according to Peter Craven, is:
the kind of narrow and overweeningly snooty critic who is constantly confusing the limitations of human beings with the faults of their work. It is not a vice confined to the British, but one they exhibit with a peculiar intensity and obnoxiousness.

At its worst this kind of writing is constantly sliding into what sounds like social condescension. It is especially dominant where criticism and biography meet, as in the truly appalling studies of Anthony Burgess and Laurence Olivier by Roger Lewis.

I, too, have read Roger Lewis's rambling and vituperative 'critical biography' of Anthony Burgess, so I do see the point Craven is making here. I haven't read Lewis on the subject of Olivier, but I have a copy of his apparently equally venomous Life and Death of Peter Sellers lying around somewhere. Is Powell's book really as bad as that?

Certainly he says some odd things at times. While describing a seduction scene in Martin's The Rachel Papers (1973), which takes place to the accompaniment of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, regarded by the hero as "a safe choice, since to be against the Beatles (late-middle period) is to be against life", Powell calls 'When I'm Sixty-Four' and 'Lovely Rita':
the two songs which despite their jaunty surfaces most clearly reveal the Beatles' underlying callousness and contempt for other people. [pp.297-98]
Really? Do they? Maybe I've been getting them wrong all these years ... It does seem a rather extreme view, though it certainly matches up with an earlier diatribe by Powell about "a truly shocking moment in Experience", where Martin mentions:

J. S. Bach: Complete Cello Suites (1-6)
Bach's 'Concerto for Cello', in four words conveying ignorance of musical history, the composer's oeuvre and the difference between a concerto and a sonata ... His father had been able to take a scurrilously disrespectful view of received culture precisely because he knew a good bit about it from quite early on. Martin didn't have that luxury; hence, despite his plumage, he had to become a successfully diligent gnome. [pp.288-89]
Yes, Martin (or his editor) should have picked up on that one. But then, Powell's own book is not exactly error-free. In any case, isn't all this a bit of an overreaction? Does it really justify describing him a "successfully diligent gnome"? Perhaps it's an English thing. As my Birmingham-born friend Martin Frost once remarked to me, "It's not that you're outside the class system, Jack, it's that you're beneath it."

The nuances of class are clearly something that fascinates Powell, though one can't help feeling that he's not talking solely about the two Amises when he mounts his own "unfashionable defence" of these curious caste divides:
at least since the mid-eighteenth century, class in England has been extraordinarily fluid, enabling immense social leaps to be made within individual lifetimes ... [and] this fluidity coincides with the rise of the English novel, which has made class - in its nuances, misunderstandings and unexpected transitions - one of its major themes. [p.315]
"For the novelist it remains an indispensable resource". Powell's defence of class seems to boil down to two not easily reconcilable statements: 1/ that it doesn't really work; 2/ that it's great to write about. Sometimes it's nice to be a New Zealander and not feel that you have to worry about that kind of thing.

I'm not myself a great fan of Martin Amis, whose works I stopped collecting some years back, but I have read a number of them, including Money and London Fields, and would certainly agree with Peter Craven's praise of his attempts to reclaim:
the vast underworld of London street talk and the way contemporary Britain actually talked in his mature fiction. Powell's culpable stupidity about this goes most of the way towards disqualifying him from saying anything of critical interest about Martin.
In short, then:
Amis and Son is a book by a critic of some intelligence who nonetheless constantly dissipates his insights because his swaggering irritation at one of his two subjects makes him blindingly daft.
Craven concedes that "it's easy enough to be irritated by Martin Amis."
You can even go halfway with Tibor Fischer's assessment, quoted by Powell, of Martin Amis as "an atrocity-chaser ... constantly on the prowl for gravitas enlargement offers (the Holocaust, serial killers, 9/11, the Gulag, the Beslan siege) as if writing about really bad things will make him a really great novelist", and still acknowledge that, on a good day, he is one of the most significant writers in Britain to have produced fiction in the past 30 years.

Martin Amis: Koba the Dread (2002)

That seems like a pretty judicious distinction to me. One of the books I have read by Martin Amis is his account of Stalin, Koba the Dread. It inspired me to verse, in fact:
Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million

Stalin’s a bad man I know
Martin Amis told me so
It's not exactly a revelation
but thank you for the Information

There was definitely a smug, de haut en bas tone about Amis's book which I found irksome. But then, I almost died laughing at the antics of the two warring novelists in his 1995 novel The Information - you'll have noticed the clever way I've inserted a reference to it in the clerihew above - not to mention the appalling works they're respectively responsible for:
'What's your novel called?'
'Don't you have a title for it yet?'
'No, it's called "Untitled" ...'
That's the book by thwarted novelist Richard Tull which causes anyone who tries to read it to start bleeding from the eyes, a condition rapidly escalating into a brain hemorrhage if they're foolish enough to persist. His rival Gwyn Barry's successful utopia Amelior sounds equally emetic, though fortunately far less lethal.

I'm still not sure what The Information is actually about, but it's hard to care when the incidental details are as good as that. Martin Amis is certainly not a jolly or a likeable writer, but the sheer power and variety of his prose makes up for an awful lot.

One of the oddest passages in Powell's book is the one where he unpacks "one of the riddling paradoxes of fiction":
an unambitious form is one crucial respect more ambitious than an ambitious one: it is, in this sense, easier to write Ulysses than a novel by, say, Barbara Pym or C. P. Snow. Ulysses competes only with itself, with its own ambition; a novel by Pym or Snow competes with thousand others about middle-class women, strange clergymen and mendacious academics. [pp.311-12]
Carried to an extreme, wouldn't this doctrine militate against Powell's earlier dismissal of Ian Fleming, one of Kingsley's favourite writers, as "a bad and pernicious author" [p.148]? I mean, isn't it harder to compete with a thousand other thrillers replete with "pornographic sadism" than to write, say, Tom Jones or Tristram Shandy? Fielding and Sterne were only competing with themselves, after all, whereas Fleming has Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane all barking at his heels ...

As one progresses through his book and encounters more and more opinions of this nature, it becomes increasingly difficult to take Powell seriously as a critic. There's an ad hominem tone to his judgements which seems driven by personal animus rather than disinterested analysis. Peter Craven, too, has difficulties with this aspect of his writing:
You're free to think that none of Martin Amis has as sure a place in the canon as Lucky Jim, but that's not the point. Powell is an interesting guide to the ins and outs of Kingsley's fiction, and some of his tips about particular books may be worth following. On the other hand he is an admirer of Martin's Time's Arrow - the Holocaust novel that runs backward - so you have to wonder.
Yes, I'm with him there. For me, Time's Arrow is a one-page idea dragged out to the length of an entire novel. On the other hand, I was intrigued to see that (unlike Richard Bradford in Lucky Him), Powell likes Kingsley's late novel The Folks Who Live on the Hill as much as I do. And, while I remain unconvinced by his defence of the quasi-psychotic excesses of Stanley and the Women, it is interesting to hear his views on the matter.

Craven concludes his review as follows:
The word about this book is that it's the bollocking Martin Amis always had coming to him. It isn't, it's a spiteful and thoughtless book by a vain and shallow critic who is defeated by everything in his hugely talented contemporary that shows up his own narrowness and pettiness and lack of feeling for the rough and ready words and grand ambitions that might encompass a world or transform it in fiction.
In short: "What defeats him is human beings and the way the details of a life might illuminate a writer's work." Strong words here from Craven; it's hard to dissent, though, if you've actually made your way to the end of Powell's book. It's a pity, above all, that he makes such great play with the (alleged) carelessness and ignorance of the two Amises when you consider his own vulnerability on this score.

To take one example. He concludes, on p.371, a long denunciation of Martin's use of Americanisms in his prose by saying that a writer's job is "To purify the dialect of the tribe" - a dictum he attributes to T. S. Eliot. While it's true that this phrase does indeed appear in Part II of "Little Gidding" (1942), the last of Eliot's Four Quartets, it is actually (of course), an Englishing of Mallarmé's famous line "Donner un sens plus pur aux mots de la tribu" from the sonnet "Le tombeau d'Edgar Poe".

There's a double irony in this. Powell's view of Amis's prose style as "veering away as far as possible from an English conversational voice towards a demotic statelessness" would surely apply far better to the work of the deracinated American T. S. Eliot than to unrepentant Londoner Martin Amis? And, given that Mallarmé attributed this purification of the "tribal" dialect to another American, Edgar Allan Poe, its use as a guarantor of "Englishness" here seems particularly off the mark.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

But if Powell's book is so bad, why waste so much time and energy on it? It's a fair question. I suppose that the answer might be because I wanted it to be better than it is. For my all my reading and rereading of their works, I still find even the elder Amis - let alone the younger - something of a mystery.

Since I know so much less about Martin than Kingsley, it was really this aspect of Powell's book that I hoped to learn most from. I've read almost all of the novels he analyses - the early to mid-career ones - and was surprised to find how little validity I found in his assessments of them. The two - to me - most doctrinaire and mechanical, Success and Time's Arrow, he rates most highly, whereas the verbal pyrotechnics of Money, London Fields, and The Information seem to leave him cold.

Mind you, there's no accounting for tastes, and there's no moral obligation on him to like these books. I'm not sure that I exactly like them myself. But I do agree with Peter Craven about the immense gravitas of the task Martin Amis set himself in attempting to reclaim "the vast underworld of London street talk and the way contemporary Britain actually talked in his mature fiction."

Like Dickens, Martin Amis has trouble with plots: there's always either too much or too little of it in all of his novels. But that's not really why I read them. Not purely for pleasure, but for "news that stays news" (to employ another Americanism) - in this case, news about the language.

In any case, Powell's book is clearly not the one I need. Maybe, in fact, I don't need any more critical books or biographical accounts of either author, but simply to reimmerse myself in their works. If so, I should probably tender some thanks to Neil Powell for reminding me of that.

Kingsley Amis (1989)

Sir Kingsley William Amis

Books I own are marked in bold:


  1. Bright November (1947)
    • [Bright November: Poems. London: the Fortune Press, n.d. (1947?)]
  2. A Frame of Mind (1953)
  3. Poems. Fantasy Portraits (1954)
  4. A Case of Samples: Poems 1946–1956 (1956)
  5. The Evans County (1962)
  6. A Look Round the Estate: Poems, 1957–1967 (1968)
  7. Collected Poems 1944–78 (1979)
    • Collected Poems 1944-1979. London: Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1979.

  8. Novels:

  9. The Legacy (1948) [unpublished]
  10. Lucky Jim (1954)
    • Lucky Jim: A Novel. 1953. London: Victor Gollancz, Ltd., 1954.
  11. That Uncertain Feeling (1955)
    • That Uncertain Feeling. 1955. Four Square Books Ltd. London: New English Library Ltd. / Sydney. Horwitz Publications Inc. Pty. Ltd., 1962.
  12. I Like It Here (1958)
    • I Like it Here. 1958. Penguin Book 2884. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968.
  13. Take a Girl Like You (1960)
    • Take A Girl Like You. 1960. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976.
  14. One Fat Englishman (1963)
    • One Fat Englishman. 1963. Penguin Book 2417. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966.
  15. [with Robert Conquest] The Egyptologists (1965)
    • [with Robert Conquest. The Egyptologists. 1965. Panther Books Ltd. Frogmore, St Albans, Herts: Granada Publishing Limited, 1975.
  16. The Anti-Death League (1966)
    • The Anti-Death League. 1966. Penguin Book 2803. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968.
  17. [as Robert Markham] Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure (1968)
    • [as ‘Robert Markham’]. Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure. 1968. London: Pan Books Ltd., n.d.
  18. I Want It Now (1968)
    • I Want It Now. 1968. London: Panther Books, 1969.
  19. The Green Man (1969)
    • The Green Man. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1969.
  20. Girl, 20 (1971)
    • Girl, 20. 1971. London: The Book Club, by arrangement with Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1972.
  21. The Riverside Villas Murder (1973)
    • The Riverside Villas Murder. 1973. London: Book Club Associates / Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1974.
  22. Ending Up (1974)
    • Ending Up. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1974.
  23. The Crime of the Century (1975)
    • The Crime Of The Century. 1975. Introduction by the Author. Everyman Paperbacks: Mastercrime. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1987.
  24. The Alteration (1976)
    • The Alteration. 1976. Triad / Panther Books. Frogmore, St Albans, Herts: Triad Paperbacks Ltd, 1978.
  25. Jake's Thing (1978)
    • Jake's Thing. 1978. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979.
  26. Russian Hide-and-Seek (1980)
    • Russian Hide-and-Seek: A Melodrama. 1980. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981.
  27. Stanley and the Women (1984)
    • Stanley and the Women. London: Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1984.
  28. The Old Devils (1986)
    • The Old Devils. 1986. Hutchinson. London: Century Hutchinson Ltd., 1986.
  29. Difficulties with Girls (1988)
    • Difficulties With Girls. 1988. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989.
  30. The Folks That Live on the Hill (1990)
    • The Folks That Live on the Hill. Hutchinson. London: Century Hutchinson Ltd, 1990.
  31. We Are All Guilty (1991)
    • We Are All Guilty. London: Reinhardt Books / Viking, 1991.
  32. The Russian Girl (1992)
    • The Russian Girl. 1992. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993.
  33. You Can't Do Both (1994)
    • You Can't Do Both. Hutchinson. London: Random House (UK) Ltd., 1994.
  34. The Biographer's Moustache (1995)
    • The Biographer's Moustache. 1995. Flamingo. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.
  35. Black and White (c.1995) [unfinished]

  36. Short Stories:

  37. My Enemy's Enemy (1962)
    • My Enemy's Enemy. 1962. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965.
  38. Collected Short Stories (1980)
    • Collected Short Stories. 1980. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983.
  39. Mr Barrett's Secret and Other Stories (1991)
    • Mr Barrett's Secret and Other Stories. 1993. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994.
  40. Complete Stories (1980)
    • Complete Stories. Foreword by Rachel Cusk. Penguin Classics. London: Penguin, 2011.

  41. Non-fiction:

  42. Socialism and the Intellectuals. Fabian Society pamphlet (1957)
  43. New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction (1960)
    • New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction. 1960. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1961.
    • New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction. 1960. A Four Square Book. London: New English Library Limited., 1963.
  44. The James Bond Dossier (1965)
    • The James Bond Dossier. 1965. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1966.
  45. [as Lt.-Col William ('Bill') Tanner] 1965 The Book of Bond, or Every Man His Own 007 (1965)
  46. What Became of Jane Austen?, and Other Questions (1970)
    • What Became of Jane Austen?, and Other Questions. 1970. Panther Books Limited. London: Granada Publishing Limited, 1972.
  47. On Drink (1972)
    • On Drink. Pictures by Nicolas Bentley. 1972. Panther Books Ltd. Frogmore, St Albans, Herts: Granada Publishing Limited, 1974.
  48. Rudyard Kipling and His World (1974)
  49. Everyday Drinking (1983)
    • Every Day Drinking. Illustrated by Merrily Harpur. London: Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1983.
  50. How's Your Glass? (1984)
  51. The Amis Collection (1990)
    • The Amis Collection: Selected Non-Fiction, 1954-1990. Introduction by John McDermott. 1990. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991.
  52. Memoirs (1991)
    • Memoirs. Hutchinson. London: Random Century Group Ltd., 1991.
  53. The King's English: A Guide to Modern Usage (1997)
    • The King’s English: A Guide to Modern Usage. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997.
  54. Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis. ['On Drink' (1972); 'Everyday Drinking' (1983); 'How's Your Glass?' (1984)]. Introduction by Christopher Hitchens (2008)

  55. Edited:

  56. [with Robert Conquest] Spectrum anthology series. 5 vols (1961-66)
    • Spectrum I: A Science Fiction Anthology. Ed. Kingsley Amis & Robert Conquest. 1961. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1964.
    • Spectrum II: A Second Science Fiction Anthology. Ed. Kingsley Amis & Robert Conquest. 1962. Pan Science Fiction. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1965.
    • Spectrum III: A Third Science Fiction Anthology. Ed. Kingsley Amis & Robert Conquest. London: Victor Gollancz, Ltd., 1963.
    • Spectrum IV: A Fourth Science Fiction Anthology. Ed. Kingsley Amis & Robert Conquest. 1965. Pan Science Fiction. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1967.
    • Spectrum V: A Fifth Science Fiction Anthology. Ed. Kingsley Amis & Robert Conquest. 1966. Pan Science Fiction. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1969.
  57. G. K. Chesterton. Selected Stories (1972)
    • G. K. Chesterton. Selected Stories. Ed. Kingsley Amis. London: Faber, 1972.
  58. The New Oxford Book of Light Verse (1978)
    • The New Oxford Book of Light Verse. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.
  59. The Golden Age of Science Fiction (1981)
    • The Golden Age of Science Fiction. London: Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1981.
  60. The Amis Anthology: A Personal Choice of English Verse (1988)

  61. Letters:

  62. The Letters of Kingsley Amis. Ed. Zachary Leader (2000)
    • Leader, Zachary, ed. The Letters of Kingsley Amis. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000.
    • Leader, Zachary, ed. The Letters of Kingsley Amis. 2000. Rev. ed. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001.

  63. Secondary:

  64. Jacobs, Eric. Kingsley Amis: A Biography. Hodder & Stoughton. London: Hodder Headline PLC, 1995.
  65. Bradford, Richard. Lucky Him: The Life of Kingsley Amis. London: Peter Owen Publishers, 2001.
  66. Leader, Zachary. The Life of Kingsley Amis. 2006. Vintage Books. London: The Random House Group Limited, 2007.

Martin Amis

Martin Louis Amis


  1. The Rachel Papers (1973)
    • The Rachel Papers. 1973. Frogmore, St Albans, Herts: Granada Publishing Limited, 1976.
  2. Dead Babies (1975)
    • Dead Babies. 1975. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988.
  3. Success (1978)
    • Success. 1978. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988.
  4. Other People (1981)
    • Other People: A Mystery Story. 1981. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988.
  5. Money (1984)
    • Money: A Suicide Note. 1984. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986.
  6. London Fields (1989)
    • London Fields. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1989.
  7. Time's Arrow: Or the Nature of the Offence (1991)
    • Time's Arrow, or The Nature of the Offence. 1991. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992.
  8. The Information (1995)
    • The Information. 1995. Flamingo. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995.
  9. Night Train (1997)
  10. Yellow Dog (2003)
  11. House of Meetings (2006)
  12. The Pregnant Widow (2010)
  13. Lionel Asbo: State of England (2012)
  14. The Zone of Interest (2014)
    • The Zone of Interest. Jonathan Cape. London: Random House, 2014.
  15. Inside Story (2020)
    • Inside Story: How to Write. A Novel. Jonathan Cape. London: Vintage, 2020.

  16. Short stories:

  17. Einstein's Monsters (1987)
  18. Two Stories (1994)
  19. God's Dice (1995)
  20. Heavy Water and Other Stories (1998)
    • Heavy Water and Other Stories. 1998. Vintage. London: Random House UK Limited, 1999.
  21. Amis Omnibus (1999)
  22. The Fiction of Martin Amis (2000)
  23. Vintage Amis (2004)

  24. Screenplays:

  25. Saturn 3 (1980)
  26. London Fields (2018)

  27. Non-fiction:

  28. Invasion of the Space Invaders (1982)
  29. The Moronic Inferno: And Other Visits to America (1986)
    • The Moronic Inferno, and Other Visits to America. 1986. King Penguin. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987.
  30. Visiting Mrs Nabokov: And Other Excursions (1993)
  31. Experience (2000)
    • Experience. 2000. Vintage. London: The Random House Group Limited, 2001.
  32. The War Against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971–2000 (2001)
  33. Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million (2002)
    • Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million. 2002. Vintage. London: The Random House Group Limited, 2003.
  34. The Second Plane (2008)
  35. The Rub of Time: Bellow, Nabokov, Hitchens, Travolta, Trump. Essays and Reportage, 1986–2016 (2017)
    • The Rub of Time: Bellow, Hitchens, Travolta, Trump and Other Pieces, 1994-2016. 2017. Vintage. London: Penguin Random House UK, 2018.

  36. Secondary:

  37. Powell, Neil. Amis & Son: Two Literary Generations. Macmillan. London: Pan Macmillan Ltd., 2008.


Rawdon Crawley said...

The trouble with contemporary biographies is they're so bloody big and so bloody detailed and so bloody uninteresting. That applies especially to Leader on Amis and Motion on Larkin. The authors set out to give you all the facts when the most important aspects of a writer's life are what happens when they're sitting down writing.
I don't know if you've come across them, but Byron Rogers's books on J.L. Carr (The Last Englishman) and R.S. Thomas (The Man Who Went into the West) are much better. Rogers obviously liked his subjects and admired and was entertained by them, seeing individual virtues and faults.

Dr Jack Ross said...

That's very interesting. I've seen that R. S. Thomas biography around, and your recommendation tempts me to give it a go. His own autobiographical writings are certainly terse and to the point!