Kingsley Amis always denied that his novels were autobiographical. It was always obvious to the general reader, namely myself, that this wasn’t true. David Bradford has written a biography, Lucky Him based entirely on the novels, arguing that Amis put aspects of himself into his main characters, often very unflattering portraits. His marriages, affairs and relationships are, according to Professor Bradford, all trackable through the novels. I accept this thesis with some reservations. Easy to make out a case for seeing Jean Lewis (That Uncertain Feeling), Barbara Bowen (I Like it Here) and Jenny Bunn (Take a Girl Like You) as versions of Hilly, Amis’s first wife and last love. Trickier, I think, to argue that The Riverside Villas Murder is really a dialogue between Amis and his father.
What struck me, reading this interesting book, was my complete familiarity with the novels. No matter the book or the incident referred to, I was there and could even supply the dialogue. I’ve read Lucky Jim any number of times, some of the books only once yet I remember them very well. This is a great tribute to Amis’s skill as a writer; I can’t think of another who had such a good ear for the way people really talk to each other. I mention this, indeed, I’m bothering to post this, only because I get the impression that not many people read Kingsley Amis these days. A few weeks ago there was a question on University Challenge to which the answer was an Amis title and no one had a clue.
I’ve just wasted time writing a spirited defence when I realized that I’d already done it here. Doh! Do read Lucky Jim.
I have plenty more of these!