Conversations with Kingsley Amis, new from the University Press of Mississippi, is a welcome reminder of why there’s more to Amis’s rep than Lucky Jim — as delightful as that novel is. Nearly all of the interviews and exchanges collected produce surprises. Here’s Amis on literary fiction in the 1960s, and what he saw it as missing out on:
“There’s been a lot of talk about maturity recently, about how we ought to be mature, especially in sexual matters and so on. Well, I think that maturity is good, but a amature persona to my mind is somebody who incorporates all the best parest of being a child and being an adolescent and being a grown-up man. By definition a grown-up man who leaves out his adolescent self and his childish self isn’t a grown-up man. So I think that the child’s love of surprises and also his love of not being surprised, of getting what he expercts, and his interest in shocks and violent action — when I say violence I don’;t mean punishing, I mean abrubt changes of scene and of incident — is a very impoortant constituent of novels. It’s no accident that it’s children who like stories more than most people. This should all go in, I think…”
“One of the interesting things is that the child and adolescent parts of the reader of serious fiction aren’t being catered to, as they were catered to by serious novelists a hundred or more years ago. Dickens, for example, got a lot of child and adolescent into his books….trying to horrify you, trying to thrill you, trying to make you feel afraid, trying to divert you even at the most superficial level. One of the reasons why he’s better than most of the people around is that the high-brow novel hadn’t emerged yet. It all went in.”
-Kingsley Amis, interviewed by Peter Finchow in 1969, collected in the recently published Conversations with Kingsley Amis, edited by Thomas DePietro.