A Parthian shot from one of the most important figures in post-war British fiction, The King's English is the late Kingsley Amis's last word on the state of the language. More frolicsome than Fowler's Modern Usage, lighter than the Oxford English Dictionary, and brimming with the strong opinions and razor-sharp wit that made Amis so popular--and so controversial--The King's ...
A Parthian shot from one of the most important figures in post-war British fiction, The King's English is the late Kingsley Amis's last word on the state of the language. More frolicsome than Fowler's Modern Usage, lighter than the Oxford English Dictionary, and brimming with the strong opinions and razor-sharp wit that made Amis so popular--and so controversial--The King's English is a must for fans and language purists.
Praised as a superb prose stylist, British writer Amis, who died in 1995, was nonetheless controversial, variously labeled a Communist, Thatcher conservative, alcoholic, misogynist, and philander. Even in The King's English, an entertaining manual that is hardly meant to be exhaustive, Amis's wit and candid opinion prevail. Anyone wishing to distinguish between the words belly and stomach (don't even consider tummy) or feeling particular angst over the crossed 7, the disappearance of Latin, and the use of such popular expressions as in-depth, in terms of, or whatever will find a discerning explanation. For insight into Amis's life and work, readers can turn to the authorized biography by Jacobs, a Fleet Street journalist and broadcaster. Amis wrote 24 novels, including the acclaimed Lucky Jim, plus several works of poetry and nonfiction. Focusing on the novels, Jacobs deftly reveals a man who is not always admirable or likable but is certainly intriguing. Recommended for literary collections.Robert Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., IN
A delightfully arch, irreverent handbook for those who dare to speak or write the Kingþs EnglishþKingsley Amisþs English, that is. The late author, who earned his reputation as one of the Angry Young Men of British literature in the 1950s, apparently reserved his greatest ire for those who misused language. To do so willfully in print was an indication of bad judgment, to do so unwittingly in conversation was mere stupidity. In an effort to curtail the abuse of the Kingþs own (and to launch an attack on creeping Americanisms, such as the use of þadvocateþ and þprogressþ as verbs), Amis wrote a þguide to modern usageþ that isnþt. But it is a gleeful intellectual stomp through malapropisms, false unions, split infinitives, danglers, floaters, berks, and wankers. Think of it as a twisted Strunk & White for the English middle class, to which the London-born, Cambridge-educated Amis certainly belonged. But he was no avatar of class-consciousnessþin fact, just the opposite. He deplored the excessive use of French and discouraged affected pronunciation. Anglicized French words, like þhors dþoeuvres,þ for example, were to be pronounced with robust disregard for accuracy. Seen from an American angle, Amisþs book provides a highly entertaining glimpse into the social implications of speech in Britainþwhere accent so influences public imageþas well as Amisþs own stylistic consciousness, which permeates this text. (Who else would devote a lengthy entry to þPronunciation: he-sheþ?) But Amisþs handbook has a serious undercurrent, as well, no matter how dry theauthorþs wit. þI am sustained,þ he wrote, þby reflecting that the defense of language is too large a matter to be left to the properly qualified.þ Although useless as a guide to the English language, Amisþs book functions as a droll literary tract and a reminder that þthe price of a good style, like that of other desirable things, is eternal vigilance.þ (Eric Jacobs's biography of Amis is also to be published in June. See p. 634.)
Hailed as one of the great prose stylists to appear in England since the Second World War, Kingsley Amis is the author of more than 20 novels, including Lucky Jim and the Booker-prize winning The Old Devils. Also recognized as a distinguished poet and literary critic, he died in 1995.