Kingsley Amis was not only the finest comic novelist of his generation, but also a dominant figure in post–World War II British writing as a novelist, poet, critic, and polemicist. Zachary Leader’s definitive, authorized biography conjures in vivid detail the life of one of the most controversial figures of twentieth-century literature, renowned for his blistering intelligence, savage wit, and belligerent fierceness of opinion.
In The Life of Kingsley Amis, Leader, the acclaimed editor of The Letters of Kingsley Amis, draws not only on published and unpublished works and correspondence, but also on interviews with a wide range of Amis’s friends, relatives, fellow writers, students, and colleagues, many of whom have never spoken publicly before. The result is a compulsively readable account of Amis’s childhood, school days, and life as a student at Oxford, teacher, critic, political and cultural commentator, professional author, husband, father, and lover. Neither evading nor sensationalizing the more salacious aspects of Amis’s life, Leader explores the writer’s phobias, self-doubts, and ambitions; the controversies in which he was embroiled; and the role that drink played in a life bedeviled by erotic entanglements, domestic turbulence, and personal disaster.
Here is the biography that its subject deserves. Like Amis himself, it is incisive and unsentimental, deeply appreciative of aesthetic achievement, and a great source of amusing anecdotes. Dazzling for its thoroughness, psychological acuity, and elegant style, The Life of Kingsley Amis is exemplary: literary biography at its very best.