From Publishers Weekly
Leader delivers a scrupulously researched and unfailingly entertaining account of the life of one of postwar Britain's funniest and most famous writers. Amis (1922–1995) asserted that many writers lead dull lives, but his was especially high-spirited, particularly once he left his restrictive parents for Oxford and beyond. Known first as a poet, Amis began an academic career in Wales at University College of Swansea after marrying Hilary Bardwell (mother of his three children, including contemporary British writer Martin Amis), but his springboard to literary celebrity was the 1954 publication of the comic classic Lucky Jim
. Leader (editor, 2001's The Letters of Kingsley Amis
) combines exhaustive biographical detail with trenchant literary analysis for a complex, remarkable portrait of Amis and his work: his prodigious output (more than 40 books, including novels, poetry, anthologies and nonfiction), his notorious womanizing and boozing as well as his friendships, including his central relationship (illuminated by lively excerpts of correspondence) with poet Philip Larkin. This massive, splendid biography bears out Leader's contention that Amis was "a compelling person, a man of alarming appetites and energies, the funniest man most people had ever met, or the cleverest, or the rudest." 24 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW
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Zachary Leader determined to have the final word on the life and work of one of Britain's most interesting and controversial literary figures, and his earlier edition of Kingsley Amis's correspondence gives him ample credentials. Despite the book's imposing heft, The Life of Kingsley Amis
can be engaging and readable. Fans of Amis will appreciate Leader's comprehensive coverage, though some lengthy literary discussions can be heavy sledding. Jonathan Yardley points out that Eric Jacobs published a similar (albeit much briefer) book shortly after Amis's death, and he wonders if Leader's obsessive attention to detail somehow undermines the very goal of literary biography: to provide insight into a life that leads, ultimately, to a better understanding of a writer's work.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.