Here is the authorized, definitive biography of one of the most controversial figures of twentieth-century literature, renowned for his blistering intelligence, savage wit and belligerent fierceness of opinion: Kingsley Amis was not only the finest comic novelist of his generation–having first achieved prominence with the publication of Lucky Jim in 1954 and as one of the Angry Young Men–but also a dominant figure in post—World War II British writing as novelist, poet, critic and polemicist.
In The Life of Kingsley Amis, Zachary Leader, acclaimed editor of The Letters of Kingsley Amis, draws not only on unpublished works and correspondence but also on interviews with a wide range of Amis’s friends, relatives, fellow writers, students and colleagues, many of whom have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 out 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. Even as he makes the case for Amis’s cultural
centrality–at his death Time magazine claimed that “the British decades between 1955 and 1995 should in fairness be called ‘the Amis era’”–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.
Dazzling for its thoroughness, psychological acuity and elegant style, The Life of Kingsley Amis is exemplary: literary biography at its very best.
From the Hardcover edition.
About Zachary Leader
ZACHARY LEADER is Professor of English Literature at Roehampton University in Great Britain, where he has resided for over thirty years, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Before his appointment at Roehampton, he taught at Caltech and the University of Chicago. He was educated at Northwestern, Cambridge, and Harvard universities, and is the author of Reading Blake's Songs, Writer's Block, Revision and Romantic Authorship, and The Life of Kingsley Amis, a finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Biography. He has edited Romantic Period Writings 1798-1832: An Anthology (with Ian Haywood), The Letters of Kingsley Amis, On Modern British Fiction, The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie, and Their Contemporaries (Oxford UP, 2009), and the Oxford Authors Shelley (with Michael O'Neill).
Praise from the United Kingdom:
“This is a book of true stature about a complex talent. Few literary biographies can match it for depth and intimacy.”
–The Sunday Times
“Outstanding . . . Leader has surpassed himself . . . He gives us not only the man, but also his milieu; he gives us not only the compelling virtues but also the staggering flaws. This is the best biography I have read for ages: deeply researched, crisply written and beautifully judged.” –The Daily Telegraph
“Elegantly organised, lovingly detailed and–how could it not be?–eruptively funny, Zachary Leader’s book is hard to put down.”
“Marvellous . . . It has become a fashion to denounce long biographies as telling us more than we need to know, but Leader’s is a triumphant vindication of its nine-hundred-plus pages. It’s a pleasure to read, and the accumulation of detail gives a real sense of a life being led.”
“Marvellous . . . I ought to say that this book is two hundred pages too long, but as I enjoyed almost every word of it, I can’t.”
“Very thorough and very straight-talking. It’s also very clear in its aims. [Leader] displays the facts of each matter plainly, allowing readers to deliver their own praise and blame, and counterbalances them with his attention to the work. It’s an impressively well-judged response.” –The Guardian
“Full, perceptive and admirably even-handed . . . Considered as a narrative of the growth and decay of character, Leader’s biography starts to assume the features of an Aristotelian tragedy.” –London Review of Books
“My admiration for Leader’s skill as a biographer is unalloyed. It’s a big book, but the interest never flags.”
–The Sunday Telegraph
From the Hardcover edition.