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Kingsley Amis and Martin Amis

The publication of Martin Amis’ new novel, The Pregnant Widow, has also turned the spotlight on his father, Kingsley Amis. A writer in the Guardian fondly recalled The Old Devils, the Kingsley Amis novel, which won the Booker Prize in 1986.

That’s the prize that continues to elude Martin Amis. But that doesn’t detract from his fame and success and talent as a writer. He is one of the best though not as prolific as his father. Their gifts extend beyond the novel, but I found it impossible to include all the non-fiction in these charts.

Martin Amis had some fun writing about himself and his father in the Guardian last weekend:

I was born in Clapham in 1922. My literary career kicked off in 1956 when, as a resident of Swansea, South Wales, I published my first novel, Lucky Jim.

By “I”, he meant his father, of course. And then he went on:

British — no, English — feature-writers who occasionally address themselves to literary affairs…. say I’m “turning into Kingsley”. They should relax: I’m already Kingsley. In truth, this is easily the most unusual thing about me: I am the only hereditary novelist in the ­anglophone literary corpus. Thus I am the workaholic and hypermanic, and by now very elderly, Prince Charles of English letters. I have overstayed my welcome. I have been about the place for much too long.

He will be 61 on August 25.

His father won the Booker at 64.

But Kingsley Amis is best remembered for his first novel, Lucky Jim, going all way back to the mid-1950s.

In an interview with Prospect magazine, Martin Amis says:

I just taught Lucky Jim, which went down incredibly well with my students.

“But it’s 20 per cent too long, it’s got too much editorializing,” he adds. “He doesn’t yet know what you can leave out. My favourite novel of his is The Old Devils, which I think is fantastic.”

I myself also enjoyed other Kingsley Amis novels such as Jake’s Thing and Take a Girl Like You back in my college days.

Martin Amis dazzles, but he is too dark to be really funny. I would rather read Money for its style than The Rachel Papers, his first novel, which won the Somerset Maugham Prize in 1974 like Lucky Jim in 1955.

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