Oh years ago. As we were talking about his son, Martin (whom I considered at the time, and still consider, the greatest living writer), somebody mentioned Kingsley Amis. Suddenly, the tone of the conversation turned ugly and I wondered why. “The bugger had no idea how to write properly”. Others just scoffed.
It took me a couple of years to get down to Lucky Jim, and the moment I got over the fact that Kingsley did not write in the style of London Fields (my glaring ignorance in those days), I realised it was actually one hell of a good book. Later, I struggled with The Old Devils (lengthy, uneventful dialogues bogged me down in particular) and quite enjoyed Girl, 20.
Thing is, I had no intention to go any farther. I moved on to other, seemingly better things. And still I bought his memoirs in England 4 or 5 years ago, waiting for a day I would wish to get back to him. And the day finally came yesterday, and I was yet again delving into the nonchalant toughness of his prose.
I guess I got it this time. It’s that incredible ability of a writer from the second half of the 20th century to write with zero pretention and without caring one tiny bit about whether you will like him or not. And that is so remarkable from someone who made his name writing comic novels.