Amis, Sir Kingsley ā´mĭs [key]
, 1922–95, English novelist. He attended St. John's College, Oxford (B.A., 1949) and for some 20 years taught at Oxford, Swansea, and Cambridge and in the United States before he could afford to become a full-time writer. His first and best-known novel, Lucky Jim
(1954), a brilliant comic satire on academic life, classified him as one of England's angry young men
. His increasing cultural and social disillusionment together with his seething anger at English propriety, pretense, and snobbery, always well laced with a fine sense of comedy, is also apparent in such other novels as That Certain Feeling
(1955) and Take a Girl like You
(1960), and often edges into an angry misanthropy and sometimes even a savage misogyny in such later novels as Ending Up
(1974), Jake's Thing
(1978), Stanley and the Women
(1985), The Old Devils
(1986; Booker Prize), and The Russian Girl
(1994). Of Amis's other works of fiction—he wrote more than 20 novels in all—The Anti-Death League
(1966) and Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure
(1968) are espionage novels, while The Green Man
(1969) is a ghost story, Girl, 20
(1971) a comedy, and The Riverside Villas Murder
(1973) a mystery. In addition to several volumes of poetry, Amis published numerous nonfiction works, including Socialism and the Intellectuals
(1957), What Became of Jane Austen?
(1970), and On Drink
(1972). He was knighted in 1990.
See his Memoirs (1991); Z. Leader, ed., The Letters of Kingsley Amis (2000); biographies by P. Fussell (1994), E. Jacobs (1995), and Z. Leader (2007); G. Keulks, Father and Son: Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis, and the British Novel since 1950 (2003).
Amis's second wife, Elizabeth Jane Howard, 1923–2014, was also a novelist. The two were married from 1965 to 1983. Realistic and literate, her dozen novels include The Beautiful Visit (1950), After Julius (1965), Odd Girl Out (1971), Getting It Right (1982), and Falling (1999). She is best known for The Cazalet Chronicles, a partially autobiographical novel series that follows a wealthy British family from 1937 through World War II into the 1950s—The Light Years (1990), Marking Time (1991), Confusion (1993), Casting Off (1995), and All Change (2013). She also wrote short stories.
See her memoir, Slipstream (2002).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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