Complete Stories by Kingsley Amis - review by Matthew Adams

Matthew Adams

Battle Acts

Complete Stories

By

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Kingsley Amis’s critical lexicon was not a large one. It turned upon a single word – ‘good’ – dispensed with dashes of intensification or qualification as occasion demanded. The summit of his approbation was a fulsome ‘bloody good’. ‘Good’ meant that you had done really quite well; ‘some good’ (Amis’s verdict on his own body of novels) was not bad at all; and a curt ‘no good’ was about as damning as you could get. Unless, as Christopher Hitchens records in his memoir, Hitch-22, you happened to have produced something of the order of Graham Greene’s The Human Factor, which Amis declared ‘Absolutely no. Bloody good. AT ALL!’

There was a lot about this blunt mode of appraisal that Amis enjoyed: its directness, its anti-intellectualism, its pub-verdict certainty; and he clearly liked the irritation it would have induced in exponents of a more ‘nuanced’ and ostensibly academic approach to literature. (In the superb short story ‘Dear

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