Who could have guessed that the angry young men of the nineteen-fifties were destined to turn into the furious middle-aged men of the nineteen-eighties? John Osborne especially is so hot with rage still, as to seem in danger of spontaneous combustion – though perhaps the danger has diminished since he found a new outlet for his molten emotions. Never well-known for his admiration of critics, Osborne has recently taken to criticism on his own account, bringing to his assignments the sort of delicacy and restraint we associate with Charles Bronson.
Still, it’s a question whether, as a senior member of the literary Angry Brigade, .Osborne is entitled to pull rank on Kingsley Amis. Kingsley is every bit as moodily pissed-off. Russian Hide and Seek, his last (superb) novel, was a black comic forecast of an England where the natives have been reduced to peasant status by the occupying Russkies; and its plot climaxed with a Party official witnessing his subversive son being shot dead. Amis’s rage about the way things are going, however, is transmitted more skilfully, and also with more humour than the thuggish Osborne could, or perhaps would want to muster. Reading Amis’s stuff, and often laughing aloud, you would forget that you were in the presence of one of the great contemporary misanthropists – well, almost.