The Life of Kingsley Amis

Trade Paper – $25.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-2759-3
Publication Date
May 2011
Page Count
1 012 pages
Trim Size
6-1/8 x 9-1/4

The Life of Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis was not only the finest comic novelist of his generation, but also a dominant figure in post–World War II British writing as a novelist, poet, critic, and polemicist. Zachary Leader’s definitive, authorized biography conjures in vivid detail the life of one of the most controversial figures of twentieth-century literature, renowned for his blistering intelligence, savage wit, and belligerent fierceness of opinion. 

In The Life of Kingsley Amis, Leader, the acclaimed editor of The Letters of Kingsley Amis, draws not only on published and unpublished works and correspondence, but also on interviews with a wide range of Amis’s friends, relatives, fellow writers, students, and colleagues, many of whom have never spoken publicly before. The result is a compulsively readable account of Amis’s childhood, school days, and life as a student at Oxford, teacher, critic, political and cultural commentator, professional author, husband, father, and lover. Neither evading nor sensationalizing the more salacious aspects of Amis’s life, Leader explores the writer’s phobias, self-doubts, and ambitions; the controversies in which he was embroiled; and the role that drink played in a life bedeviled by erotic entanglements, domestic turbulence, and personal disaster. 

Here is the biography that its subject deserves. Like Amis himself, it is incisive and unsentimental, deeply appreciative of aesthetic achievement, and a great source of amusing anecdotes. Dazzling for its thoroughness, psychological acuity, and elegant style, The Life of Kingsley Amis is exemplary: literary biography at its very best.
About the Author

Zachary Leader is a professor of English literature at Roehampton University in London. Among his books are studies of Romantic poetry and modern British fiction. Leader edited The Letters of Kingsley Amis.

“Zachary Leader … did his work very well, combining diligent scholarship with an attractively unflinching response to ‘old devilry’… The Life of Kingsley Amis is very long, very thorough and very straight-talking.” —Andrew Motion, The Guardian

“The overriding impression left by Zachary Leader’s marvelous new biography is that of a comic talent best enjoyed in aphoristic vein, or when seeking to annoy, and of a curmudgeon who could be both endearing and appalling… It’s a pleasure to read, and the accumulation of detail gives a real sense of a life being led.” —Jeremy Lewis, The Independent

“Zachary Leader’s The Life of Kingsley Amis is a better biography than many bigger writers have had: detailed, sympathetic, unsparing without being unkind.” —Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker