By George Stade
This quantity is certainly one of an increasing literary reference paintings of encyclopaedic dimensions which goals to supply severe introductions to the works, lives, and suggestions of the writers who've formed the cultural history of the western international. This version extends insurance with 23 essays on novelists, poets, philosophers, historians and playwrights, who've come to the fore within the interval 1950-1980 and who're now considered as indispensible to the literary scene. The record includes: Samuel Beckett, Edward Bond, Anthony Burgess, Lawrence Durrell, John Fowles, William Golding, Graham Greene, Ted Hughes, Arthur Koestler, Philip Larkin, Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch, V.S. Naipaul, John Osbourne, Harold Pinter, Paul Scott, Peter Shaffer, Muriel Spark, Tom Stoppard, David Storey, Dylan Thomas, Patrick White and Angus Wilson.
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Like the writers with whom he was identified at the time, Amis obviously did not belong to the privileged classes who until then had dominated English life and letters. His career as a lower-middle-class scholarship boy turned academic and professional man of letters is paradigmatic for the new postwar era, and his later turn away from the Labour party toward a more conservative and traditionalist stance can be seen as part of a subsequent trend as well. As postwar society expanded and needed more technocrats and managers, political reformers said that the ranks of the ruling minority needed to be opened up to the bright sons of the 4 KINGSLEY AMIS lower-middle and working classes.
As his novels repeatedly dramatize, Amis passionately rejects system and abstraction and promotes the individual and the concrete. His notorious political conservatism can be seen as an expression of this empirical skepticism, for what Amis really hates about leftist politics is its abstract notions of economic man and impersonal historical forces. As he said in a 1968 talk at the London Conservative Party Political Centre (published in pamphlet form that same year), "Lucky Jim's Politics," growing older meant that he had "lost the need to be political which means, in this country, the need to be Left.
It is one of the funniest of recent English novels because its hero is part of the joke, better than the people he satirizes mainly in his honesty and in his luck. And also, it should be emphasized, Jim is superior to those around him in his verbal facility, his capacity (like Amis the schoolboy) for mimicry of the masters that undercuts the fake discourse of everyday life with an exhilarating self -assertiveness. It can perhaps be said that Jim is rewarded with a happy ending for that combination of stand-up comic talent and ultimate honesty: he loses his job after the disastrous lecture, but he is offered a better one in London as the private secretary of the rich uncle, Julius Gore-Urquhart, of his new girlfriend, Christine, stolen from the odious Bertrand.