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The serious comedian

Zachary Leader's superb biography paints Kingsley Amis as a master of measured satire and wild invective

By Tom Chatfield   February 2007

The Life of Kingsley Amis by Zachary Leader Jonathan Cape, £25

In January 1954, with the publication of Lucky Jim, literary success finally began to happen to Kingsley Amis. He was 31 years old, with a wife and three children and a job as a lecturer in Swansea that paid around £8,000 a year in today’s money, and had already begun a career of lifelong adultery that can only be described as prodigious. He was, he felt, eminently ready for success: as he put it in a letter to Philip Larkin, “What I want, cully, is a chance to decide,…

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