<%-- Page Title--%> Book Review <%-- End Page Title--%>
<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 125 <%-- End Volume Number --%>
October 3, 2003
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You know the sort of book I mean. It was published, probably, in the '30s or '40s by a tweedy young man who seemed to be on the up. The insides, if anybody reads them, are all Belgravia drawing-rooms and clubs in St James's and crusty aristos, one of whom is usually called Bagshot.
takes Kingsley Amis until page 9 to get a Lord and Lady
The time, strange though it may seem, is the present. And the occasion is a luncheon party, thrown by the venerable poet and novelist, Jimmie Fane.
Note that luncheon. And mind thatspelling on Jimmie. Jimmie Fane is a stickler for correctness in spelling and pronunciation. Fane, moreover, is a stickler, to a point well beyond the snob boundary, on the most arcane points of upper class etiquette.
The crucial luncheoneer is the man who wants to write Jimmie's biography, a youngish, fogeyish book reviewer called Gordon Scott-Thompson. Mind that hyphenated surname! Just look at the poor man's perfectly appalling moustache! Everything about Gordon Scott-Thompson shrieks oik, oik, oik.
An elderly upper class author, a cad and a bounder but charming with it; a man of letters in early middle age, bound in by petit bourgeois scruples. In order to understand Amis's interest in such a situation, it is worth remembering that Sir Kingsley himself started out in the '50s as a lower middle class intellectual in leather elbowed tweeds. The disquisitions on snobbism and social climbing with which his novel is filled represent, presumably, the much mulled-over conclusions of a lifetime spent dangling upon the parlous ladder of English social class.
But what was there, inside all this dismal, apathetic stodge, that Amis really wanted to say? 'By the time I reached 20, about the time of the outbreak of war, I could see that my ability was deficient,' confesses the elderly Jimmie at one point. 'No gift, true or not.' That Amis himself has already described this as 'a dignified acceptance of failure' on Jimmie's part need not prevent us from acknowledging it as such again.
the last word belongs to Gordon's oiky father, a
Source: The Guardian