Sir Kingsly Amis died on October 22, 1995, at the age of 73. He was a prolific novelist, poet, short story author and writer about food and drink, his two great passions in life.
His best known novel is his first one, the “campus novel” Lucky Jim published in 1954. It is a comic novel about a lecturer in medieval history, Jim Dixon, and his struggle to get tenure at a small university in the British midlands, coupled with his ill-starred romantic encounters.
I love Lucky Jim but I haven’t read anything by Amis that comes close to it. He grew more dyspeptic with age and he treated his characters much less gently.
He was a heavy drinker and once said that “No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home in Weston-super-Mare.”
Amis is famously the father of the novelist Martin Amis, with whom he had a difficult relalationship. He left his first wife, Martin’s mother Hilary Bardwell, when his children were young and married the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, whom he later divorced.
When he became ill toward the end of his life he went to live with Bardwell and her third husband because he needed someone to care for him.
In a poem he wrote:
“Death has this much to be said for it:
You don’t have to get out of bed for it.
Wherever you happen to be
They bring it to you—free.”