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This article is taken from PN Review 82, Volume 18 Number 2, November - December 1991.

Hammer and Chisel Neil Powell

Kingsley Amis, Memoirs (Hutchinson) £16.99
Roy Fuller, Spanner and Pen (Sinclair-Stevenson) £16.95


THOUGH THERE is a decade between them, Kingsley Amis and Roy Fuller might seem superficially to have a good deal in common. They are poet-novelists of a distinctively English sort, largely untainted by modernism (and unimpressed by -isms generally); they share some broadly similar tastes, and distastes, in music, for example; they are political left-wingers who've adopted, with uncertain degrees of self-parody, increasingly right-wing attitudes; and they are both fathers of successful literary sons. In one disconcertingly negative way, their memoirs confirm this similarity: neither has much to say about wives, literary sons, and for that matter literature itself. Otherwise, these two Londoners might as well live on separate planets, and indeed might wish to do so: there is in fact only one mutual context in which they turn up in each other's recollections, and that is the election for the Oxford Professor of Poetry in 1968. Fuller recalls that Amis supported him; Amis recalls that he very much didn't support Yevtushenko. Same difference, as they say.

By now, no-one will need to be told that Amis has written an exceptionally rude book: that he has not been showered with writs merely confirms the contempt in which he is rightly held by those whom he remembers, though some died years ago and others had the foresight to die while he was working on the thing. It is also, despite being chopped ...

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