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This review is taken from PN Review 210, Volume 39 Number 4, March - April 2013.

Mistaken, to Himself, about Me richard bradford, The Odd Couple: The Curious Friendship between Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin (Robson) £20.00

Were Larkin and Amis a 'couple'? As Bradford shows, Larkin was forced from the beginning to be strategic in the face of Amis's demand that he be 'an exact replica of himself': 'I enjoy talking to you more than anybody else... because you are savagely uninterested in all the things I am uninterested in.' Larkin played along with gusto, outdoing his friend in contempt for the Oxford syllabus (Anglo-Saxon was 'ape's bumfodder'; Paradise Lost 'the most boring poem in English'), and preferring instead jazz, beer and ribaldry. But, since Larkin really had the widest interest in things, he held back much of himself. Amis ridiculed romantic idealism and foreign literature; so Larkin enthused about D.H. Lawrence to his school friend Jim Sutton (of whose existence Amis remained unaware), and shared his love of Yeats and French poetry with Bruce Montgomery.

After three terms of intimate proximity in wartime Oxford (1941-42), Amis left for the army. For the rest of their lives the two men paid brief visits to each other, or met up in London. After 1952 Amis never again travelled to his friend's place of residence. On this basis Bradford builds his case that 'they knew each other better than anyone else knew either of them'. The evidence rather suggests that Amis never knew Larkin at all.

They were closest in the 1940s when both were intent on becoming novelists. The idea for Lucky Jim came to Amis in 1946 in the common room ...


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