The changes and inconsistencies in the social attitudes visible in Kingsley Amis’s fiction over the past thirty-five years are not any better explained by his change from voting Labour to voting Tory than they initially were by the simplistic designation of ‘Angry Young Man’. Loyalty to one party or another masks the consistency within the changes in Amis’s fiction, for his comedy has, never promulgated an interpretation of experience that could follow a party doctrine or programme, never depended on a vision of what social experience should or might be. Rather, the sharp comic texture of Amis’s prose and the operation of his satire depend on a dash, implicit or explicit, between a conventional illusion about what experience might be and the immediate sense of what it is. In his emphasis on what is, Amis writes a comedy of social accommodation. As, through his mimicry of varying voices and social details, his early protagonists learn or fail to learn to drive cars, lose virginity or order meals in restaurants in a world of rapidly expanding social possibility, the emphasis seems to fall on an opportunistic adjustment to experience. In the more recent fiction, in a world of physical decay and diminishing possibilities for most of his characters, Amis emphasises a necessary acceptance of things.
KeywordsMoral Attitude Physical Decay Army Officer Provincial City Letter Series
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