The Anti-egotist: Kingsley Amis, Man of Letters

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Oxford University Press, 1994 - Critics - 206 pages
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"Fussell is a wonderful writer," according to The Washington Post Book World, "at once elegant and earthy." With such books as Wartime and The Great War and Modern Memory, he established a reputation as an incisive critic with a razor-tipped pen. Now Paul Fussell turns his attention to one of his own literary heroes, a man of similar acidic wit, Kingsley Amis.
In The Anti-Egotist, Fussell captures the essence of Amis as a man of letters--"a serious critic," as John Gross writes, "operating outside the academic fold." Part biography, part critical appraisal, The Anti-Egotist traces the influences that have shaped Amis's writing, ranging from his schooldays through military service to university teaching, as he emerged as a novelist, poet, and essayist. By drawing our attention to the details first of Amis's life, then of his writing, Fussell reveals the profound moral sense that expresses itself so wonderfully in Amis's fiction and criticism. He mixes affection with insight as he paints a highly personal portrait of Amis as writer who despises self-promotion in all its forms, savaging the world's show-offs and blowhards with a particularly sharp-toothed bite. Amis's criticism, too, shook the British literary world with his "no-nonsense, can-the-bullshit tone," restoring skepticism and honesty to postwar English writing. Fussell guides us through Amis's immense output--portraying him as a book reviewer, custodian of language, gastronomic critic, anthologist, and poet--showing how his overriding concern is always for the public, deriding pretensions that come at a cost to the audience. And the power of Amis's writing, from his humor to his deft characterization, rings through in page after page of Fussell's accurate and evocative assessments.
In recent years, Kingsley Amis has drawn considerable fire, thanks to his outspoken conservative opinions; many critics see him as little more than a crusty old curmudgeon. In The Anti-Egotist, Paul Fussell does the reading public a double favor in restoring the reputation of this important writer: he effortlessly captures the literary virtuosity that lifted Amis to fame, and he reveals the moral convictions that make this seeming curmudgeon more relevant than ever.

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THE ANTI-EGOTIST: Kingsley Amis, Man of Letters

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Fussell (Bad, 1991, etc.) certainly has come a long way from his early work as a conventional literary scholar. This breezy account of Kingsley Amis's career smartly adopts its subject's "no-nonsense ... Read full review

The anti-egotist: Kingsley Amis, man of letters

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This study of Amis by well-known literary and social critic Fussell is part biography and part literary analysis of Amis's nonfiction. Yet while Fussell summarizes and praises Amis's criticism ... Read full review


Not a Very Nice Fellow?
Custodian of Language

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About the author (1994)

About the Author:
Paul Fussell is the author of a number of books of literary and cultural criticism and social history. They include The Great War and Modern Memory (winner of the National Book Award), Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars, and Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War.

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