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Thursday, 9 November 2017

WRITERS ON WRITING #101: Kingsley Amis


The novelist's heroes, or central characters, are clearly meant to do more than just go round being close or distant relatives of him.  As between him and them in the first place, they are vehicles of his self-criticism –– an important function of poetry too.  By that very act of distancing, by projecting himself into an entity that is part of himself and yet not himself, he may be able to see more clearly, and judge more harshly, his own weaknesses and follies; and, since he must know that no failings are unique, he may be helped to acquire tolerance for them in others.  In the second place, if the novel comes off at all, the reader will perhaps accompany the writer in some parallel process of self-discovery.
  But that is still not enough; in an age that increasingly likes to view art as occupational therapy for the artist, it may even be too much.  What about the character working in the novel?  For me, the novel works on the character, at any rate rough-hews the character.  It is not the case that a fully-formed hero goes stalking about in search of situations in which he can be effectively arrogant or incompetent or spiteful or pathetic or even decent, though he may very likely fall as if by chance into a couple of such in the course of being written about.  The central situation comes first in every sense.

'Real and Made-up People' [Times Literary Supplement, 27 July 1973]


Click HERE to read 'Is Today's Literary Culture Macho Enough For Kingsley Amis?', a 2015 article by journalist RACHEL CUSK originally published in the online version of The New Republic.

You might also enjoy:
KINGSLEY AMIS That Uncertain Feeling (1955)
POET OF THE MONTH #21: Kingsley Amis
WRITERS ON WRITING #77: Elizabeth Jane Howard

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