Posts Tagged ‘Kingsley Amis’
September 27, 2011 | by Jonathan Gharraie
King of the Badgers, Philip Hensher’s seventh novel, comes on the heels of his ambitious, fictional survey of seventies Britain, The Northern Clemency. King of the Badgers focuses on the staged kidnapping of China O’Connor, in circumstances that inevitably recall the disappearance of Shannon Matthews. Shannon disappeared from her hometown of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in 2008 and, after huge national media attention, was discovered a month later in the home of her step-uncle, who was eventually convicted and jailed along with Shannon’s mother. It delves into the private lives of the community in the fictional Devon town of Hanmouth. I met Philip in a trendily minimal Fitzrovia café, where Philip spoke of his imagined world as alive and elusively present.
Let’s begin with Hanmouth, the setting for King of the Badgers. What kind of place is it?
Well, it’s one of those places with a betwixt and between status. It’s a town: it’s not a village and it’s not a city. Pressures in England are pushing most places in one direction or the other. Surprising places are suddenly being declared cities. Chesterfield is a city now. Brighton is a city now. If it’s not big enough to have a claim to being a city then it’s pushed down toward being a village.
I like those betwixt and between places, ones with about forty thousand people. They are small enough that people know each other, or recognize each other. Small enough that faces recur, but big enough for the chain of connections to stretch to a breaking point, so that people can still be strangers. Hanmouth is also an old town of the sort that are all over England. There’s history in them that people want to identify with, but at the same time modernity keeps cropping up. Read More »
June 10, 2010 | by Maud Newton
This is the second installment of Maud Newton's culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
8:07 A.M. I don't work on Wednesdays, but I'm up early anyway, mildly hungover and with tea in hand, to write. The dinner scene looks clunkier now; commence line-edits.
9:30 A.M. Online grazing: Garrison Keillor publishes an infuriating death-of-publishing op-ed. Kingsley Amis argues that Keats isn't a great poet. Graydon Carter says that Kingsley Amis was “an accomplished womanizer, drinker, and conversationalist” who was “funny and raffishly rude, and had the thinnest, whitest skin I've ever seen on a man—like a condom filled with skim milk.” The NYPL and the Brooklyn and Queens library systems are beginning major layoffs; protest by joining the postcard campaign.
10:30 A.M. More writing, further consultation1 of Memento Mori.
12:30 P.M. For lunch: bagel with tomato, onion, lox, and cream cheese. I've set aside a little time here because I'm excited to take a look at the galley for my friend Amitava Kumar's A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb2, about the U.S. terrorism-detection machine/industry.
2:00 P.M. Back to work on my novel draft.
8:12 P.M. After six hours' work, I'm feeling more optimistic about the way all the hullabaloo with the dogs leads into the dinner scene.
8:45 P.M. Sushi and drinks with Max. Lately when I drink gin, I've been doing it Kingsley Amis' preferred way, with a little ice, lemon, and water. It's growing on me. I don't know why3 I'm drinking the things he and Muriel Spark did.
11:00 P.M. Time for another episode4 of Damages (second of Season Two).
1:23 A.M. Amis on owing to/due to: Never say5 “Due to lack of interest, the carol service has been cancelled"—only “Owing to...”
- After reading Brad Gooch's biography of Flannery O'Connor last year, I internalized her (and Elizabeth Hardwick's) prohibition against allowing the same word to appear twice on a page, and my prose strains in places as a result. I wonder: did O'Connor read Muriel Spark? If so, confronted with such hilarious and inarguably brillliant repetitions—see, e.g., the sticks—how could she have continued to adhere to her rule? Also, how did Spark reuse words so imaginatively? She built humor through the sameness but somehow made the descriptions fresh every time. I wish she could revise this scene I'm getting ready to work on now, the one with the dogs in the car.
- I'm especially fascinated by the section about the Bangladeshi-born, New York City-raised Muslim artist who was detained in June 2002 after returning from a residency program in Senegal, on suspicion that he'd fled the country on September 12, 2001, and left a bomb behind in a locker. After being detained for questioning and then subjected to a six-month investigation that included nine polygraph tests administered in one day, the suspect launched The Orwell Project, which includes photos of and details about all the meals he eats, the urinals he uses, and the products he buys. "His aim,” Kumar writes, “is to overwhelm those who have him under surveillance... With the information they need.”
- I have no (conscious) belief that doing this will have any talismanic effect.
- Maybe I'll be happy about all the plot points later, but right now the story is starting to feel cluttered—not to mention seeded with coincidences. Obviously Patty had some sort of relationship with the scientist whose wife was just murdered, and I have the feeling we're supposed to wonder if he is the father of her son. Did he really have to be carrying on an affair with General Counsel for the Evil Energy Company, too? And then there's all the drama with Rose and the “fellow support group member” who obviously has something to do with Frobisher and who's going to get her into bed. The FBI plot is fine, but it's getting buried amid all this other stuff.
- I would like to think I would avoid using either in this formulation, but a quick run through old entries using Google might prove otherwise. Rather than worrying about this, I prefer to focus on the ancillary question of the double “l"; when did we stop writing “cancelled” or “travelled"? When did the single “l” become the default?