Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin: the double act

Amis-LarkinRichard Bradford
THE ODD COUPLE
The curious friendship between Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin
384pp. Robson. £20.
978 1 84954 375 0
Andrew James
KINGSLEY AMIS
Antimodels and the audience
296pp. McGill-Queen’s University Press. £69 (Can$100).
978 0 7735 4136 8

The best recipe for a successful literary friendship, as perhaps for any other sort, is a solid base of common ingredients spiced with touches of absolute difference: English literature’s most celebrated double acts – Wordsworth and Coleridge, Auden and Isherwood, Amis and Larkin – are all like that. Each pair has a background of broadly compatible class and education, shared background interests and cultural tastes; yet as writers they diverge in ways that both sustain and endanger their relationships. Kingsley Amis had an explicit, if ironic, sense of the footsteps in which he and Philip Larkin were following: “Well with you as the Auden and me as the Isherwood de nos jours, ‘our society’ is not doing so bad”, he told his friend in October 1957.

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