Father & Son


[ Note: Gavin Keulks has graciously permitted The Martin Amis Web to publish chapter 5 from his book Father and Son: Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis, and the British Novel Since 1950, forthcoming in 2003 from the University of Wisconsin Press. Professor Keulks  teaches twentieth-century British literature at Western Oregon University, where he can be reached at keulksg@wou.edu.

I have divided the chapter into six interlinked sections, beginning with the following introductory paragraphs]:

The Amises on Realism and Postmodernism: Stanley and the Women (1984) and Money: A Suicide Note (1984)

© 2002 by Gavin Keulks

PART I: Introduction

             When viewed as companion texts, or contemporaneous instances of revaluative critique, Kingsley Amis’s fifteenth novel, Stanley and the Women, and Martin’s fifth novel, Money: A Suicide Note illuminate two subjects hitherto unexamined in the Amis père et fils relationship:  the Amises’ perspectives on postmodernism and their controversial portraits of women.  Whereas Lucky Jim and The Rachel Papers situated the Amises in relation to their divergent forms of comedy, and whereas Ending Up and Dead Babies positioned them in relation to their satiric differences, Stanley and the Women and Money extend their confrontations into new generic territory, interrogating their opinions about the evolution of postmodernism and realism.  A novel that explicitly rejects all forms of literary fabulation, Kingsley’s Stanley and the Women declares the validity of classically realistic protocol.  A forum for Martin’s postmodernist leanings, Money subverts the narrative assumptions that inform Kingsley’s more traditional brand of social realism. Both novels, however, confront variations of literary tradition and patriarchy:  one that is socio-political in nature, concerned with distinctions between patriarchy and misogyny, and one that is generic, concerned with the modal transformations within realism.  While the Amises’ writings continued to reflect their engagement in a covert literary war, their dual 1984 texts featured an additional dynamic: whereas previous novels revealed Martin’s dedication to reworking his father’s texts and his literary authority, by 1984, Martin’s career had begun to eclipse his father’s.  As a consequence, Stanley and the Women can be seen as an instance of paternal, not filial, revaluation, as Kingsley’s novel indirectly addressed, reworked, and displaced Martin’s postmodern techniques and themes, which had become decidedly more famous.

            Until the late 1970s, critics and readers alike could agree about the qualities of Kingsley’s work:  raucous, sometimes dark, comic satire; controversially iconoclastic heroes; a firmly centered moral consciousness; the triumph of common sense over pretension or hypocrisy; an expert stylistic precision; and a conflation of the high with the low, producing an eminently readable, comically engaging presentation.  By 1978, however, such critical consensus had become difficult to reach.  When Martin released Money to great critical acclaim, there seemed little doubt about which Amis’s career was in ascendancy. Unfortunately for Kingsley, Martin had become the shining star in the Amis family galaxy, and consequently, issues of influence began to reverse their earlier direction, extending now from son to father.  Two main factors contributed to the Amises’ shifting reputations:  stated generally, these were controversial charges of male chauvinism and the Amises’ positions within contemporary literary debates, especially the future of realism and postmodernism.  Not surprisingly, these were the chief dynamics that animated the AmisesStanley and the Women and Money, and for the first time, their literary quarrels could be witnessed concurrently, as both novels were published in 1984. [1]


horizontal rule


[1] In Experience: A Memoir (New York: Hyperion, 2000), 99, Martin comments upon Kingsley’s paternal glee in this coincidence.  Overhearing a comment by Hylan Booker, the godfather of Martin’s son, Louis, that he had purchased Martin’s novel and his “daddy’s book too,” Kingsley added, “That sentence will only get said once in the history of the world.”

This site is featured in
BBC.gif (1270 bytes)
BBC Education Web Guide

Father & Son 2
Father & Son 3
Father & Son 4
Father & Son 5
Father & Son 6


frontpag.gif (9866 bytes)


ie1.gif (14871 bytes)


Site maintained by James Diedrick, author of Understanding Martin Amis, 2nd edition (2004).
 All contents © 2004.
Last updated 10 December, 2004. Please read the Disclaimer



Home | Discussion Board  | Disclaimer Understanding Martin Amis  | James Diedrick  | Albion College