The vagaries of literary taste and fashionable mania for Martin cannot by themselves account for America’s neglect of Amis senior, however. Kingsley himself is to blame for being such a memorable public figure: these days Amis l’homme is probably more famous than any item in his bibliography, thanks to his reactionary quotient and numberless crotchets. A literary parlor game could be made of finding the most outrageously illiberal Amis quotation. He hated tolerance, diversity, foreign languages, airplanes, popular music, all female novelists—save perhaps Dame Agatha Christie—bebop and modal jazz, being alone, art cinema, purchasing gifts for his wives, the Arts Council of Great Britain, homosexuals, America, defenders of communism, gardens, and the dark.

Like Nabokov, Waugh, and Ray Bradbury, Kingsley Amis never learned to drive an automobile. Like Paul Ryan’s financial guru Ayn Rand he never made a single investment, though by the 1970s he was spending thousands of pounds on drink every month. He bragged that he could not scramble an egg. He denounced Portnoy’s Complaint, Lolita, Ulysses, and Mansfield Park and declared “Beverly Hills Cop” “a flawless masterpiece.”

Return of the Kingsley, by Matthew Walther