that, off and on, in this latest of hisnproductions. So the first thing to say isnthat if you’re looking to be entertained,nthen Amis’s Memoirs is quite a treat.nNow I’ve put it that way so that I willnfeel quite free — as a devoted fan ofnKingsley Amis — to grumble aboutnthese same disappointing Memoirs.nThe book’s a toot, but it’s also lazy andnevasive, a ragbag that doesn’t cohere,ncontaining as it does an uneasy mixturenof sentimentality, meanness, philistinism,nsnobbery, complacency, andncoarseness. Is it possible that this inchoatenassembly might have some point ornoverriding idea, other than the ineffablensuperiority of the Amisian view? Ifnso, it is not stated, though I think itnmight be intuited.nI believe I can isolate two themesneither left undeveloped or else avoidednby the author that hint at the structurenof a real book — the one the authornwithheld. One of those items is intellectual,nthe other spiritual. The first isnthe story of a novelist and academic;nthe second is the tale of a man uneasilynin search of love — a man who foundnsex and booze instead of soul. Therensimply isn’t much here about the novelist.nInstead there is this careful disclaimer:n”Who would want to readnabout the time I had thinking up andnwriting one book and what I felt aboutnits reviews, sales, translation into Catalan,nor about how I spent my summernholidays in 1959?” The calibrated disingenuousnessnof this preemptionnshows just how thoughtfully its authornhas considered his avoidance of thencuriosity of his public. And the humornof its expression characteristically becloudsnthe anxiety of the writer, whonmay be a bit worried that his readersnmight notice his contempt for theirnintelligence. After all, they have beennput in the position of saying, “We’rennot interested in how a writer writes.nWe know writers don’t care about theirnwork or its reception, and we don’t careneither.” And they will later see thatnthey have also been put in the positionnof saying, “Tell us the dirty stuff. Tellnus the naughty bits about dead peoplenwho can’t answer back. Above all, nonideas please — just lots of drinking stories.”nSo there isn’t much here aboutnwriting, though there is rather a greatndeal about the creative superiority ofnKingsley Amis, who never “lost it”neven though he seems to have processednas much alcohol as all those whondid. There isn’t much here either ofnthe academic persuasion, and on thisnpoint I must say that though Amisntaught for years, there is hardly a wordnin his Memoirs that would convincenanyone of his academic backgroundnand experience. Two of the worstnchapters are about his academic sojournsnin the States, but these only gonto show that he shouldn’t have bothered.nThe author of I Like It Herenshould have stayed there, since henseems to have a blind spot where thenU.S.A. is concerned. His notion of annice bit of Americana seems oddlynchosen, and is phrased with all thenelegance with which he has graced thisnvolume: “[A]ny one who walks upnFifth Avenue (say) on a sunny morningnwithout feeling his spirits lift is anna—hole.” Add to that his representationnof Nashville and Vanderbilt—nwhich emerge as something of a crossnbetween a KKK gathering and annepisode of Hee Haw — and we mustnconclude that Colonel Blimp is notnmuch to be preferred to the UglynAmerican. Even a brilliant novelist isnonly a human being after all, and therenis something about this country thatnturns Sir Kingsley into Fred Scuttle. Innshort, his reflections on the coloniesnand their culture are dumb and evenn(as on the battle of Nashville) nasty.nNo, the literary and historical stuffnisn’t Amis’s strong point, though Indaresay it could have been if he hadnbeen interested. Instead there is anthread of inverted spirituality in thesenmemoirs that hints at the book thatndidn’t get written. The resentful portraitnof Malcolm Muggeridge suggestsnto me a jealousy of Muggeridge’snfaith — a faith denied to and by annauthor who shows his fear of death innhis last chapter. Amis’s postmortemnbarbs cut both ways: “. . . he developednan amazing capacity for investingnplatitudes with an air of novelty andnfreshness: ‘What we all have to realise,’nhe would say, screwing up his face innthe familiar way that meant somethingnimportant was coming, ‘is that we livenin an increasingly materialistic society.'”nBut Amis himself has not avoidednsimilar platitudes, as for instance in hisntreatment of Elizabeth Taylor—thenEnglish novelist, I mean, not thenAmerican whatever.nnnComplacency and, whiskey maynmake a fine breakfast, but they constitutena bad supper. Avoiding ^the importantnstories of his life — of his marriages,nof his novels, of his politicalnenlightenment, of his study and knowledgenof English literature—Amis hasndevoted most of his energies to relatingntrivia about hangovers, hanky panky,nbooze hounds, and famous or not sonfamous dead people he has known.nAfter the tittering has subsided, somenreaders may agree with me that thenbook leaves a bitter aftertaste — thensense of having been stiffed. But looknagain: for perhaps no one has been sonshortchanged by Kingsley Amis as henhas been by himself The aggressivenego that peeps between the lines —nthat fires the male libido and the novelist’snstamina, and that is cloaked inncomic gestures — here has hidden itselfnin the novelist’s disavowal, in the satirist’sn”modesty.” The focus on othersnshrouds a twisted self-love; all thenlaughter muffles a scream in the dark.nThough these memoirs are spiritednand spirituous, they aren’t spiritual.nThey weren’t written in the right spirit.n].0. Tate is a professor of English atnDowling College on Long Island.nThe Craft of Fleshnand Bloodnby Gregory McNameenThe Middle of Nowherenby Kent NelsonnLayton, Utah: Gibbs Smith;n208 pp., $18.95nLanguage in the Bloodnby Kent NelsonnLayton, Utah: Gibbs Smith;n260 pp., $18.95nThe landscape of American fictionnis a bleak and dreary place thesendays. It wends through the somber backnlots and blue highways of rural America,ntends toward the grimy streets of crumblingncities, populated by somewhat dimnand desperate characters whose mainngoal seems to be making it to anothernday. Call it realism, call it world-weari-nDECEMBER 1991/35n