Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done so once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.
—Kingsley Amis is known as much for his drinking as his writing, in an article at Hyperallergic he is called “the great alco-bard of English letters.” And today we start our attempt to balance the scale and return Amis senior to his rightful place as one of the great 20th-century British novelists, with the publication of two of his best books: The first is of course Lucky Jim, his maiden work, a huge success (re-read annually by Joseph M. Schuster in The Millions), and often called the funniest book ever written (including in today’s B&N Review); and the second is The Old Devils, winner of the 1986 Booker Prize and considered by his son Martin to be his finest novel. The American Conservative has a good article on why Kingsley fell out of favor in the U.S. (quick hint: celebrity, politics, opinions, and a famous son), but if all you are interested in are the drinks, come Raise a Glass to Kingsley next Thursday at Housing Works Bookstore for an event hosted by Vol. 1 Brooklyn and have a glass of gin on us. Just try to avoid a hangover like Jim Dixon’s.