Kingsley Amis

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There was no end to the ways in which nice things are nicer than nasty ones.

Sir Kingsley William Amis (16 April 192222 October 1995) was an English novelist, poet, critic, teacher, and father of novelist Martin Amis.


  • More will mean worse.
    • Encounter magazine (July 1960)
    • Referring to the imminent expansion of higher education.
  • A bad review may spoil your breakfast, but you shouldn't allow it to spoil your lunch.
    • Attributed in Aren't We Due a Royalty Statement? (1993) by Giles Gordon, and The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999) by Elizabeth M. Knowles, p. 14

Lucky Jim (1954)

  • 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 morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it 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.
    • Ch. 6
  • Your attitude measures up to the two requirements of love. You want to go to bed with her and can't, and you don't know her very well. Ignorance of the other person topped up with deprivation, Jim. You fit the formula all right, and what's more you want to go on fitting it.
    • Ch. 12
  • [T]here was no end to the ways in which nice things are nicer than nasty ones.
    • Ch. 24

A Case of Samples: Poems 1946–1956 (1956)

  • Man's love is of man's life a thing apart;
    Girls aren't like that.
    • "A Bookshop Idyll"
    • Cf. Lord Byron, Don Juan, "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart, / 'Tis woman's whole existence."
  • A great British prime minister once remarked that the people were divided into two nations, the rich and the poor, and in effect that these had no knowledge of each other. One might say the same, perhaps, of those who live in parts of the world where segregation by races is practised. But these barriers, or the reasons for them, belong to a part of our history which is fortunately passing away. There is one barrier, however, which no amount of progress or tolerance or legislation can ever diminish. I'm talking about the barrier between the attractive and the unattractive.
    • Ch. 17
  • Friendship includes charity. But there's no charity in sex.
    • Ch. 17
  • 'You're still the same girl. What people do doesn't change their nature.'
    She shook her head.[…] 'What they do is their nature,' she said.
    • Patrick Standish and Jenny Bunn in Ch. 27

One Fat Englishman (1963)

  • It was no wonder that people were so horrible when they started life as children.

I Want It Now (1968)

I Want It Now. London: Jonathan Cape, 1968
  • He was short on the one attribute certain to meet the immediate respect of the rich — i.e. being rich — and must therefore obtrude deterrents against being buggered about.
    • Ch. 2, p. 67
  • You can't screw the rich, something in Ronnie muttered as Miss Quick got off him with quite as much alacrity as she had got on him. You have to let them screw you. Or else you leave out screwing altogether.
    • Ronnie Appleyard's thoughts after his first full sex with Simon (Simona) Quick in Ch. 2, p. 81
  • I was a shit when I met you. I still am in lots of ways. But because of you I've had to give up trying to be a dedicated, full-time shit. I couldn't make it, hadn't the strength of character. Which is a pity in a way, because when you fall back into the ranks of the failed shits or amateur shits or incidental shits you start taking on responsibility for other people.
    • Ronnie Appleyard to Simon (Simona) Quick in Ch. 4, p. 254

A Look Round the Estate: Poems, 1957–1967 (1968)

  • Should you revisit us
    Stay a little longer
    And get to know the place...
    On local life we trust
    The resident witness
    Not the royal tourist.
  • I told myself that I could soon start to relish the state of being alone […], only to find as usual that I was stuck with myself.[…] Two's company, which is bad enough in all conscience, but one's a crowd.
    • Maurice Allington in Ch. 2
  • From an outsider's point of view, a naked woman out of doors is either a sun-worshipper or a rape victim; a man in the same state is either a sexual criminal or a plain lunatic.
    • Maurice Allington in Ch. 2

What Became of Jane Austen? And Other Questions (1970)

  • We should be wrong to demand that a critic must stay on the point all the time; it is enough if he remains in orbit around it.

Girl, 20 (1971)

Girl, 20. London: Jonathan Cape, 1971
  • The real trouble with liars […] was that there could never be any guarantee against their occasionally telling the truth.
    • Ch. 3: "The Night of the Favour", p. 92
  • [I]t's human to choose any sort of path into the future rather than face the long road back to what you've left behind.
    • Ch. 5: "Absolute Rock", p. 157
  • He's taken to going off for hours at a time, wandering round those woods that lead off from the common apparently. Nothing there apart from trees and sexual maniacs.
    • Ch. 8: "Pigs Out", p. 215

Ending Up (1974)

  • As far back as she could remember, she had gone in for day-dreams about what clothes, jewellery and the like she would wear if, like her admired and adored Marie Antoinette, she were somehow to find herself facing public execution.
    • Ch. 15
  • People who sound insincere all the time […] should not expect others to notice the difference when they try to sound insincere.
    • Ch. 18
  • [S]omething was being kept from him. But, short of scopolamine, hypnosis or wild horses, he knew he would never hear from her what it was.
    • Ch. 35
  • Then, because it was every cinematic doctor's exit line, the doctor added, "I'll see myself out."
    • Ch. 37
Jake's Thing. London: Hutchinson, 1978
  • If there's one word that sums up everything that's gone wrong since the War, it's Workshop. After Youth, that is.
    • p. 149
  • 'What's that stuff they put in ships to keep them from going all over the place?'
    'What? Oh … ballast?'
    'That's right. People's sex drives are like ballast, they keep them steady. It sounds wrong, but they do.'
    • p. 273. The speakers are Brenda and Jake Richardson.

Collected Poems, 1944-1979 (1979)

  • Be glad you're fifty — and
    That you got there while things were nice,
    In a world worth looking at twice.
    So here's wishing you many more years,
    But not all that many. Cheers!
    • "Ode to Me", (p. 134)
Stanley and the Women. London: Hutchinson, 1984
  • The rewards for being sane are not very many but knowing what's funny is one of them.
    • Part 2: "Progress", p. 147
  • Internally, in itself, madness is an artistic desert. Nothing of any general interest can be said about it. Like sex. But the effects it has on the world outside it can be very interesting indeed. It has no other valid literary use.
    • Part 2: "Progress", p. 148
  • There isn't another other sex.
    • Part 4: "Prognosis", p. 254
  • It’s quite a problem for retired people, I do see. All of a sudden the evening starts starting after breakfast. All those hours with nothing to stay sober for. Or nothing to naturally stay sober during, if you see what I…We used to laugh at Malcolm’s dad, the way he used to mark up the wireless programs in Radio Times in different-coloured pencils. Never caught him listening to any of them but it was an hour taken care of.
  • While he was climbing the litter-strewn steps his left ball gave a sharp twinge, on and off like a light-switch, then again after he had sat down. Nothing. Just one of the aches and pains that come and go. No significance.
  • Any man in the company of two women is outnumbered four to one however amiable they may be.

Difficulties with Girls (1988)

Difficulties with Girls. London: Hutchinson, 1988
  • 'Oh, I see,' said Jenny. 'But you're just getting these men [New Age gurus] to help you all feel better. I thought when you talked about helping people you meant other people. You know, like the blind.'
    'Isn't everybody blind, in one way or another?' asked Wendy.
    • Ch. 11, p. 158
  • 'Shitty things are always simple. Same as great things. Patrick Standish, in conversation.'
    • Ch. 17, p. 248
    • The speaker is Patrick Standish, copyrighting his own witticism.
  • Nothing divided people more deeply than how they felt about cats.
    • Ch. 19, p. 274
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