Girl, 20 (New York Review Books Classics)

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Girl, 20 (New York Review Books Classics) Fiction
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Product Description

Kingsley Amis, along with being the funniest English writer of his generation (see Lucky Jim) and a master of literary genres (his ghost story, The Green Man; his foray into science fiction, The Alteration), was a great chronicler of the fads and absurdities of his age. This is nowhere more apparent than in One Fat Englishman, from 1963, and Girl, 20, which came out almost a decade later, books that survey the social landscape of mid-century England and America with an unflinching accuracy and hilarious disdain.

Girl, 20, an anatomy of the flower-power phase of the 1960s, is about a conductor and composer who bears more than a passing resemblance to the Leonard Bernstein of Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic, a fan of protest and bell-bottoms, all the less persuasive, perhaps, because Amis’s Sir Roy Vandervane is as British as can be. Vain Sir Vandervane is, however, a tremendous success, a “great man” even, so much so that he is free to pursue his greatest failing, a taste for younger and younger women, which has grown more pronounced every year. Highborn hippie Sophia (not, in fact, twenty) is his latest infatuation and a threat to his whole family, from his drama-queen wife, Kitty, to Penny, his long-suffering daughter.

All this is recounted by Douglas Yandell, a music critic with his own love problems (among them that he is half in love with Penny), who is slowly drawn into this story of affected artistry, bumbling celebrity, and scheming family, in a time that for all its high-minded talk is as low and dishonest as any other.

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