‘The Alteration’, by Kingsley Amis

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February 22, 2013 by Me and My Monkeys

The Alteration
In The Alteration, lucky Kingsley Amis starts with an immodest premise and keeps on writing till he has a marketable 200 words.

And he ends up with a good book – a ‘Time Romance (TR)’ novel – that turns world history on its head with some macabre situation comedy.

The proposed castration of a young boy is an uneasy starting point for a literary humourist, but Amis overcomes this by playing it straight with young Hubert Anvil, leaning instead on an eerie parallel universe – plus a bevy of religulous misfits – for the comic relief.

Hubert is trapped in a nightmare ‘Counterfeit World’ that is driven by shaky logic and inane spiritual momentum. This is a genius creation by Amis, but perhaps too clever for anyone but late middle-aged British history professors. While Hubert’s predicament keeps us turning the page in sympathy, many of the well-earned laughs will be lost on the Gen X, Y or Z speed reader.

Towards the end, there’s a hint of Sir Kingsley finishing in a sadistic hurry, having had his fun and keen to move on to Jake’s Thing.

Amis: “I didn’t realise that The Alteration was partly saying, Whatever alterations you might make in human circumstances, horrible things will still happen, till after it was published”. (The Letters of Kingsley Amis, p852)

The Alteration isn’t Amis’ best day at the track, but he still comes home well in the black.

Recommended? Maybe, but start elsewhere if you’re new to Amis.

Out of 10? 7

My monkeys suggest:

  • Start with Lucky Jim and work your way through

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