Read The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis Online


Age has done everything except mellow the characters in Kingsley Amis’s The Old Devils, which turns its humane and ironic gaze on a group of Welsh married couples who have been spending their golden years—when “all of a sudden the evening starts starting after breakfast”—nattering, complaining, reminiscing, and, above all, drinking. This more or less orderly social world iAge has done everything except mellow the characters in Kingsley Amis’s The Old Devils, which turns its humane and ironic gaze on a group of Welsh married couples who have been spending their golden years—when “all of a sudden the evening starts starting after breakfast”—nattering, complaining, reminiscing, and, above all, drinking. This more or less orderly social world is thrown off-kilter, however, when two old friends unexpectedly return from England: Alun Weaver, now a celebrated man of Welsh letters, and his entrancing wife, Rhiannon. Long-dormant rivalries and romances are rudely awakened, as life at the Bible and Crown, the local pub, is changed irrevocably. Considered by Martin Amis to be Kingsley Amis’s greatest achievement—a book that “stands comparison with any English novel of the [twentieth] century”—The Old Devils confronts the attrition of ageing with rare candor, sympathy, and moral intelligence....

Title : The Old Devils
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ISBN : 9780099461050
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 400 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Old Devils Reviews

  • William1
    2019-06-11 16:03

    This novel is a story of old friends, married couples in southwestern Wales, and how their lives change when Alun and Rhiannon Weaver return to the country after Alun's long career in London. Alun has for some time been an ambitious media personality whose career resulted in the "popularization" of Wales. He is vaguely blamed for the onslaught of developers and bad architecture in the country, though this seems to me baseless. He's also known for championing the Welsh poet, Brydan, whom I suspect is loosely based on Dylan Thomas. Alun's as pure a "shit," Amis's word, as you're likely to come across in English letters. A vile bastard masquerading as a chum. At once upon his return he commences to systematically cuckold most of his friends, whom he then routinely meets the next day at the Bible and Crown for round after round of powerful cirrhotic drinks. Everyone, or almost everyone, in The Old Devils drinks themselves into near insensibility on a daily basis. For what else is there to do in culturally bereft Wales? Peter Thomas was a local college professor in the old days. Back then he seduced and knocked up his student, Rhiannon, still something of a beauty today, whom he promptly left for one Angharad, under the delusion of greener pastures. He's an old fool but at least, unlike Alun, he knows he's an old fool. Peter is now married to the imperious Muriel. He's fat, pushing 70, with a failing heart, and he regrets his hasty youthful choices. In other words, he's still in love with Rhiannon. Then there's Charlie, the book's purest alcoholic, who's been suffering lately from panic attacks, and his wife Sophie, the first old flame to succumb to slick Alun's inexplicable charms. There's also Malcolm Cellan-Davies, more of a Welsh scholar than Alun will ever be, and his wife Gwen, who also falls under Alun's spell. Structurally The Old Devils is a traditional novel; there is nothing new or even innovative about it. There are no sophomoric metafictional tricks, for which I was grateful. The novel beguiles us chiefly through its mastery of technique. It is so sure footed. It makes a virtue of the run on sentence. It was surprising to find amid the rich comedic scenes these stretches of striking descriptive beauty. Amis got the Booker Prize for this novel and one can see why. Here is everything he knows from the writing of, what, twenty novels? Here it is all in one book. The last third I found moving; a surprise since emotion was never something Kingsley Amis's work was known for. He was essentially a comic novelist, like his son. That was another striking thing, the similarity of phrasing between father and son. One can almost imagine them arguing about the merits of a proper sentence during their famous weekly meetings (see Experience: A Memoir). Highly amusing, often LOL funny. Exuberantly recommended.

  • Kathy
    2019-06-08 15:01

    Does anyone really want to read a book about a lot of boring old farts getting drunk and shagging each others' wives? No wonder people were saying the British novel was dead at the time when this won the Booker prize.

  • Emmapeel
    2019-06-15 17:03

    Il tasso di alcool, pioggia, gallesità, cazzeggio maschile, solitudine coniugale di questo romanzo è almeno sei volte superiore ai limiti di legge consentiti. Per giunta parla di settantenni, categoria poco glamour e scarsamente frequentata dalle belle lettere inglesi dall'epoca di Re Lear, credo. Eppure questo gruppo di acciaccatissimi 'mbriaconi litiga, ama, odia, ricorda con rabbia e struggimento come non riuscirebbe a fare nemmeno un trentenne (taceremo per carità di patria degli apatici personaggini nostrani), mostrando una vitalità tanto più dolorosa quanto ormai irrimediabilmente segnata dalla decadenza fisica e dalla consapevolezza che il meglio è ormai alle spalle e che il passato - o meglio, il ricordo che ne abbiamo - si modifica e si deforma nel tempo, inafferrabile e indecifrabile per punirci di non averlo saputo riconoscere e vivere al momento giusto.

  • James Barker
    2019-06-06 20:07

    This is such a wasted opportunity. Amis showed in 'Ending Up' how capable he was of writing dark humour into the vagaries of old age, making that alleged time of non-existence interesting and compulsive reading... perhaps twelve years later, when 'The Old Devils' saw the light of day, he was sufficiently aged himself to be consumed by his lifetime of excesses. Certainly 'The Old Devils' lacks polish and precision. What it does confirm is that (shock, horror) older people still have sex, can be unfaithful, can drink till they stagger and fall in an unhappy routine that stretches until paralysis or death. Yes, it is that funny. It also has elements of the misogyny that was something of Amis' watchword and an anti-hero suspiciously similar to the author himself.All in all the book reminds me of that lyric by the Who- 'hope I die before I get old.' Having seen them headline Glastonbury this year I can't help but wish they'd kept their promise, and that Amis had never thought to write this travesty of a (Booker Prize-winning) novel. Can't old age be more like Betty White?

  • Palmyrah
    2019-06-13 14:07

    Readers of John Updike's Couples will find the setup of this novel glancingly familiar: the circle of ingrown, septic-turning friendships among well-off married couples in a small town by the sea, the arrival of the 'new couple' that puts the cat among the pigeons. But where Updike's novel (much the superior of the two) is all about sex and love, Amis's themes are booze and adultery. His couples, unlike Updike's, are all well on the wrong side of middle age; his setting, unlike Updike's picturesque New England town of Tarbox, is South Wales in the early Thatcher era, all closed-down pitheads and fake Welshness seen through a haze of alcohol and thin, freezing rain.Still, lovers of that grumpy unsentimentality in which the British tend to specialize as they grow older (and none specialized more successfully than Kingsley Amis) will find much to enjoy here, as I did. For lovers of literary style, Amis's imaginative aptness of phrase cannot help but delight. What does not appeal is the almost poisonous mysogyny that underpins much of the humour - and while the insight that growing old brings no consolation of wisdom, only infirmity, futility and resentment against the world at large, makes for some fine black humour at times, the laugh often ends up sounding rather hollow.

  • Hugo Emanuel
    2019-05-30 20:10

    Ouvira dizer que este romance apresentava um olhar satírico e imensamente cómico sobre o envelhecimento, ao qual não faltava sentimentalismo e beleza. Não encontrei nada do género. As piadas eram ora demasiado insulares, ora repetidas e prolongadas até à exaustão. E andavam à volta de essencialmente o mesmo: as particularidades do País de Gales; as pessoas não crescem ou mudam por aí além; a velhice não traz sabedoria; as pessoas de idade continuam a ter relações sexuais e a cometer adultério; nem todos os casais que se mantêm juntos durante anos incontáveis são felizes ou fiéis; uma vez um traste, para sempre um traste, independentemente da idade, entre outras (pequenas) variações destes temas. Tudo isto prolongado durante um romance que tem, pelo menos, cem páginas a mais do que devia. Quanto ao enredo, este é do mais comum e corriqueiro que se possa imaginar. Um grupo de amigos, que vivem no País de Gales, todos estes de meia-idade, passam os seus dias a beber e a mexericar, até ao dia em um casal amigo que já não vêm há alguns anos muda-se para as imediações. A chegada destes implica um ligeiro aumento de consumo de álcool, mexerico e significativamente mais adultério. E é essencialmente isto. Quatrocentas e tal páginas de nada mais do que isso, com "private jokes" sobre o País de Gales pelo meio cuja graça me iludia por completo e que, segundo li, nem são entendidas pelos habitantes daquela zona. Foi o primeiro livro de Amis-pai que li (já do filho gosto imenso, não obstante o seu trabalho ser um pouco inconsistente), mas não será o ultimo, até porque consta que este é um dos seus romances inferiores. O romance, apesar dos seus muitos defeitos, tinha os seus momentos engraçados a algumas observações acutilantes sobre o envelhecimento, mas de um modo geral é demasiado repetitivo e extenso. Tal como está é demasiado do mesmo.

  • Courtney H.
    2019-06-11 21:55

    This is the most boring Booker I've read so far. It may, in fact, be one of the most boring books I've ever read. I can't even bother to put it on my list of most hated because at least with, say, Atonement, McEwan had the decency to write a thoroughly despicable, self-absorbed horrorshow of a human being to act as narrator for that otherwise dull book. Amis didn't even give us that. I couldn't even get too upset with him for writing two-dimensional female characters because his male characters were not much better. Here, none of the characters sparkled, I was 200 pages in before I came to a laugh-aloud line, and the most poignant part of the book didn't register at all. The characters are all stuck in high school dramas. Seriously, those were dull when we were IN high school, and everyone I know cringes when thinking back about that grating nonsense when they are a couple of years out. So the idea of 70-year-olds never outgrowing them is both boring and depressing, and it fails to ring true. The Finkler Question, which I think most people really disliked, was MUCH better at knocking humorously at the door of aging and regret, and Staying On (which won in the 70s) did it extremely well at that, too. And if we are supposed to see the problems as deeper than that, then all the worse, because I was so disinterested in the characters that I actually couldn't believe them capable of that kind of depth. Say what you will about the foibles of the Finkler Question, I could buy into the main character's neurosis and weirdness. I felt none of that here. And if it is supposed to be about Wales, the culture (real and imagined), and the culture-mongers, then it failed there, too. There's this bit at the end, where one of the characters gets dressed down for writing a pompous little bit of novel that purports to, but fails, to capture Wales. Think it was an inside apology to us as readers? I have never been so glad to finish a book as I was to finish this one. I wasn't even this excited when I finished Atonement or Prep. And that's saying something.

  • W.D. Clarke
    2019-06-19 19:52

    A thoroughly enjoyable romance in the Shakespearean sense of the word. Lots of proto-Martin humour (though if Amis fils 'goes to 11' in terms of hyperbole as the trope of choice, his père dials it all in at just over a 3, irony and understatement being more his thing than "monkeying about with the reader" [<--as quoted in son Martin's latest book The Rub Of Time]Lots of talk about the Welsh, and lots of talk about (and actual) boozing: every single chapter seems to have a drink in it, as the old ensemble cast of codgers (who all seem to have slept with each other in the wayback of when) careen through threatened catastrophe, navigate a minor death, and fittingly end up at a wedding, still kicking against the pricks of the horseman and his cold, steady eye.

  • Bette
    2019-06-08 16:11

    I tend to be sympathetic to characters who are aging, fat, and unlovely, since I'm sure this is my destiny as well, but this bunch is so tedious that I couldn't muster any interest. I kept waiting for the humor to begin, but it never did. They're all just moldering away in Wales, pickling their livers and feeling sorry for themselves. I feel like David Lodge has written these characters, and written them far better. I'm astounded this won the Booker.

  • Florence Penrice
    2019-06-14 15:11

    What’s not to enjoy in a book that contains the sentence ‘She was said to have been found once telling the man who was laying the carpets about eohippus’ (referring to an unstoppably talkative character)? If that doesn’t make you smile, don’t bother with this book. If it does, find a copy and enjoy.Kingsley Amis’ writing (at this, later, stage) combined humour and an acute sensibility to the joys and disappointments of life. He is unequalled in his ability to deliniate bores (the unstoppable Dorothy, referred to above, and the equally dreadful Garth) that the reader can recognise from their own experiences, as well as social misadventures - I still reread the episode where Charlie is taken unawares by someone speaking in Welsh to him, and thinking he’s lost his mind.The book has strong autobiographical elements, with three of the main characters, Charlie, Peter, and the ever-priapic Alun all being different aspects of the writer’s personaility and what raises the book above being a mere satire of middle-aged life, though it is worth reading it for that alone, is the awareneness of the importance of love, and the near-tragic effects of not having faith with one’s emotions.I love this book, and will always have it to hand.

  • F.R.
    2019-05-22 17:47

    I met a lady recently who told me her intention to read every Booker Prize winner. My response was that it’s an admirable ambition, but I’m not sure they’re actually of a uniformly standard. At that point I hadn’t read this book, by a writer I generally like, but if I had then I could have used it as an example. “So-so” is the description I’d go for.‘The Old Devils’ follows some Welsh couples of a certain age as they drink, copulate and ruminate on the nature of being Welsh. There are some good jokes, excellent scenes and well drawn characters, but the whole thing is far too insular (every adultery which happens remains in their little group, there’s rarely anyone from outside it) and overly long. I grew up in Wales and yet don’t recognise the nature of “being Welsh” as depicted in this book. It could be that I grew up in a totally different generation and not in the valleys. Or it could be that Kingsley Amis was an Englishman.

  • Janis
    2019-06-17 20:59

    Having never read Kingsley or Martin Amis, I had been curious. Late last year PB mentioned that she had read a Kingsley, and so when I saw the mint condition hardback of The Old Devils at the Brattle, and noticed it had been a Booker Prize winner in 1986, I did not resist.Kingsley is a fine and fluid writer. The book is almost entirely made up of dialogue, clever and complicated dialogue. The story takes place in Wales, is a commentary on the landscape of Wales, how the Welsh view themselves, view themselves vis a vie the English, view their heritage, the bastardization of their heritage, and the effects of Thatherism in the 1980’s. Side by side is a commentary on love and marriage, characterized more like a war of the sexes type thing. Another theme is aging and how we come to live with our choices, muddling through, thinking everything will sort itself out in the end. Which of course it does, given that we cannot press pause and do a re-take.A question arises as to how Kingsley treats his female characters. He is adept with the men, but I am still cogitating about the women. If there were a litmus test, I would look to one of my favorite American authors, Russell Banks, who, in answer to a question posed by Charlie Rose, said that he does not put his female characters on a pedestal, simply to bring them down. Definitely worth your time if the themes are of interest, or if one is intrigued by winners of the Booker Prize.

  • Daniel Polansky
    2019-06-04 17:55

    I've been on an Amis kick lately but this probably broke me of the habit. Not because it's not good—it's very good. It is written with the same style and excellence which everything that I've read by Amis at this point has been, and the subject matter—which is simply put, the social, romantic, and national friction caused by the return of an aging 2nd rate intellectual to his hometown in rural Wales—is admirable in putting a serious focus on a period of life which receives short shrift in literature. Digression: why are there so few good novels dealing with aging? Is it simply because many great writers with their tendencies towards self-destruction don't make it that far? That having reached that stage, few have the energy to dedicate towards their last stage of life, or they would rather think about earlier times, or that no one has a creative peak (especially not writers) that lasts from the beginning to the end of a career? What was the best novel by a writer in his/her dotage? End of digression. Anyway, it's clever and well-written but maybe a little bit dry. It was also my 5th Kingsley Amis in like a month, which probably had some effect on my not liking it to the degree it might deserve. Were there sword fights: No, there were absolutely not any sword fights.

  • Rick Patterson
    2019-05-25 20:57

    I looked up the symptoms of cirrhosis and discovered that they can include fatigue, loss of appetite, and nausea. By the time I was done this novel, I was pretty sure that I had somehow acquired cirrhosis from it. It is not a likable book, mainly because there are so few characters to like in it, supposing you can manage to distinguish one from the other by the time you get through it. Is Peter the enormously fat one? Which one is Garth and why do I care? Does Malcolm have any real talent or is he like everyone else and not have any visible or plausible reason to exist? This won the Booker? I suspect it was intended as a sort of Lifetime Achievement Award to Kingsley Amis, because there's no way this is a better novel than Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, nor Robertson Davies' What's Bred in the Bone, nor Kazuo Ishiguro's An Artist of the Floating World, all of which were shortlisted in 1986, when The Old Devils somehow won the prize.

  • Alan
    2019-06-02 20:45

    Kingsley Amis was rather an old devil himself when he wrote this novel, and every bitter, precise word shows how accustomed he'd already become to the aches and indignities of senescence:Standing quite motionless he gazed before him with a faraway look that a passer-by, especially a Welsh passer-by, might have taken for one of moral if not spiritual insight, such that he might instantly renounce whatever course of action he had laid down for himself. After a moment, something like a harsh bark broke from the lower half of his trunk, followed by a fluctuating whinny and a thud that sounded barely organic, let alone human.—p.66That's Alun Weaver, Britain's best, or at least best-known, living Welsh poet, and the central character (primus inter pares) of The Old Devils. Weaver, who reportedly changed his first name from "Alan" in order to be more Welsh, has made his career out of being the semi-official hagiographer for the sainted departed "Brydan" (a stand-in for Dylan Thomas), who was of course Wales' best dead poet.And now, after years of modest success in London (television appearances, a book or two), it's time for Alun and his handsome wife Rhiannon to return in triumph to the little Welsh town from which they came, and take up again with the mates who knew them best, back when they were all young and hungry.Like cats among pigeons, or a snooker player's cue ball striking the rack, the Weavers' arrival irrevocably alters the settled trajectories of all their old friends. Alun was—is—an adulterer, not so much serial as massively parallel, and Rhiannon's own retinue of male followers remains thoroughly bewitched by her charms. There's more than one tearful scene, more than one exchange of angry words, in the futures of Peter, Muriel, Malcolm, Gwen, Charlie and the others whose routine is being upset.Despite John Banville's carefully-worded Introduction, by the way, this book's political sentiments were not at all upsetting to me. I only noticed a couple of gratuitous asides, easily ignored, about the perfidy of "left-wingers" and the like. Amis' characters seem to be more old-fashioned conservatives—more concerned with fretting over the good things that've been lost than with actively working to dismantle the progress that's truly been made in so many areas.There's nothing out of the ordinary about any of this, of course—absolutely everything that transpires in The Old Devils is utterly mundane. But Amis' prose is extraordinarily vivid. Like the sharp-edged light in one of those BBC situation comedies that get sent overseas to be broadcast on PBS, the illumination he throws on these old fools' cross-purposes picks out every harsh detail... and it's fascinating.It's also heartening, in a way, to watch these folks carry on. These are men and women in their sixties and seventies, after all, long after our youth-obsessed culture will have relegated them to invisibility. (I'm starting to notice some of that syndrome myself.) But as Banville's Introduction says, "In this novel, drink, sex, and death dance a merry round." (p.xi) Amis' characters are all very much alive—they may have slowed down some physically, but they're still as active as ever both mentally and socially. They are nowhere near ready to go gently into that good night. And as I was drawn into their antics, I realized anew that people really do only get old on the outside.This book may not have made quite as much of a splash as Lucky Jim or, for sf fans, The Alteration... but it well deserves the accolades it's received.

  • Jonathan
    2019-06-07 14:01

    The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis was first published in 1986 and it won the Booker Prize that year. Alun and Rhiannon Weaver are returning to Wales from London; Alun is an ageing minor TV presenter who has become famous for presenting programmmes about Wales on TV, especially about the famous Welsh poet Brydan (think Dylan Thomas). Alun also likes sex and drinking, well, all the characters in the book like drinking, in fact that's what they spend most of their time doing. Alun & Rhiannon are returning to their hometown where they quickly meet up with many couples that they used to know (and drink with) such as Gwen & Malcolm Cellan-Davies, Muriel & Peter Thomas, Dorothy & Percy Morgan and Charlie & Sophie. It turns out that Peter and Rhiannon used to date and there was an incident from their past that Peter finds it difficult to forget. Alun quickly starts having casual sex with many of his old flames, which seems to consist of most of the wives mentioned above, whilst he's trying to write a book about Wales, which is just an excuse to travel around Wales getting drunk with his friends.Now, I've had this book kicking around for a while and from the blurb on the back of this book it sounded like fun; a sort of 'Old People Behaving Badly' by one of Britain's great comic writers. I hadn't read anything by Amis Sr before so I wasn't too sure what to expect, but after about a hundred pages I was prepared to throw in the towel - I'd had enough! I just found it so boring; the characters were both unlikeable and uninteresting, ALL they did was bitch and drink and fuck, which could have been interesting and should have been interesting, but it wasn't. It's difficult now to explain exactly what I didn't like about it but I found Amis's style very irritating; it consists largely of dialogue that rambles and seems quite pointless and confusing. Once we decide that we don't like a book it's probably wise to abandon it...but I didn't; I carried on. Was this a stupid thing to do? Well, it did pick up a bit, especially with the Peter character, concerning his relationship with his wife and grown-up son, as well as his past relationship with Rhiannon. Also there were vaguely funny incidents such as the whole group getting thrown out of their local pub by the landlord who verbally abuses all of them. Maybe I was just not in the mood for this book but I certainly wouldn't have called it a comedy and I'm amazed at the quote on the back that calls it a 'bloody funny lovely bloody book'.Admittedly there were a few good bits, so rather than pointing out more faults I've found a little quotation that was amusing; Gwen is explaining to Rhiannon why Charlie drinks so much:'The thing is, Charlie's got nothing else to do and he can afford it. It's quite a problem for retired people, I do see. All of a sudden the evening starts starting after breakfast. All of 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 programmes in the Radio Times in different-coloured pencils. Never caught him listening to any of them but it was an hour taken care of. Drink didn't agree with him, poor old Taffy. Some of us have got a lot to be thankful for.And I like the following quote which pretty much sums up the characters' predicaments. Everybody had been in their twenties then; well, round about thirty. Now, from round about seventy, all those years of maturity or the prime of life or whatever you called it looked like an interval between two bouts of vomiting.So, maybe I didn't like the book just because it was the wrong book at the wrong time and I still intend to read some more Amis, such as his most famous novel Lucky Jim.

  • Irene
    2019-05-21 20:57

    I often struggle to catch the humor of written satire. I seem to need the tone of voice to clue me in that what is coming is intended humorously. That was true with this book. I think I would have caught far more of the humor had I seen it performed as a play which it could easily be adapted to. We spend this novel in the company of several Welsh couples who have been socially linked for decades. Their predictable retirement routine is shaken up when a couple from their past moves back to the area. He has enjoyed some literary success as a poet who aspires to be another Dylan Thomas. Excessive drinking, adolescent posturing, massaging old memories and complaining about the physical indignities of the aging body seem to dominate the lives of these figures. Much of the old age, the drinking, the snarky observations about others in the social group made me chuckle, but I too often could only catch them in the rearview mirror. But there were also a great deal of satire around Wales and the celebration of Welsh culture which I did not understand. The fleeting moments in which Amis suspends the humor to reveal a character with reverence and vulnerability gave a layer of shocking depth to this novel.

  • Todd
    2019-06-05 17:42

    One of the greatest novels I've ever read. Hilarious, honest, joyous, so truthful about humanity, both the best and the worst of us, and so very sad at times. I found myself laughing at the beginning of certain paragraphs, or even just sentences, and then crying by the end of them. I've read pretty much everything by Kingsley Amis before, fiction and non-fiction, but upon reading "The Old Devils" for a second time, I was just astounded at how utterly brilliant it is. I couldn't sleep all night after reading it, laid awake thinking about the characters, the beautifully written dialogue, everything about it. That's only happened to me a few times before. If it sounds like I'm gushing over the book, well, there it is, why not? It's always feels like a miracle to re-discover that human beings can create art of such astounding and lasting beauty.

  • Jake
    2019-06-02 19:58

    This book is about as sour as they come, but likable despite itself. The humor obviously helps; Kingsley Amis's wit is exceedingly sharp and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. He spares none of his characters, the least of which a cad of a hack writer named Alun Weaver. But there is warmth in this book, it is just subtle and fairly scant. In the end there is enough that there is humanity here, instead of just satire.

  • Thing Two
    2019-05-21 20:50

    Quite funny in a subtle way, this is the story of three old men who meet daily at the Bible - a pub in their small Welsh community - who have their lives rocked when a former student of one of the men returns to the town with her "shit" of a husband, who proceeds to seduce each of the old men's wives, then meet them at the Bible the next day. There's some lovely scenery depicted, and Faulkner-like long sentences, but it's mostly humorous watching three drunk old men discover what's going on.

  • Richard Thomas
    2019-05-31 20:53

    I enjoyed the book partly because Amis was an acute observer with an unkind eye who wrote with understanding and insight but mainly because it was and is an accurate portrayal of both the Welsh (and English for that matter) middle class. It is funny for those who know the breed and yet he conveys the desperation lying underneath some of his characters with a measure of sympathy.

  • Mikela
    2019-05-25 21:49

    I really had to struggle to finish this book and resented most of the time spent reading it. The book had some merit but it really wasn't for me at this time. It was a huge disappointment as I so enjoyed Amis' Lucky Jim.

  • Ray Johns
    2019-06-07 15:57

    This is one of my first times reading Kingsley Amis. "The Old Devils " is a acute and hilarious romp through the adventure of growing old in a rapidly changing world . I'll place Kingsley Amis on my top shelf of favorite satirists with Jonathan Swift, Rabelais, Evelyn Waugh, and Andy Borowitz.

  • Robin
    2019-06-07 18:44

    Remind me not to grow old while simultaneously being Welsh and fixated on my regrets. This is no Lucky Jim. It is just as excruciatingly vivid, just as memorable, and just as viciously honest in its portrait of far from perfect humanity. But it cuts another way and goes much darker, or much sadder, and that sadness is less frequently relieved with hilarity. The hilarity I know and love from Lucky Jim is also tempered by the harsh realities of age. Take, for instance, the five-page description of the simple agonies of Peter's morning routine:"...The section that really took it out of him was the actual donning of clothes, refined as this had been over the years, and its heaviest item was the opener, putting his socks on. At one time this had come after instead of before putting his underpants on, but he had noticed that that way round he kept tearing them with his toenails.Those toenails had in themselves become a disproportion in his life. They tore the pants because they were sharp and jagged, and they had got like that because they had grown too long and broken off, and he had let them grow because these days cutting them was no joke at all. He could not do it in the house because there was no means of trapping the fragments and Muriel would be bound to come across a couple, especially with her bare feet, and that was obviously to be avoided. After experimenting with a camp-stool in the garage and falling off it a good deal he had settled on a garden seat under the rather fine flowering cherry. This restricted him to the warmer months, the wearing of an overcoat being of course ruled out by the degree of bending involved. But at least he could let the parings fly free, and fly they bloody well did, especially the ones that came crunching off his big toes, which were massive enough and moved fast enough to have brought down a sparrow on the wing, though so far this had not occurred."He really paints quite a picture. The next paragraph is just as compelling, and the next. This is widely considered to be Amis's greatest work, and although I personally preferred Lucky Jim because of its transcendent moments comic despair, I understand why people respond reverently to The Old Devils and the simple struggles and small but significant triumphs of its charmingly bumbling characters.

  • Bob
    2019-06-05 18:48

    This 1986 Amis title, set in South Wales at about the time of its publication, follows half a dozen generally well-to-do retirees in their 60s. Their principal occupation is drinking which they undertake with the same self-punishing élan as the author himself.Into this settled community comes a couple who left 30 years earlier for London and modest media notoriety. Their return brings not so much the whiff of stardom as the revival of long-buried broken hearts and infidelities. Amis is generally referred to as "darkly comic", a phrase I'll freely borrow. Compared to some of his more slapstick earlier work, the characters here are quite complex and compelling, if not likeable. There is a "self-deprecating minority" theme in which the cast, most of whom are Welsh, spend a lot of time criticizing their own national character and customs. They have no patience for the nationalist resurgence in the form of bilingual signage, elevation of peasant dishes to restaurant fare and the like. On the other hand they reject every manifestation of modernity, Arab ownership of London real estate and all those other UK 80s concerns. They are conservative in the sense that don't want anything to ever change, particularly the decor of their pubs. One funny passage addresses changing demographics in a way that is the opposite of what you might expect; one of our protagonists is annoyed when the "Bengali Take-Away" that he was counting on as probably the only decent place for a midday meal proves to be serving the stereotypical British "meat and two veg" because the only actual South Asian cook in their employ works in the evening.Amis relies mostly on thoughts and dialog without a lot of poetic exuberance but the passages where he takes time for descriptions of South Wales landscape and villages are warm and affectionate. Most of the place names seem to be invented, though perhaps, for those who know better, clearly based on real spots.

  • Ka
    2019-06-13 16:45

    Kingsley Amis writes of a loose group of elderly Welsh couples who socialize frequently and have known each other throughout their lives. Their days are lubricated with astonishing amounts of drinking, so much it hardly seems possible, but Amis was himself known to hold prodigious quantities. The chapters rotate among several of the old devils, with a darky satiric accounting of their relations, marital, extra-marital, familial, and frenemy. They frequently gather at the Bible, which turns out to be not a place for tedious evangelists, but rather the local pub. I took a long time to read it, as it's primarily a story of characters and relationships, with no real plot to drive it forward. It was tempting for me to pay half-attention as I drifted through the pages, but Amis' writing is dense, often with multiple significant meanings packed into a single sentence. Case in point: "They had talked like that a good deal in past weeks, with studious normality, like an English couple in a socialist country, fearful of being eavesdropped upon, conspiring to be dull together." When eventually, 90% through, some things do actually happen, I wished I had paid more particular attention to each character's details from the start. A number of sentences made me laugh out loud. I would give it 3.5 stars if that were possible. Although I like his writing style and satiric wit, I mark it down for absence of plot. This book won the Booker Prize in 1986.

  • Patrick McCoy
    2019-06-01 18:47

    The Old Devils (1986) by Kingsley Amis was a Booker Prize winner for that year. I had previously only read the brilliant Lucky Jim, but always wanted to read more since I was big fan of his son Martin Amis' writing. Martin wrote appealing about his father's novels in his autobiography Experience, and The Old Devils was one of the novels he singled out as being a good read. I feel as though I am missing out on some of the fun since I am not British and I can't see what all the fuss about being Welsh alluded to in the novel is all about. An infamous Welshman Alun Weaver who has a made a literary career out of being Welsh returns to Whales with his wife Rhiannon disrupting a community of long time friends who curmudgeonly gather to discuss the state of Wales and being Welsh while getting pissed on a daily basis. It is full of inter-sex miscommunication, adultery, dealing with the usual foibles of people you've know for ages and the condition of growing old. I enjoyed the novel, but perhaps not as much as I might have if I could be in on the joke of what it is like being Welsh.

  • Alex
    2019-06-08 19:55

    An odd experience, returning to a book that I've held on a pedestal for two decades without ever having re-read until now. What did I find? A gripping, breathtaking technical achievement; a comic writer using every ounce of the skill that he's built up over the years to make this tale of nothing-particular-in-the-big-scheme-of-things work. But also the frustration from those irritating flaws in something so almost-perfect: the who-is-who confusion that mars the early chapters; the under-explored females.I had forgotten what a great creation Alun Weaver was. One suspects that had the book been less of an ensemble piece (or even had been given a different title to reflect Alun's core role) then his name might have seeped into common usage by now. 'You know, Dave... he's a bit of an Alun Weaver character when it comes down to it.'Marked to re-read, in another two decades.

  • Dennis
    2019-06-02 21:44

    Some books don't seem to age well and I'm sure this was much funnier in the mid-80's when it won the Booker Prize than it is now. The problem for me was that the first half was unspeakably dull, the story of an incestuous group of late middle-aged Welshman and Welshwomen drowning in alcohol and remembering who slept with whom among them, the consequences of this sex and wondering where it all went wrong for each of them. Maybe this largely described the social circles of the Booker judges, I don't know, but it wasn't particularly amusing. This may be because other writers of this time, such as Muriel Spark, Beryl Bainbridge and Iris Murdoch, did it so much better and now I'm spoiled. In any case, the story picked up substantially in the second half when it showed a little emotion and it ended well. Nevertheless, it left it for late, I think.

  • Elizabeth Bradley
    2019-06-03 18:43

    I bought this to reward myself for a deadline, but dug into it over Thanksgiving with the deadline still VERY much un-met. It felt deliciously meanspirited and Amisesque at first (especially when read with a giant mug of tea in a very drafty house) but has recently soured - more like gone off - a bit like a g&t made with the "slimline tonic" one of the protagonists favors as a diet aid. Even with Amis's misogyny as a given, the women are absolute cardboard - and the men unlovable. I haven't been to Wales but still the violent reaction to Wales's ye oldification by old Welsh codgers seems trumped up. Hoping it will improve. Cold weather calls for Amis, or something like.