Here the reader will find all the marks of Amis’ irreverent art: the unrivalled nastiness, the cast of characters the author loves to loathe, the careful depiction of social detail and rituals, the gleeful bashing of all that is false or merely fashionable, and above all the always strained, often farcical relations between the sexes.
DIFFICULTIES WITH GIRLS is set in 1967, nearly eight years since Patrick Standish, now thirty-six, and his wife Jenny, twenty-eight, first met in an earlier Amis novel, TAKE A GIRL LIKE YOU (1960), seven since the miscarriage which has left them childless, and two since Patrick resigned his teaching post to take an editorial position with a London publishing house. Their “fresh start” in a new city and more recently in a new apartment in a new block of flats soon begins to go awry as a result of Patrick’s inability to control his sexual desires. About Patrick the reader will undoubtedly feel strangely ambivalent. He is, on the one hand, rather unlikable, even contemptible: indecisive, irresponsible, less than forthright, quick to turn events to his advantage, and quicker still to rationalize his own numerous misdeeds and to recover from them all too forgetfully. His worst moment comes when he suggests that his wife take a lover in order that he might feel less guilty about his own infidelities.
Loathesome as he so often is, Patrick does earn a measure of the reader’s respect. Amis presents him not simply as a cad...
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