Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Stanley and the Women appears as a work of disillusionment strongly similar to the author’s earlier novel, Jake’s Thing (1978), which ended with the central character refusing treatment for his impotence on the ground that he was safer as he was. Both novels are, however, marked reversals of Amis’ The Riverside Villas Murder (1973) or The Alteration (1976). Amis’ earlier writings were also distinguished by a strong sympathy for the position of sexually exploited young women, as in Take a Girl Like You (1960) or I Want It Now (1968). One can only say that late in his career Amis has swung from one side of the sexual debate to the other, oddly mirroring an earlier political swing from Left to Right.

One may note, though, that scorn for modish psychology has been with Amis at least since The Anti-Death League (1966). If there is a consistency in his position, it is that of the satirist who attacks whatever seems strongest and most fashionable. Stanley and the Women is not an unbalanced work, but it does recognize that restraint and balance are not the satirist’s most useful tools. Its achievement is to have stated a case against feminism, no more violent than many feminist cases and considerably more amusing than most. The embarrassment of some of its critics shows only the strength of the position Amis has attacked.