The Green Man by Kingsley Amis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I know the feeling. Kingsley seems to be trying to resolve some (health) threat that has triggered fears of his impending death (26 years later) here. He has done this before, but within a ghost story, that is a different path altogether for Amis, and he pulls it off moderately well I must admit. A Stephen King best-seller it is not, and thank God Almighty for that.
Now dying is one thing, it must come to us all (and why we are not paralysed by this prospect is a mystery to Amis's character here) but the persistence of evil into the afterlife is another! All this washed down with a modest triple scotch and water.
There are many examples of the typical Amis-like crackling dry delivery, often at the most unexpected of times thereby guaranteeing a shock, in the mouth of the sex-obsessed, death-obsessed and misanthropic narrator, hotel manager Maurice Allington: a drunker but much more competent Basil Fawlty role. Amis often makes me burst out loud laughing with that wonderfully cynical line, carefully thought-out and poetically knife-pointed to a unimpeachable truth, in this book as much as any of the others I have read.
(My favorite quotation of all time is this, from Lucky Jim; "If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.")
Allington has to deal with a frisky mistress, a taken-for-granted (but still loved) newish wife, a dying to dead father, a drinking problem, hypochondria (that pain in the lower back is kidney cancer, perhaps, now that the brain cancer has cleared up), an mostly uncommunicative 13yo daughter, lost manuscripts, midnight grave robbing, an atheist parson, a shy cat, and all sorts of disconcerting spectral visitors in the woods nearby and in the hotel at night, at least one of whom has a rather nasty history...
He's trying what he thinks is his best in all aspects of life, but his unacknowledged selfishness doesn't help, and that fact he can't tell anyone about his search for the secret behind these ghosts as they'll only think it's the DT's. But his TV watching daughter seems not to disbelieve him...
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