Picks and Pans Review: Stanley and the Women

UPDATED 12/02/1985 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/02/1985 at 01:00 AM EST

by Kingsley Amis

The hero of this delightful novel is a newspaper advertising executive on London's Fleet Street. His first wife, a not-very-successful TV actress, and his second, a book reviewer, are only two of the women who reduce Stanley's life to shambles. His mother-in-law and sister-in-law also do their part, and his son's female psychiatrist is an outrageous contributor to his decline. Early on, Stanley's son, 19, has a complete breakdown: He's beset by other-worldly voices, paranoia, even what may be a try at suicide. The boy's mother (Stanley's first wife) is too preoccupied to help. The second wife tries until the boy's problems become overpowering. But despite such a plot all of this is a comedy, deft, brittle and truly observed—in the grand tradition of such British novels as Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point. When this novel was published earlier this year in London, it was met with an outcry from women who considered it sexist. The hero muses, "I remembered Cliff Wainwright saying once that women were like the Russians—if you did exactly what they wanted all the time you were being realistic and constructive and promoting the cause of peace, and if you ever stood up to them you were resorting to cold-war tactics and pursuing imperialistic designs and interfering in their internal affairs." But the male characters—reckless drinkers, silly and self-absorbed, too—are every bit as ridiculous. Stanley and the Women is as polished and enjoyable as Amis' first novel, Lucky Jim, which is a contemporary classic. (Summit, $14.95)

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