Though I never met either of them, Kingsley Amis introduced me to Elizabeth Taylor. He did it slyly, with deceptive nonchalance, as one might present a powerful relative to an acquaintance at a party; he knew she was important but he had his doubts about me. This happened in his novel Difficulties With Girls. After a poor lunch of macaroni cheese, Jenny Standish, much neglected wife of the libidinous Patrick, has gone to the library in search of steady company. 'Everything seemed to be out, bar an enormous saga about Southern Belles, but then she spotted a new Elizabeth Taylor on the returns shelf.' At home Jenny is disappointed to discover that 'the new Elizabeth Taylor turned out to be an old Elizabeth Taylor in a new impression and have checked, always advisable with an author whose books were marvellous but rather the same.'For any novelist, let alone one as famously cranky and hard on the women as Sir Kingsley, to stop cold the progress of his own story in order to extol the virtues of another novelist is unusual, to say the least. In spite of the mild cavil about 'sameness', Amis has gotten the full name in three times and coupled it with the adjective 'marvellous', clearly intent upon a forceful recommendation. As a reader I had no choice but to ask myself - who is this Elizabeth Taylor?
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