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One Fat Englishman Roger Micheldene an English publisher is on the loose in the US He spends an October week shuttling between New York and Budweiser College in Pennsylvania This exercises all his British appetitessnobbery gluttony anger sloth and lustBut Amis roasts Americans as well and serves us familiar dishes though in a piuant sauce the precocious undergraduate author of a far out novel an earnest young priest and an alcoholic literary agents nymphomaniacal wifeThey are all presented with glee and gusto and the keenest wit but it is Roger Micheldene at once a prototype of the insufferable Englishman and an individual with sufficient humor to win our sneaking sympathy who dominates a supremely entertaining comedy of bad manners Publisher's Source Read this so long ago I remember nothing Hence no rating Actually it's even possible I never read it but just carried it around for a few decades; who knows? I'm discarding it It's rating here on GR doesn't make it very appealingNeither does the cover art This book offers a uite remarkably negative self portrait The most obvious explanation is that Amis was disgusted with himself for leaving his first wife in such a callous manner but few people would have gone this far There's an interesting uestion of chronology here which I remember discussing with Jordan and Beth Ann Maybe someone who knows about Amis can tell us in precisely which order the following events happened? Amis starts writing this novel Amis decides on the title One Fat Englishman Amis gets involved with the woman who later becomes his second wife While Amis is asleep on the beach his first wife scrawls 1 FAT ENGLISHMAN I FUCK ANYTHING on his back in lipstick and takes a photograph which is later widely circulated Amis leaves his first wife I'm so glad people aren't writing books like this today They aren't are they? This is a truly unpleasant satire hip deep in unfunny snark Roger Micheldene is a fat lecherous child hating asshole Brit a publisher on sojourn in the US Despite his fat lecherous assholery women seem to be perfectly willing to sleep with him mysteriously even attractive happily married women although no one really likes him partly because he's British partly because he's an asshole No one in this book is likeable it must be said Here he is entering a shop with whose proprietress he plans to share some afternoon delightA girl of Oriental appearance who would have been uite acceptable if she had had eye sockets as well as eyes came forward and said Good afternoon sir and what can I show you this afternoon?Although relieved at not having to start on the wantee speakee missee drill he had been contemplating Roger would have preferred something less impeccably AmericanAnd here he is at a jazz club searching for his mistress A lanky Negro at the bar addresses him Man ya beez lan wah yam reez a heez woo nap lah cam a namI beg your pardon?Another Negro adds Wa hang heez a beez mah gat sam reez a ran moo pah yah dan manI fear I fail to understand youIf that even has a point I don't know what it isIt's been a very long time since I read Lucky Jim which I certainly don't remember being this awful Even this book has occasional rare passages that are well written and pleasing What he could see through the window without raising his head told him nothing The wire mesh of the screen gave the view a mealy pointilliste uality like a representation of what a dog seesHe got out of bed and padded to the window Viewed from here the scene looked different It reflected a fair amount of sunlight but in a dull uniform way as if everything neighbours' houses lawns scattered with fallen leaves gravel roadway thin evergreen copse had been sprayed with a thin film of gelatin There was nobody aboutIt would be nice if the whole novel were written this way Hilarious and fascinating a youngish and still reputedly socialist Kingsley Amis predicts his future as an obese bigoted alcoholic womanizer with astonishing accuracy Kingsley rarely wastes his words and his ability to put across comic situations is peerless well except for his son Martin Here we get a darker nastier version of his usual sexual shenanigans with some attempted mockery of America thrown in for good measure the novel is set in a fictional southern college called Budweiser University These rubber arrows almost never hit their mark but when you enter into the booze soaked priapic maze of the title character's brain you will not stop laughing Strung with the same gauge strings as Catcher in the Rye but played by a ham fisted drunk there's no reason anyone should like this but I'm fairly confident almost everybody with an ear for humor will take delight Now and again I read something so visceral that I'm ashamed to be holding a book instead of a bloody rag drink or bundle of clothing Where Lucky Jim felt a bit constrained at times this work is an unrestrained whiskey soaked rager in comparison Amis writes well and he wastes nobody's time good for the bookish as well as the boozy If you enjoyed Monty Python's American Conversation Restaurant sketch you'll find yourself on familiar footing here Rarely a book so boozy is this smart and even rarely will you find yourself remotely engaged by such a venomous slob as Micheldene Why do I want to spend a night drinking with these horrible pricks? There's powerful insight here among the ashes and empty bottles Great stuff This is the first and so far only book by Kingsley Amis I have read and judging by some of its other reviews it isn't his best loved work I enjoyed it though and so this encourages me to read other books by him I did not find it laugh out loud funny as some reviewers have but it definitely had me smiling sometimes broadly on than one occasion As a satire of contemporary to publication British and American culture in the sauced up swinging former half of the 1960's however I did feel like I was missing some of the subtlety of the social commentary simply because it's now so removed in timeThis book is a character sketch and psychological portrait as much as it is a satire though and I found it a compassionate if unshrinking one But then I'm probably also the president and sole member of the Real Life Women Who Like Roger Micheldene Fan Club You can read other reviews as to why he's a completely unredeemed and insufferable character they are lies Roger is an anti hero fat bigoted womanizing prone to violent impulses; repulsive by design to be sure but a comprehensible and sympathetic one if you can allow yourself into his frustrated and dissipated British Imperial Old Guard worldviewIndifferently married to another woman the corpulent middle aged Englishman Roger has come to America on professional pretexts to pursue the endgame with his sporadic transnational mistress Helene; either to persuade her to leave her own handsome but pin headed Danish academic husband and marry him or to conceded the race once and for all I don't tend to stick with books the premise of which I find hard to believe and at the outset it is a little difficult to understand why the very beautiful satisfactorily married and significantly younger Helene ever bestowed her favors on the physically and morally distasteful Roger in the first place or continued to hold out their promise across a variety of land masses and the course of five years However in this case I didn't find it SO improbable that I rejected the story outright Because the narrative is unshakably rooted in Roger's point of view we encounter Helene as he does; as an entrancing female enigma whose whims are capricious and whose motives and next move are uncertain It provided a successful hook and mystery to keep me reading at a fast clip Why should Roger think he even has a chance with Helene? DOES he? Might she leave her husband for him? If so what will become of her irritatingly precocious young son whom Roger detests? These uestions and made the book solidly engaging at the plot level as well as its satire and humor The pacing of each chapter propelled me effectively into the next The book is not long only 162 pages in my edition and its small cast of characters are tightly integrated each one plays a necessary role in the ultimate payoff The majority of them seem two dimensional at first because that is how they seem to Roger all lampooning some different aspect of boozy wife swapping professional and academic early 1960's America but on closer inspection each one possess some subtle individuating characteristic By the end we along with Roger gain a glimmer of insight into even Helene's character and motivation as well Most of the time though it seems like Roger is the only real thinking feeling human being on the continent This isn't a flaw in the writing this is also how Roger feels most of the time and goes a long way towards explaining much of his behavior He's very careful to almost never show it of course he is English but the inside of his head is a swirl of turbulent emotions and we are for all intents and purposes inside his head I also found the picture Amis paints of how such a disgusting man could still manage to attract women surprisingly convincing Roger's whole outward persona is a calculated mask until he occasionally slugs someone and he is very well practiced at turning on a particular kind of refined Oxford educated charm when he wants to Amis portrayed it in such a way I could actually believe it was sometimes effective We see proof within the book that no matter what Roger would like to think it isn't 100% effective with all women but Amis convinced me by the deftness of his writing that it could be effective enough enough of the time This especially impressed me given that he also goes out of his way to show just what a stupendous glutton and boor Roger can be and often the two things happened within pages of each other The little cracks of vulnerability that sometimes show especially when dealing with the almost perpetual disappointment that is Helene whom he seems to really love touchingly round off the grating edges of a realistic and complex characterAll in all One Fat Englishman is probably most worth your time if you are making a serious study of satire or have a particular interest in the time period it's set in At such a short length however it's worth taking the time to make up your own mind about this fat Englishman one way or another As well as being splutteringly coffee spittingly funny Kingsley Amis is always uncomfortable to read I used to think that this was because of the decidedly politically incorrect right wing Anglocentric and alas freuently racist attitudes which we know from history and biography he lent directly from his own to many of his fictional characters grotesue as he may have made them As I've come however with advancing age and disillusionment to sympathise with many of his conservative positions though not the racism and misogyny I still find him vaguely disconcerting and I've realised at my first ever encounter with this comparatively early novel that it has nothing to do with politics or social attitudes per se but rather with the people who hold both them and the attitudes to which Amis opposes those of his protagonists and surrogatesIn short apparently mature intellectual responsible adultsHere for example the fat and drunken and lecherous and monstrously opinionated Englishman of the title one Roger Micheldene opposes his evident intelligence and force of character against what he perceives as the superficiality mediocrity and general inferiority of a clutch of American academics and sets his sights on having apparently random promiscuous sex with as many of their wives as possible as a means of expressing his contempt for them and their milieu than anything other than to bolster his own fragile voluminous ego No one behaves well The women play along tiredly The men conspire against outwit and humiliate Micheldene Everyone conducts himself thoroughly badly These are professional respectable middle class academic individuals and they act like vicious children And that's what's so perpetually disturbing about Amis his laying bare of the infantile at best adolescent motivations of supposedly grown up people something he can only have arrived at by an unflinching but nevertheless profoundly uncomfortable reckoning with himselfThis book is Lord of the Flies cast as a campus novel It's both as comic and as terrifying as that sounds Kingsley Amis is the kind of writer who can give misogyny a bad nameRoger Micheldene the One Fat Englishman of the title is gluttonous alcoholic and adulterous but mostly just hateful and insufferably British I winced a lotWhat I did like though was how One Fat Englishman got its title See when he wrote this Kingsley Amis was or would become all those things that Roger Micheldene was gluttonous alcoholic adulterous hateful and insufferably British He famously cheated on his first wife Hilary Anne Bardwell Martin's Mum Hilary or Hilly as she was known found out about the affair shortly before a vacation with Kingsley to Italy and Yugoslavia where Kingsley passed out drunk on a beach Hilly took the opportunity to make an editorial comment in lipstick on Kingsley's backAt least Kingsley Amis could laugh at himself in the way that self loathers usually do Roger Micheldene is not to mince words a truly horrible old man And not only a world class lecher but also fat and morally ungainly One even begins to suspect that the author of One Fat Englishman Sir Kingsley Amis is somewhat like this himself Last month I read his Girl 20 which was also a revelation to me of hidden nastinessDuring his writing career Amis metamorphosed from a liberal to a conservative to a hidebound Tory; and it is this latter which we see in his later novels No matter his character Micheldene compensates by being funny as well as occasionally racist and otherwise biased At one point he describes a girl of Oriental appearance who would have been uite acceptable if she had had eye sockets as well as eyesOne of the main plot points is our hero's distaste for the young Jewish American novelist Irving Macher who steals Roger's notes for a college lecture and later steals his girlfriend The action of the novel takes place in a college town America where all the colleges are named after breweriessuch as Budweiser Ballantine Rheingold and Pilsener Everyone seems to spend an inordinate amount of time at parties that would be excruciatingly boring if they did not also exhibit the potential female provenderAlthough he is a frightful curmudgeon Micheldene is a hilarious observer; and his comments however not nice at times are hilarious


About the Author: Kingsley Amis

Martin AmisKingsley Amis was born in Clapham Wandsworth County of London now South London England the son of William Robert Amis a mustard manufacturer's clerk He began his education at the City of London School and went up to St John's College Oxford April 1941 to read English; it was there that he met Philip Larkin with whom he formed the most important friendship of his life After only a year he was called up for Army service in July 1942 After serving as a lieutenant in the Royal Corps of Signals in the Second World War Amis returned to Oxford in October 1945 to complete his degree Although he worked hard and got a first in English in 1947 he had by then decided to give much of his time to writingPen names


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