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Author: Kingsley Amis - (1922 - 95)
The thought that the late great Kingsley Amis may not have written books is alarming to say the least - if it hadn't been for a last-chance-saloon offer for a lectureship at Swansea in 1949 - the fifth best English writer of all time could easily had absconded to the slate mines. A timely event, for a 'Lucky Jim' (written in 1954 by Amis) although, when 1963 arrived Amis wrote; 'One Fat Englishman'- Amis, was in his early forties was comparable to the Waughs of the literature world. Satire, laced into anti-social establishment materials; notably risqué for the early sixties - You can see where his son Martin got his genes from, certainly not from Primark that is for sure - albeit, he is emerging from his Pa's shadow 'just.' 'One Fat Englishman' is far from long-winded: 172 pages of quality - seventeen chapters of fine print. At the beginning, there is an italic loving tribute, 'To Jane.' Elizabeth Jane Howard, Amis's spouse, currently 90 years of age. She left Kingsley Amis in 1983, on the premise; Amis epitomized his protagonist, Roger Micheldene.
'The Scandinavians are dear people but they've never been what you might call bywords for wit and sparkle, have they?' Any more than the Gerrys' Helene is Danish - It must be a Danish thing, she thinks she's American but he calls her Danish.' Meet Roger Micheldene, he is an obnoxious (married) English Publisher - well, he's been in the States for six weeks - he's practically a native. His amorous advances to a married Helene his wink, wink, nudge, nudge dalliance (who had already sniffed Roger's meat-loaf a while back) is eager to get 'back-on' the Dane - whilst sticking his spoon in other trifles; not done in the most conventional method either, preferably against an electric throbbing refrigerator any which way he can. Micheldene isn't choosey. Any size will suffice, having cultivated a lap, grandiose enough for Helene and others to lounge on. It had become more convex than ever. Size matters when it came to a lap - Helene engaged with it as masterful throne, Roger offensively positioned himself for a wife and a fork - not surprising considering it was approximately 4 o'clock and he bargained on sinking into the Danish finest and trying lots of things called French 75s, 69s, and any other numerical beverage and lust persuasion. Nature called and Micheldene recital a belching march that would've warranted an encore at the Queen's Tavern, where the mandatory cigar demonstration lit up the New York Times - a rag which allows everybody to know everything about everything.
Language-wise, remnants of D H Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' shot-out when Roger met Helene's friend Mollie Atkins - or was it Defoe's Flanders? Although, hardly a high-class socialite with protruding, piano-key pearly whites and the owner of the furthest-apart breasts ever witnessed - Breasts which had got a divorce from each other - and find themselves hanging about under the pits. They picnicked on Gin. 'Lucky Gin' "The trouble was the talking. It ran in parts: 'Oh yes. Oh, it's great, it's so great; it's wonderful. Oh yes, yes, yes... Oh, you're so strong, so fine, so good; so good for me. Oh what you do to me, darling. Oh, it's so great. Oh, yes." He wasn't tempted to laugh - that had never been one of his troubles. Even when he glanced up and saw a tortoise under a fern a yard away watching them he kept a resolutely straight face." After evading the arm-pit satchels, Mollie stated: "Rog, ol boy, I hate to say it but you are one fat Englishman. It was like fighting a grizzly bear." Amis's reality discourse has to be applauded, he identified the problem with the human-condition - it is prone to contradiction (s) from one moment to the next. And once it is recognized, the smoothing over process steps in. "Not that I'm objecting, it is just an interesting fact." 'Interesting fact is for example is stating: 'Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassination in Sarajevo sparked off World War I' - information you can learn from, 'One Fat Englishman' Roger is already aware of this interesting fact, albeit translates via the Micheldene translator; 'interesting fat.' Amis's well documented infidelities aided the lust, the initial thrill and then the banal mechanical act itself; cravings become superfluous, during the occurrence of penetration. Amis's Micheldene character is self-loathing, and nihilistic. He'll express a fit of racial, sodomy vulgarity at a whim - usually, triggered by the situation with Helene, then smoothes over the act of vulgarity by claiming: "I don't know why I'm like this, I'm just am." - The attributes of a 'snob' - It takes time and dedication and no rest to hone snobbery traits. Another snob story....
"A man's sexual aim, he has often said to himself is to convert a creature who is cool, dry, calm, articulated, independent, purposeful into a creature which is opposite of these; to demonstrate to an animal which is pretending not to be an animal that it is an animal."
Amis's depiction of the English behaviour abroad with more Brits having more mobility than their ancestors in the forties and fifties could've paved way for a relationship with Amis's protagonist, the unlikely hero - for those of you who're familiar with Kingsley Amis's scripts you're fully aware empathy will play a role. There notably is a moral to the story, although I believe the author stuck in a thumb to his myopic pie, and pulled out a plum - and said 'What a good boy am I! 'One Fat Englishman' obviously is a dig at Anglo- American relations - a satirical smear on the reputation of the English gent to our American cousins; done with glee. "I didn't know you Brits ever got rattled." While reading the script, you feel Amis was still holding back, perhaps a thunderbolt of social etiquette from the early sixties. Not a shocker anymore making offensive remarks about women, ethic majorities, gays, lesbians, and the Americans - so long it is done in a comedic manner and got the flag-ship of a grandeur publishing house highlighting the content as a brimful of gluttony, sloth, lust and boundless anger. Who can complain? You'll be dishonest if you can't recognize a smidgeon of our-selves in the meticulously detailed script and sublime discourse. Well, I would sell a Courbet and several Delacroixs to purchase a racing car, I bet you would too!
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Amis achieved what other authors had failed when it came to fulfilling a brief of: identifying cultural diffidence, vanity and the superficial-dom - in what we know as in the UK as Americanisms. Kingsley Amis may've written a timeless fictional book - embroidering the archaic impressions (many still have) of the Americans - from across the pond. I had to remind myself it was written in 1963. The likes of Chris Ayres used similar analogies such as an English reporter in America: 'Death by Leisure'. In comparison to 'One Fat Englishman'; it ached of amateurish 'lets-go-and-party' antics and fakeness, and was deemed unintentionally slap-stick.