I Read a Book! Kingsley Amis’s One Fat Englishman

The English Novel, 1740-1820

The open road winds down from Wilson’s farm
To neat lawns and a gilt-edged paradise
Where Pamela walks out on Darcy’s arm,
And Fanny Goodwill bobs to Fanny Price.

               – Kingsley Amis

Until last summer Kingsley Amis was an author I felt I should have read. Note the “should have.” I was never possessed by an urge to actually read anything of his. I just felt like knowledge of his works was something I should have in my quiver. Lucky Jim upset all the type of people I think should be regularly upset so I finally gave in and picked it up sometime in July. I’ve read two more of his novels since along with a collection of essays on science fiction, a decent amount of poetry, and thumbed through a roguish reference book on English usage. There’s another of his novels and his collected poems on my “to read” stack. I really should have gotten around to his stuff earlier.

The reviews of One Fat Englishman fall into one of two categories: those where the reviewer says that he thought the book was okay but not nearly up to the standard set by Amis in his other novels or those where the reviewer says that he thought the book was okay but not nearly up to the standard set by Amis in his other novels until for whatever reason the reviewer picked up the book for a second reading some years after the first and realized he badly misjudged this sardonically cutting and brilliant work. I’ve read it twice in the span of a month and enjoyed it thoroughly both times so I’m only a reliable judge of literary worth half of the time. Reader beware.

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POETS Day! Philip Larkin

The copyright on this image is owned by Bernard Sharp Edit this at Structured Data on Commons and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

The copyright on this image is owned by Bernard Sharp and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

[Ed. Note: This piece was originally posted at ordinary-times.com on 9/16/22 which was, in fact, a Friday. You can look it up.]

Happy P.O.E.T.S. Day! It’s been over a month since I posted one of these. Sorry, but life interrupts its own course sometimes. Unexplained absence due to a slack work ethic, galivanting across the countryside, or fitful bouts of Netflix bingeing aside, it’s that day again, so let’s let bygone days be bygone days and embrace the ethos of the moment to Piss off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, and having left work behind begin the weekend early with zeal and vigor and all sorts of other things we might feel when we find ourselves freed prematurely from the surly bonds of work.

I came across this week’s poet after doing one of my occasional listings of books that I feel like I should have read at some point in my life but never got around to. From my most recent reckoning I picked out Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim. Everything I knew about it should have beckoned me earlier. The book is supposed to be hilarious and nasty (in the cruel rather that the Debbie Does Dallas sense.) I love hilarious and nasty (both senses.)

I started it last night and can attest to the nastiness. It’s like a sardonic P.G. Wodehouse tired of an “Oh Gosh!” Bertie Wooster trying to avoid an accidental engagement to be married and recreated him as Jim Dixon, a social climbing would-be lecher, given the right number of bitters, and let him loose on the unsuspecting English gentry. Imagine Wooster as Michael Knight and Jim as Garthe. I’ve only read the first eighty pages so that’s all I can attest to though I can only imagine he’ll get worse as I read on.

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