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Kingsley Amis, who has often claimed that his intention was to write funny books, has never succeeded in doing so as well as he did in Lucky Jim. This is certainly his sharpest book since that first one although it is probably closer to iconoclastic satire than irreverent comedy. The One Fat Englishman of the title is Roger Micheldene, a British publisher on a short stay in America, not only interested in acquiring new properties but in making one of his old girls, Helene Ang, married to a philologist—Early Icelandic tongues. If Helene says to him "Why are you so awful?" it has been readily apparent from the first page. Roger is not only disgustingly fat but is bloated with a snobbery (that "angst-producing business") he is the first to admit. And he is also, in his own words, "qualified in gluttony, sloth and lust" and "distinguished in anger." Here in America his hostility finds many targets: social, racial, intellectual, religious (a Catholic, he couldn't be more noxious than to a priest). His concupiscence is equally unconfined, directed primarily at Helene, passionate, sympathetic (so says her husband) but accommodating itself to another married woman as well. Here and there, from New York to a small college in Pennsylvania, Roger is seen at his worst—"better a bastard than a bloody fool"—and in many of these instances Amis is at his castrating best. Whether you question the really comic, or even claim a tragic potential here, you can well pause to admire—it's a brilliant exchange of wit, of civilized innuendo and calculated insult. Fat, philistine Micheldene is none other than that familiar paradox—his corpulence is the affluent society...diverting, discomfiting.
Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1963
ISBN: 0140024174
Page count: 171pp
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1963


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