One Fat Englishman — Kingsley Amis Strikes Again

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Kingsley Amis wrote bitingly funny academic novels.  Lucky Jim, published in 1954, made me laugh so hard that I wept.  Nine years later, Amis wrote One Fat Englishman in a similar vein.  I really liked Lucky Jim (which was reviewed on this blog this summer).  It was funny, and even though Jim was a hapless fool, he had some redeeming qualities.  His struggle to hang on at a mediocre university while unable to control his impulses was ultimately hilarious.  Whatever Jim was, he wasn’t deliberately mean, and so I more or less rooted for him even as I laughed at his predicaments.  Apparently I am much more likely to like a novel if I find the main character at least vaguely likable.  I completely subscribe to the Jennifer Weiner school on this and refuse to accept that literature is automatically more worthy if the main character is thoroughly reprehensible.

For these reasons, I had a problem with Roger Micheldene, the title character of One Fat Englishman.  He was consistently self-centered, lecherous, gluttonous and out of control, with a mean streak.  If Micheldene had redeeming qualities they were kept under wraps.  There were many funny scenes and predicaments, replete with an unending supply of self-important academics.   Reading this book just wasn’t as much fun as reading Lucky Jim, although if I were less annoyed by the main character, I would have to concede this is also a very funny book that sends up conceited, academic nitwits in stellar fashion.

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