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One Fat Englishman is a novel by English writer Kingsley Amis. It was written and published in 1963, right before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The book concerns Roger Micheldene, a middle aged book publisher from England who comes to the United States on a professional vacation. As the title suggests, Roger Micheldene is obese, as well as being fond of alcohol, tobacco and sexual affairs. He is also, despite his education and career, generally crass and intolerant. Beneath his standard veneer of British politeness, he is egotistical, argumentative and insulting. Yet in spite of these characteristics and his physical unattractiveness, he manages to manipulate those around him ---especially women--- into a series of misadventures. The story ends with our protagonist heading back to England, and it is questionable whether he learned anything from his actions.

Matt Groening said "The French are funny, sex is funny, and comedies are funny, and yet no French sex comedies are funny", a quote which if reversed might be applicable to this book. This book, although satirical, is not blatantly so, and falls under the general heading of "Comedy of Manners". Comedies of manners often have a short lifespan, because many of the specific social patterns they parody are no longer relevant. Skewering the middle class intelligentsia of the early 1960s shouldn't be that amusing, and yet in this book, it is, in large part because while the portrait of Roger Micheldene and those around him is satiric, it is also realistic. And the plotting and pacing move the story along quite well.

The biggest question I have about this book, and a question that seems to be relevant to series students of Amis' works, is where the satire ends and real life begins. Apparently, although the book was a parody of Roger Micheldene, he is also a clear author avatar, and as time went on, Amis' personal life and social intolerance would begin to resemble Micheldene's. Related to this, I am also unsure how much of the portrayal of the alcohol use and sexually exploitive attitudes were satirical, and how much of it is just a realistic description of how life was in 1963. Probably of all of the scenes in the book that were meant to surprise us, the scene of a man smoking a cigar in a room with a young child wasn't amongst them. And yet, from my perspective, that is one of the more outlandish things to read. And over all, what I find most interesting about these characters is that despite their open attitude towards sex and their heavy drinking, they are not, to my sensibilities, cool. They live in a limbo between the staid society of the 1950s and the actually cool society that was to come later. Whether this was something Amis realized is a great question. When read as a comedic novel, the book is amusing enough, but it is much more complicated when it is viewed as a sociological record.

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