Most helpful positive review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Coupland's "One Fat Englishman"
on 22 February 2015
English writers really have pretty much cornered the market on writing funny books about outrageously bad Englishmen. You can't swing a dead cat anywhere in the literary world - India, Africa, Hollywood or the groves of academe - without striking an appalling, obnoxious, profane, heavy-drinking, lecherous Englishman behaving badly. I blame Kingsley Amis. His One Fat Englishman (New York Review Books Classics), a philandering, drunken, bigoted, caustic fraud named Roger Micheldene, set the bar for every bad Englishman to follow. (Interesting. Amis's book came out in 1963, after his four very successful books featuring heroes who satirically skewered cultural hypocrisy. "One Fat Englishman" was dismissed by critics as a baffling disappointment. Sounds familiar.)
And this book is yet another entrant in the bad Englishman sweepstakes, and follows the Amis formula so closely that it almost seems unlikely to be a coincidence. (Coupland counts as an English novelist because he is actually based in Vancouver, and that just means the sun never sets on the empire of English novelists.) Here, for variety, we have moved the Bad Englishman around the world so he can misbehave in an exotic locale. Drink, women, gambling, profligacy, vulgarity and all of the other sins to which flesh is heir remain on full display
Critics have faulted this book for not having a point, (or a plot, or a single appealing character). I think funny, deadpan excess, recounted through an exhausted alcoholic haze, more or less is the point. Behaving badly and maintaining a running profane, mean, arrogant, and riotously lurid commentary is the point.
To be fair, I agree with all of the reviewers, from five star ravers to disappointed head shakers. This book seems to be exactly what Coupland wanted it to be, and it has elicited the same range of opinions and reactions as the Amis book. Maybe it represents some sort of novelist rite of passage.
In any event the book is what it is - a showy, energetic, brutally funny exercise in excess and despicable behavior. And I mean the hero; I still feel kindly toward the author. Don't start here if you've never read Coupland, but otherwise give it a whirl and see where you come out on the scale of reactions.
Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.