Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Like It Here, By Kingsley Amis

I Like It Here, by Kingsley Amis (© 1958, Ballantine Books, First Printing, August, 1971) promises, "A rollicking trip with a not-so-innocent abroad," features an intimate embrace on both the front & back covers, and has a salacious teaser page regarding an international kiss not bound by the same language barriers as speech.



Naturally, I concluded that this story of Garnet Bowen, a reluctant traveler (forced to travel by his wife who wants a family holiday with the additional incentive of two paid writing gigs), would involve some sort of sordid reading... Having read Only Two Can Play/That Uncertain Feeling by Amis, I not only was anticipating Garnet's extra-marital exploits (or at least his fantasies of such) but was looking forward to this book.

But I would be disappointed.

What little dalliance there may be, it's but a few paragraphs more than the teaser; and it is about as awkward as trying to communicate in a language you don't know.

OK, so it's not the smut-fest the publishers made it out to be; that's not unusual -- not for such books at that time or books and films produced & marketed today. So what is it about?

I Like It Here is about a married man's reluctance to accept both the old and the new. His married life & work seems to make him feel miserable about himself yet he resists any change, large or small. It's a whiny, "Poor me, I'm a put-out male," story which certainly will resonate for many men; but leaves me wanting his wife to divorce him and get on with her own life -- rescuing the children from such a full-time putz influence.

While That Uncertain Feeling explored male insecurities (and ineptness), it did so without such a mopey whine and it didn't rely so heavily on a rushed Hail Mary wrap-up at the end.

Not surprisingly, I Like It Here is forever heard by me with a "but" in front of it, spoken in the pouty tone of a petulant toddler who doesn't want to leave the park.

What is surprising is that I Like It Here was the next story in Kingsley Amis' Jim Dixon series:

Lucky Jim (1954)
That Uncertain Feeling (1955)
I Like it Here (1958)
Lucky Jim's Politics (1968)

This was unknown to me because A), the lead character in Only Two Can Play/That Uncertain Feeling was called John Lewis, and B), as mentioned, Garnet Bowen was the lead in I Like It Here. So how was I to know?

Knowing this changes things a bit. Not only am I reading different versions, where more than names could have been changed, but I can, out of my affection for John Lewis/Jim Dixon, act like his wife must have been doing and try to remember the man he used to be. I'll cut him some slack.

But still, if you're looking for smut, I Like It Here is the wrong place.

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