Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Poke in the Ribs

Midway through David Lodge's industrially dark Nice Work, I'm finding it as solidly enjoyable as its prequels, Changing Places and Small World, and I'm glad that I'm only about half-way through his fictional oeuvre. And this morning, reading last week's New York Times Book Review's review of a new biography, I may have identified the next English writer for my list. From A. O. Scott's review of The Life of Kingsley Amis, by Zachary Leader:
Amis did leave behind a credo of sorts, in the form of the following set of rhymed and numbered propositions, the fourth and last in a series of "Poems about Oxford," composed in 1950:
Here is a list of things I have understood.

i. There are only two sorts of things, bad and good.
ii. When he gets the good, a man ought to be glad.
iii. When he gets the bad, a man ought to be sad.
iv. Some of the good are joking, smoking, soaking,
And (if you will permit the expression) poking.
v. In a bad place these are absent, or even banned.
vi. In a good place they are frequent, or ready to hand.
vii. And I want as much of them as I can stand.
Anyway, on pp. 148-149 of Lodge's Nice Work, Vic Wilcox's secretary continues to lobby her boss to use nude photographs of her daughter for a company advertising calendar:
"I believe Brian mentioned to you his idea for a Pringle's calendar," she said, hovering at his shoulder.
    "Yes," said Vic, "he did."
    "He said you weren't keen."
    "That's putting it mildly."
    "It would be a great chance for Tracey," said Shirley wistfully.
    "A great chance to degrade herself," said Vic, handing her the letter.
    "What d'you mean?" said Shirley indignantly.
    "You really want pictures of your daughter in the altogether stuck up on walls for anybody to look at?"
    "I don't see the harm...What about art galleries?"
    "Art galleries?"
    "They're full of nudes. Old masters."
    "That's different."
    "I don't see why."
    "You don't get blokes going into an art gallery and staring at a picture of Venus or whatever and nudging each other in the ribs saying, 'I wouldn't mind going through her on a Saturday night.'"
    "Ooh!" gasped Shirley, adverting her face.
    "Or taking the picture home to wank off with," Vic continued remorselessly.
    "I'm not listening," Shirley said, retreating rapidly to her office. "I don't know what's got into you."
    No more do I, Vic Wilcox thought to himself, feeling slightly ashamed of his outburst, as the door closed behind her. It was in fact several weeks before he realised that he was in love with Robyn Penrose.
Vic's social awareness has been aroused by his few weeks' association with his "shadow" from Rummidge University....


  1. You lost me. I know there must be a point here somewhere or is this just dinner wine speak?(I like that)

  2. Ed, it's mainly just for fun. The title of the post is a play on Amis's reference to "poking" and Vic's "nudging each other in the ribs saying, 'I wouldn't mind going through her on a Saturday night.'" About as close as I want to go with "R-rated" material.