Sex Life in Ancient Rome Face

by rosalyster

Lucky Jim is one of those books that people go many miles out their way to tell you they hate it. They always saying they hate it on twitter; they always saying they hate it to my face. I don’t know why. There are lots and lots of people who love Lucky Jim, such as my own self, but they don’t tell you about it so much. Maybe cos every time they do there is some sassy person shouting at them that it’s Not Funny. Maybe.

Lucky Jim is in my top ten, and possibly in my top five. Don’t tell me it’s not funny. There is a bit in Experience, Martin Amis’s memoir about him and his dad, where he says “When he (Kingsley) made you laugh he sometimes made you laugh – not continuously but punctually – for the rest of your life.” He is talking, specifically, of Kingsley Amis making a noise which sounds exactly like a dog saying Fuck Off, but he is also talking about Lucky Jim. 

I read it when I was 16, and so it has been making me laugh – not continuously but punctually – for fourteen years. I expect this to continue.

Some of my best bits:

“Margaret was laughing in the way Dixon had provisionally named to himself ‘the tinkle of tiny silver bells.’ He sometimes thought that the whole corpus of her behaviour derived from translating such phrases into action…”

“Atkinson raised his dense eyebrows and studied the envelope-back as if it bore the wrong answer to a chess problem. He gave a barbaric laugh and stared into Dixon’s face.'”

Actually, I love everything of Atkinson. In the same way that Jamie is by MILES my best person in The Thick of It, my best person in Lucky Jim is the most feral and horrible one:  He studied Dixon closely when the latter said: ‘You’re early today, Bill,’ as if the remark might have carried some challenge to his physical strength or endurance; then, seemingly reassured, nodded twenty or thirty times. His centre-parted black hair and rectangular moustache gave him an air of archaic ferocity.”

I also love Bertrand and all the driving bits (“The unavailing hoots of a lorry behind them made Dixon look furtively at Welch, whose face, he saw with passion, held an expression of calm assurance, like an old quartermaster’s in rough weather”), and “his attention, like a squadron of slow old battleships, began wheeling to face this new phenomenon.”

And, because I am a human being, my very best bit is at the end. The point of Jim Dixon is that he makes faces: the consumptive face, the tragic mask face, the mandarin, the crazy peasant, the Edith Sitwell, the metaphysical, the lemon-sucking, the mandrill, the lascar, the Evelyn Waugh etc. He does the faces as a replacement for doing what he would actually like to do, which is bite everyone around him on the legs, or kill them. All his faces are “designed to express rage or disappointment.” So the best bit comes at the end, when everything very neatly works out as it supposed to: “Now that something had happened which really deserved a face, he had none to celebrate it with. As a kind of token, he made his Sex Life in Ancient Rome face.”

Sex Life in Ancient Rome face has dogged my footsteps for years. There is no description of what it looks like, in the novel, but you can sort of imagine it as somehow imperial, somehow cruel. I used to imagine it involving a lot of flared nostrills and jutted out chin. I used to imagine it involving an air of archaic ferocity.

Sex Life in Ancient Rome face has, on and off, made me laugh for nearly half my life. I thought of calling this website Sex Life in Ancient Rome Face. Sometimes when I am walking down to my car I think about it and then laugh like Beavis for a long time. I never expected more out of Sex Life in Ancient Rome face – I had already been given more than enough.

And then last week I found this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JeTMN2q0D4

At 8:30, about, you see KA actually making the face. It’s so much better than you think it will be. It’s hard to insist that something is funny, or explain why, but this twenty or so seconds of film has markedly improved the quality of my life.

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