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Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

Lucky Jim (original 1953; edition 2000)

by Kingsley Amis, David Lodge (Introduction)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,1411011,214 (3.75)234
Title:Lucky Jim
Authors:Kingsley Amis
Other authors:David Lodge (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (2000), Editie: New Ed, Paperback, 272 pagina's
Collections:1001 books, English, Before 1988
Tags:1001, Satire, Humor

Work details

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (1953)

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» See also 234 mentions

English (99)  Dutch (2)  Piratical (1)  All languages (102)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
OK book. Maybe I missed the humor of the author. I didn't find it as funny as it is purported to be. I enjoyed Pnin by Nabakov better. Jim is definitely lucky by the end. ( )
  AmieB7 | Jan 21, 2016 |
The story of Jim Dixon and his attempt to be a sucessful teacher of history at a small university, filled with hilarious incidents and funny descriptions the novel often dragged between these high points ( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
Jim Dixon is a history professor at a rural college in the early 1950's. Dixon hates his job and especially his head professor Welch. This is a comic novel chronicling Dixon's exploits including a madrigal weekend at Welch's and a school ball. I found some of these events amusing and at other times was annoyed with Dixon for acting so stupid and staying in a job he hates. If you get the edition with a foreword don't read it until you finish the book because it gives away the ending. I always skip forewords for this reason. ( )
  RachelNF | Jan 15, 2016 |
Jim has somehow landed a job as history professor at a university. The novel shows his attempts to prove he isn't as useless as people seem to take him for, although his actions tend rather to confirm people's suspicions. While attempting to get even with Johns and Bertram, avoid Christine and disentangle himself from Margaret, Jim Dixon also has to avoid being sacked, attend a 'musical' weekend with his superiors, put on a lecture about Merrie England and dance at the summer ball.
An enjoyable read although Amis' use of humour is often quite nasty and sarcastic. I would recommend reading and it probably should be on the 1001 books to read before you die, but I didn't find it brilliant and unmissable. ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
Amis has some real writing chops, and this book is at times genuinely funny, but the story is often working at cross-purposes and the ending doesn't ring true. I consider this book decidedly a mixed bag, but based on Amis' ability as a writer I might try some other work of his in the future, if I can find one that sounds like it avoids some of the pitfalls this one stumbles into.

The thing that impressed me the most in this book is how quickly and efficiently Amis can get across that a character is completely unbearable. Here's a passage from Bertrand's introduction, after he's been asked if he'll be staying long at his parents house:

"Bertrand's jaw snatched successfully at a piece of food which had been within an ace of eluding them. He went on chewing for a moment, pondering. 'I doubt it,' he said at last. 'Upon consideration I feel it incumbent upon me to doubt it. I have miscellaneous concerns in London that need my guiding hand.' He smiled among his beard, from which he now began brushing crumbs. 'But it's very pleasant to come down here and to know that the torch of culture is still in a state of combustion in the provinces. Profoundly reassuring, too."

With a single paragraph Amis paints Bertrand perfectly as one of those people that you would gnaw your own arm off to escape from at a party. Amis is a master at the various shades of unbearable university people as well, from the absent minded professor who inexplicably outranks you to the student who knows too much and therefore threatens to expose your own ignorance. Thanks to this skill at quick and resonating characterization, Amis' is able to give us a surprisingly large cast of distinct characters given the length of this novel, and is also able to effectively skewer academia. These successes are the highlight of the book, as the satirization of university life and the people encountered in that sphere lead to the funniest moments of the book. In particular, an inevitable train wreck of a lecture doesn't disappoint.

Unfortunately, Amis' success at making characters humorously unlikeable undercuts the other half of the book's story, dealing with the romantic entanglements of the main character James (Jim) Dixon. Dixon is someone who got into academia without much real interest for it, who fell into his area of study and has no passion for it, who takes every opportunity to be an ass and make a fool of himself. In short he's, like nearly everyone else, an unlikeable but amusing character. The problem is that, because he's unlikeable, I didn't much care one way or the other how his romantic life played out. This wouldn't have been a huge concern if these passages were as funny as the rest of the book, but Amis tones down the humor for most of the sections dealing with Dixon's relationships, playing it straight and therefore flat. An extended scene of Dixon in a taxi with Christine has no levity to speak of, and so because I have no investment in whether the unlikeable Dixon ends up with the rather bland Christine the scene does nothing for me. It gave me an accurate depiction of a relationship and thoughts about it, but Amis' observations about relationships aren't particularly noteworthy and wouldn't have been able to sustain the book on their own. By populating the book with an unlikeable cast Amis is able to magnify the comedic aspects of the story, but that same cast undercuts the dramatic passages, and since the division of the book felt roughly equally split between the two types I was left with a decidedly mixed impression of the work.

The ending irritated me as well- after having torpedoed his career in academia, Dixon is telephoned by Christine's uncle and is offered a job that essentially solves all his problems (both financial, career, and romantic). This didn't come entirely out of left-field, as it was telegraphed enough earlier in the book so as to make it rather predictable, but despite this the turn of events still didn't ring true. Christine's uncle is a man of means and position that doesn't need to play the game of schmoozing and glad-handing, but sees the benefit to be had from it and so plays the game anyway. Dixon, on the other hand, is someone that does need to play the game, but doesn't and fails rather spectacularly when he tries. The latter type of person is not the type that impresses the former type in real life, much less does the former type offer the latter type a well-paying job. Thus the job that drops into Dixon's lap and solves all his problems doesn't feel like something that might actually happen, but a falsehood shoehorned in by Amis to give us a happier ending than the character had coming. If you're going to give us characters like these then give us an ending that fits them, not a storybook resolution that rings so false.

Amis' descriptions are top-notch, and despite not being quite as funny as Wodehouse generally, Amis' satire of university life is very successful. This book is well worth checking out if such a satire sounds appealing to you. That being said, only that half of the book was a success. The other half, focusing on Dixon's love triangle and ending with an unrealistic deus ex machina, of sorts, falls rather flat by comparison. Thus, overall, Lucky Jim only rose to "pretty good." If I find a book by Amis that focuses solely on the satire and humor I'll be sure to check it out in the future. ( )
  BayardUS | Jan 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
"Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis's comic masterpiece, may be the funniest book of the past half century "

» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kingsley Amisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
David LodgeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Oh, lucky Jim, how I envy him. Oh, lucky Jim, how I envy him." - Old Song
To Philip Larkin
First words
"They made a silly mistake, though," the Professor of History said, and his smile, as Dixon watched, gradually sank beneath the surface of his features at the memory.
Christine was still prettier and nicer than Margaret, and all the deductions that could be drawn from that fact should be drawn: there was no end to the ways in which nice things are nicer than nasty ones.
"I am sorry to hear of your difficulties, Mr Dickinson, but I'm afraid things are too difficult here for me to be very seriously concerned about your difficulties..."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140186301, Paperback)

Although Kingsley Amis's acid satire of postwar British academic life has lost some of its bite in the four decades since it was published, it's still a rewarding read. And there's no denying how big an impact it had back then--Lucky Jim could be considered the first shot in the Oxbridge salvo that brought us Beyond the Fringe, That Was the Week That Was, and so much more.

In Lucky Jim, Amis introduces us to Jim Dixon, a junior lecturer at a British college who spends his days fending off the legions of malevolent twits that populate the school. His job is in constant danger, often for good reason. Lucky Jim hits the heights whenever Dixon tries to keep a preposterous situation from spinning out of control, which is every three pages or so. The final example of this--a lecture spewed by a hideously pickled Dixon--is a chapter's worth of comic nirvana. The book is not politically correct (Amis wasn't either), but take it for what it is, and you won't be disappointed.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:23 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Jim has fallen into a job at one of the new red brick universities. A moderately successful future beckons as long as Jim can survive a madrigal-singing weekend, deliver a lecture on "merrie England" and resist Christine, the girlfriend of Professor Welch's son, Bertrand..… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182598, 0141399414, 0241956846

NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590175751, 1590175913

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