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Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
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Lucky Jim (1953)

by Kingsley Amis

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Title:Lucky Jim
Authors:Kingsley Amis
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Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (1953)

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English (90)  Dutch (2)  Piratical (1)  All languages (93)
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
(Read a long time ago). Whilst I could see Lucky Jim was funny, my problem was that the folky crowd sounded quite interesting to me. Yes, they were rather too earnest, but if I had to be stuck there, and it did feel like a place one was stuck, I'd have hung out with them reasonably happily until I could get somewhere better.
  antonomasia | May 15, 2015 |
This is going to be a tough review for me because what apparently makes the book notable – its portrayal of rapidly-evolving British social conventions regarding class and academia in the 1950s – requires background knowledge that I, as an n-th generation American female, definitely don’t possess. Anthony Burgess has said that the main character, Dixon, a provincial lad who finds himself teaching at a stuffy, bourgeois university, “makes little dents in the smug fabric of hypocritical, humbugging, class-bound British society,” and “Amis [has]caught the mood of post-war restiveness in a book which, though socially significant [is] still extremely funny.” I’m going to have to take his word for it, because my impressions of the tale were somewhat otherwise.

First, there’s the fact that what constitutes “funny” in this book doesn't align well with what most folks would find funny now. Dixon’s sense of humor is infantile: when displeased, he makes childish faces at people behind their backs or plagues them with stupid/cruel practical jokes (defacing photos with mustaches; placing prank calls). I’ve seen enough Monte Python to accept that it's possible that British readers would find this content funny, but Dixon’s boorish antics mostly left me unsympathetic and annoyed.

Then there’s Amis’s portrayal of “hypocritical, humbugging, classbound British society,” which I didn’t quite see either. Yes, Amis’s bete noir, a college professor named Welch, is old and doddering, a little too fond of recorder music and madrigals and the ideal of “merrie England” – a construct that exists more in imagination rather than fact (as the final scene of this novel successfully mocks), but at least he cares about his college and has manners. Dixon, on the other hand, cares little about scholarship (“Good God, you don’t think I care about any of this stuff?” he confesses at one point) and less about his students (the only criteria for his summer session topic is whether it will appeal to most attractive women at the university). I had a hard time not siding with Welch in this dispute. There is another subplot pitting Dixon against Welch’s son Bertrand, a pretentious snob who is genuinely easy to hate. The problem is that he’s a little TOO easy to hate, and so comes off more as a villain than as an honest representation of British bourgeois society, thus lessoning the impact of Amis’s satire in this direction.

Overall, I found the subplot involving Dixon’s love life to be more thought-provoking; though, again, I think it may be necessary to possess a British sensibility to understand it fully. By modern standards, it’s hard to understand why Dixon remains loyal to neurotic, needy fellow-academic Margaret rather than pursuing the woman of his dreams, Christine. (I’m going to omit mentioning my distaste, as a female, for the condescending way that basically all the female characters in this book are depicted, as I’m attributing this to the general backwardness of the era rather than a particular flaw of the author’s.) But the relationship makes more sense in the context of British morality, especially British morality during the war years, when “duty” was drilled into young men along with their letters. Though the introduction to the volume I read, penned by David Lodge, attributes Dixon’s loyalty to pity, I would argue that it’s Dixon’s sense of duty/obligation that prevents him from straying. (To paraphrase an exchange from a recent television show: “What was the name of that Gilbert & Sulliven operetta about duty?” Answer: “They’re all about duty.”)

Jim does finally does hit a lucky streak in the final pages of the book, winning (SPOILER) both the job and the girl of his dreams. After 100s of pages of enduring his whining, peevish, petty, drunken antics, can't say I was convinced he deserved to live happily ever after. But there’s no denying that “nasty things are nastier than nice things,” as Dixon notes. And there’s no denying that Kingsley Amis’s narrative style is distinctive and a fascinating time capsule through which to view mid-century British sensibilities. ( )
  Dorritt | May 13, 2015 |
Jim Dixon is a junior history lecturer in a provincial English university coming towards the end of his first year under the evasive Professor Welch. However, Jim has not really made a good impression during his time there and is worried as to whether he will be retained for the up coming academic year. He has also befriended the neurotic Margaret, one of his colleagues, who attempted suicide after a previous relationship failed. One evening whilst at the family home of the Professor Welch Jim is introduced to their artist son Bertrand and his girlfriend Christine. Suddenly Jim's seemingly ordered life begins to unravel with at time comic results.

Luck and entitlement are major themes throughout the book. Jim is initially very passive accepting what others are doing to him never really questioning why and the novel charts both the bad and good luck he endures. Jim's bad luck provides some of the humour of the novel but once he learns to trust good luck, things turn around for him, and he begins to have a say in his fate.

In contrast Bertrand Welch,sees discrepancies in class not in terms of luck, but rather merely as the way things should be.So when Jim considers himself lucky when Christine agrees to come home with him, Bertrand considers Christine to be his "right." Jim's passive surrender to "bad luck" can be a touch pathetic but it is also indicates his concern for others, while Bertrand's sense of entitlement reveals his self-centredness.

Hypocrisy and pretension are satirised throughout. The Welches are mocked for their social pretensions, Margaret for her melodramatic romantic and Bertrand for his pompous nature as he tries to bully all those around him. No one explains to Jim what it is that they really want from him, he is seen as something of a soft touch and they usually have ulterior motives. However,Jim himself is initially hypocritical keeping his real emotions from those around him,in particular faking feelings for Margaret that he does not actually possess. It is not until the end of the novel that Jim is able to be straightforward himself and therefore those around him.

Personally I found this a well crafted novel with well drawn out characters and whilst it did not actually make me laugh out loud it did on numerous occasions to smile which can be no bad thing. As such I will certainly be on the look out by other works by the author. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Mar 18, 2015 |
I didn't like the book at first but it grew on me. The protagonist seemed too shallow and unlikable at first, but then I came to the realization that it was the other characters and the quaint social mores that were shallow and unlikable. Jim was a true post-war personality stuck among pre-war ideologues. It was actually a nice counter-point. I'm not sure if I'll read it again, but I'm glad I read it. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 22, 2014 |
Why did this book end up on my reading list? Was it a recipient or runner-up for a major award? Recommended from a trustworthy friend? I have no idea! But once it ended up on my book shelves, it was inevitable I would eventually read it. What a disappointment! But, lucky for me, "Lucky Jim" was a quick read.

"Lucky Jim" is a British farce. Could it get any worse than that? I guess there are some readers who would enjoy this book, but I have no idea who. If it were purely a script for a 1940’s movie, I’m sure it would have fared well. A state-of-the-art black and white cinema screen depicting a fat stodgy absent minded professor with his big bosomed, shrill voiced, elitist wife. And the professor’s inept, oafish assistant - that would be Jim - with a few manipulative, whining, stereotype female characters for filler.

Kingsley Amis’ descriptives of Jim were strange and for the most part irrelevant. What must have been meant to appear funny was actually annoying and down right disgusting... Jim’s temper tantrums, his childish destructive pranks, and his inane antics... actions generally associated with an adolescent bratty punk rather than a twenty-something college teacher. Throughout the story Kingsley refers to Jim’s facial expressions as though all his reactions were as insincere as coming from a cartoon character... or maybe Kingsley just lacked the verbal skills to express Jim’s emotions. He writes descriptives like - Jim put on “his tragic face”, “his Chinese mandarin face”, “his lemon-sucking face”, and “his Evelyn Waugh face”... whatever that implies.

And speaking of Evelyn Waugh, there is a quote on the front cover of the Viking paperback edition that "Lucky Jim" was as funny as Evelyn Waugh “at his best”. This is absolutely - without any doubt - just not true. For one thing, even when Evelyn Waugh was being funny, there was usually a deep dramatic story involved. And second, Evelyn Waugh was naturally witty, presenting humorous scenes and comical dialogues that are natural and seemingly authentic. Even in writing satire, Evelyn Waugh’s characters always appear to be real people. Kingsley Amis’ wit is grossly exaggerated staged humor… slapstick and totally ludicrous. There is really no comparison so I suggest you don’t waste your time on this one. ( )
  LadyLo | Sep 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
"Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis's comic masterpiece, may be the funniest book of the past half century "
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kingsley Amisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
David LodgeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Oh, lucky Jim, how I envy him. Oh, lucky Jim, how I envy him." - Old Song
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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)

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182598, 0141399414, 0241956846

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Editions: 1590175751, 1590175913

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