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20th Century Lucky Jim [Paperback]

Kingsley Amis , David Lodge
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 22 1992 Penguin Twentieth Century Classics
In his send-up of the academic world, the author poked fun at the British way of life, and gave post-war fiction a new and enduring figure to laugh at.

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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.


Lucky Jim illustrates a crucial human difference between the little guy and the small man. And Dixon, like his creator, was no clown but a man of feeling after all.” – Christopher Hitchens
“Mr. Kingsley Amis is so talented, his observation is so keen, that you cannot fail to be convinced that the young men he so brilliantly describes truly represent the class with which his novel is concerned….They have no manners, and are woefully unable to deal with any social predicament. Their idea of a celebration is to go to a public bar and drink six beers. They are mean, malicious and envious….They are scum.” – W. Somerset Maugham
“’After Evelyn Waugh, what?’ this reviewer asked six years ago….The answer, already, is Kingsley Amis, the author of Lucky Jim….Satirical and sometimes farcical, they are derived from shrewd observation of contemporary British life, and they occasionally imply social morals….Lucky Jim is extremely funny. Everyone was much amused, and since it is also a kind of male Cinderella or Ugly Duckling story, it left its readers goo-humored and glowing.”  —Edmund Wilson, The New Yorker, 1956
“Remarkable for its relentless skewering of artifice and pretension, Lucky Jim also contains some of the finest comic set pieces in the language.” —Olivia Laing, The Observer

“Remarkably, Lucky Jim is as fresh and surprising today as it was in 1954. It is part of the landscape, and it defines academia in the eyes of much of the world as does no other book, yet if you are coming to it for the first time you will feel, as you glide happily through its pages, that you are traveling in a place where no one else has ever been. If you haven’t yet done so, you must.” —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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'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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The funniest book I've ever read March 26 2010
By Phoebe
I was given this novel to read when I was 17 and told that there are two kinds of people: those who find "Lucky Jim" hysterically funny--and those who see no humor in it at all. Over the years, as I've read and reread this novel and shared it with many people in the manner of a missionary trying to spread the gospel, I've discovered that this is true: it's either love or hate. However, if you like to read about pretentious people, snobs, and bores getting what they deserve, then you will probably enjoy this book. But that's only one part of "Lucky Jim." Much of the humor emerges from Amis's clever descriptions of his characters, so if you appreciate irony and a well-turned phrase, then you'll want to read it again. I've read this novel at least 15 times, and it can still make me laugh out loud. It is Amis's best book (his second best, I've always felt, is "The Green Man") and the finest comic novel of the twentieth century.
(And when you purchase the Penguin edition, you'll be getting a very good introduction as well.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars The First True 'Campus Novel' Sept. 7 2013
By Hector
In the course of looking over the campus novels I have recently re-read Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. This is an early example of that genre, having been published in 1954 shortly after CP Snow's The Masters. However, its light-heartedness separates it from Snow's work and mark it as a forerunner of the more humorous and irreverent campus novels of the late 1950s to the 1970s such as Malcolm Bradbury's Eating People is Wrong and The History Man and David Lodge's Changing Places, as well as Mary Smetley's recent novel Lorenzostein: A Bizarre Tale of the Depravity of a Young Academic.

Jim Dixon, the protagonist, is a young lecturer in history in an unspecified English university in the Midlands in the early 1950s. Dixon is a relaxed sort who being put off by the cant and pretensions of his academic colleagues tends to mimic and deprecate them to himself. Much of the humour and the most endearing parts of the novel revolve around this aspect of Dixon's response to his academic setting.

Fearing that his contract will not be renewed, Dixon bows to pressure from his pompous departmental chair, Professor Welch, and agrees to give the end-of-the-term lecture on the topic "Merrie England." Unfortunately, he becomes drunk at the reception and inadvertently mimics the voice of Professor Welch, mocks him, and then passes out. He loses his job, but later wins the heart of the fair lass he has been pursuing, which is a minor plot element in the greater farce of Dixon's attitudes and behaviour. The other equally enduring episode in the novel is when Dixon becomes drunk at a party at Professor Welch's house, falls asleep while smoking, and burns his host's bedclothes.

In re-reading Lucky Jim I found the story line to be rather thin.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Lucky Whim April 12 2002
"Lucky Jim" is self-indulgence on Amis's part masquerading as 'satire'. His portrayals of certain characters -- namely, the selfish, incompetent Welch family -- are implausible to the point of distraction. The character of Jim Dixon would be likeable enough, if not for the unfortunate fact that Amis develops his protagonist's personality through Jim's constant mockery of his professor's family. At the book's end, the only really good thing we can say about the guy is (as 'Gore-Itchbag' puts it), "It's not that you've got the qualifications .... You haven't got the disqualifications, though, and that's much rarer." Jim is a bloke with a good head on his shoulders, but has no desire to do anything beyond drink a pint of bitter at the nearest pub and chat up the lovely Christine. Not a bad guy, really -- just not interesting enough to balance out his nasty distaste for and sophomoric pranks aimed at the Welch family.
But that's not to say the book lacks any merit. There are incidents as exciting and/or comic as in any other novel ruled by middle-class convention (one reviewer above noted the hangover scene in chapter 6; see also Jim's coup at the ball and his drunken debacle of a speech). In terms of writing, you will not find prose more clear or brisk than Mr. Amis's -- and Jim's overwhelming feelings of ill-will are somewhat excused by the sheer originality, fluidity, and wit of his turns of phrase.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rude, unlucky, not always funny Jim Sept. 28 2001
When I first read this twentieth century classic, I said to myself: "Am I missing something here? This is the work of one of England's angry young men? Now I'm one of the angry ones." It took a BBC series to bring the characters to life in a way not immediately clear to me on the written page. Putting the words on video greatly increased my sympathy for Jim.
Nonetheless, I think son Martin Amis did a funnier job with a similarly self-absorbed, self-centered slob in "Money: A suicide note". While I can see where son Martin found and derived his inspiration, I found less humor and little insight from the father.
Lucky Jim Dixon is often more loathesome than likeable. His own sense of humor -- childish practical jokes of revenge on his enemies -- is more petty and mean than inspired. He doesn't much care for his students (except perhaps the pretty girls), his colleagues, or (for better reasons) his "superiors". Reading "Lucky Jim", I pictured a young Peter O'Toole or perhaps Hugh Grant drinking and stumbling his way through a good job, more concerned about his cigarette and beer budget than anything intellectual, romantic, noble, or heroic.
Other than his contrast to the even more boorish son (Betrand) of Dixon's superior, it is still hard to understand the basis for the lucky outcome that concludes the book. Lucky for Jim, not just his students that, Dixon found another career.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucky You....if you read this book
"Lucky Jim" is Jim Dixon - who appears to be a most unlucky man. He recently landed a university teaching job, but he's miserable. Read more
Published on July 9 2004 by Westley
5.0 out of 5 stars Being out of control
Jim Dixon is a man painfully aware of his loathesome existence which he in turn sparks up with booze and constant inappropriate wisecracks. Read more
Published on June 25 2004 by L. Dann
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't read this book on the subway,
because, most likely, it will provoke loud screams of laughter and you'll embarrass yourself. Lucky Jim is the story of Jim Dixon, a lowly lecturer at an English university. Read more
Published on June 20 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for anyone who ever went to college...
What a treat to pick up this book whilst I was taking a break from cramming for finals. It totally put my academic career into perspective. Read more
Published on May 15 2004 by Marcus Collin
5.0 out of 5 stars A Laugh a Page!
A pleasant and refreshing read. Sir Kingsley's mastery over the English language combined with a hilarious 'common man' story makes LUCKY JIM undoubtedly one of the greatest... Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Funniest Books Ever
This book is a hilarious balm for a quarter life crisis and should be required reading for anyone who is in Generation X. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2004 by Erin Jennings
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious!
This book is absolutely hilarious! I don't know that I have ever laughed as hard while reading a book as I did in this one. The wit is both sharp and precise--you sam. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2003 by Agent Grant Hawley
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Wit and Excellent Writing
Kingsley Amis struck gold on this one. I was quickly enthralled in the characters and the wit he displays is amazing. I laughed my head off throughout the book. Read more
Published on June 27 2003 by Agent Grant Hawley
5.0 out of 5 stars An utterly hilarious book
Over the years, there have been many attempts to establish a
"Deep Inner Meaning" for "Lucky Jim," but I wouldn't pay them
much attention if I were you. Read more
Published on April 6 2003 by Geoff Puterbaugh
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the classic 20th Century British comic novel
Kingsley Amis is one of my favorite writers, and Lucky Jim (1954) of course is probably his most famous novel. Read more
Published on March 7 2003 by Richard R. Horton
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