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This review is from: Lucky Jim (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
"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. The simple punchline metaphors always stand out ("like Genghis Khan meditating a purge of his captains"; "Welch's nose itself, a large, open-pored tetrahedron"), but the best moments show off the author's flexibility with language, like the running gag of Jim's "Welch tune": "This tune featured in the rondo of some boring piano concerto Welch had once insisted on playing [Jim] on his complicated exponential-horned gramophone ...and Dixon had fitted words to it ... 'You ignorant clod, you stupid old sod, you havering get...' Here intervened a string of unmentionables, corresponding with an oom-pah sort of effect in the orchestra. 'You wordy old turdy old scum, you griping old piping old bum...'" and so on.
In short -- if any character were half as rich and friendly as Amis's pen, this book would be engaging. As it is, one closes it wondering why they bothered to spend 200 pp. with such middling, dull people.