20th Century Lucky Jim Paperback – Jul 1 1992
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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
“I was recommended [Kinglsey Amis’ Lucky Jim] when I was a teenager trying to figure out how to start reading 'serious' books. Great recommendation, because on the surface it’s nothing of the sort, but it is brilliant.” —Hugh Dancy, T: The New York Times Style Magazine
“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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(And when you purchase the Penguin edition, you'll be getting a very good introduction as well.)
Not at all the book I wanted it to be, sadly, and I really was rooting for it.
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.Read more ›
The problem I have with the book is that none of it made a lick of difference. Sure, it is nearly forty years since its first publication, but I just can't help feeling that this terrain has been done with more relevance by someone like Robertson Davies (see his 'Cornish Trilogy'). His pretentious academics actually manage to be fully formed characters, instead of the crudely drawn sketches Amis depicts here.
That being said, the prose is magnificent. What else could you expect from an Amis?
Most recent customer reviews
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... Read morePublished on Sept. 7 2013 by Hector
"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 morePublished on July 9 2004 by Westley
Jim Dixon is a man painfully aware of his loathesome existence which he in turn sparks up with booze and constant inappropriate wisecracks. Read morePublished on June 25 2004 by L. Dann
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 morePublished on May 15 2004 by Marcus Collin
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 morePublished on Feb. 24 2004
This book is a hilarious balm for a quarter life crisis and should be required reading for anyone who is in Generation X. Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2004 by Erin Pounders
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 morePublished on Aug. 4 2003 by Agent Grant Hawley