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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2001
The title is of course nice, in the sense of precise, referring to the way a counsellor might euphemistically refer to Jake's "problem", his impotence, also to Jake's penis, and also perhaps to Jake's attitude.
This was the first of the trilogy of Amis Pere's trilogy of deeply angry, anti-humanist and misogynist novels (the others being _Stanley and the Women_ and _Russian Hide and Seek_), and perhaps the funniest. The objects of Amis' satire (trendy doctors and counsellors, the "helping professions" in general) surely deserve the contempt Amis heaps on them, though the satire sometimes spills over into what seems like genuinely felt and personal rage, not quite mediated or controlled by the authorial "voice". But the various appalling and undignified therapies to which Jake is subjected in the attempt to restore his libido are evoked with comic splendour and I suspect bulls-eye accuracy. Jake's mind, body and intelligence are in every sense insulted.
Along with _Girl, 20_, with its evocation of 1960s "swinging London" this is the most obviously dated of Amis' novels, though perhaps that doesn't matter much from this distance. What was once trendy (or rather anti-trendy in relation to specific forms of trendiness, which is essentially the same thing) becomes dated, and finally comfortably historical.
Though possibly one of the least of Kingsley Amis' novels, and one that shows the man himself at a low ebb (a certain humanism returns with _The Old Devils_ and the last novels, and Amis is much the better for that), this is still a comic masterpiece. No writer has ever done dialogue, and especially dialogue-as-strategy, talk as point-scoring and jockeying-for-position, as well as Amis. Below-par Amis still offers a much better read than most novelists at their peak.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2009
Yet another book for re-reading. I found that it had actually gained in thirty years. The language is still fresh and fun and when you visualize what you visualize you laugh. Not many books will do that for you.

Jake is not an easy character to like. Easy to understand, but is he really worth the trouble of trying to empathize? Yet, the author does something different. The reader does not identify, does nor empathize, but secretly admits that there is something about himself in Jake's thoughts and feelings. No, the reader is not a mysoginist, nor does he have problems with understanding women (or men, or anyone, come to think of it.) In fact there is nothing of Jake in the reader, it is the otherway around. The reader finds himself in Jake without much sympathy or empathy but with the thrill of discovery he does not want to get out. No, not yet.

Men and women and their relationships have not changed much for thousands of years.
Read Aeschilus, the Odyssey, Adam Bede, Marlowe, Flaubert and why not Jake's Thing.
Is it Kingsley Amis himself we are watching or Jake, the character who does not even understand what a character in a novel should be like? What difference does it make?

It was not easy, but I liked Jake, and I liked Kingsley Amis for writing about the "Thing", and I liked the writing.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2006
"...[T]heir concern with the surface of things, with objects and appearances, with their surroundings and how they looked and sounded in them, with seeming to be better and to be right while getting everything wrong, their automatic assumption of the role of injured party in any clash of wills, their certainty that a view is the more credible and useful for the fact that they hold it, their use of misunderstanding and misrepresentation as weapons of debate, their selective sensitivity to tones of voice, their unawareness of the difference in themselves between sincerity and insincerity, their interest in importance (together with a noticeable inability to discriminate in that sphere), their fondness for general conversation and directionless discussion, their pre-emption of the major share of feeling, their exaggerated estimate of their own plausibility, their never listening and lots of other things like that..."

been there, been there, been there...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2012
I am a fan of Kingsley Amis but this book is so dated and idiotically misogynist it's revolting. Plus it partakes of an oppressive scoffing at self help (particularly American and also Jewish so it's got a jingoistic and anti-semitic subtext as well). Under the guise of humor it's actually an oppressive paean to cultural rigidities - a tittering celebration of stupid attitudes. It's anti self-growth - a lengthy elaboration of the self-congratulatory stance of the brain-gone-rigid majority white male. I did finish it but only through a sort of horrified fascination. My advice is "Don't bother. There's lots of better things to read than this."
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on December 19, 2012
Kingsley Amis had a considerable talent for taking the piss out of things and people, foremost himself. A recurring character in many of his later books is the once attractive, sexually active but now gone-to-fat Englishman is. Lucky Jim has turned out to be no longer quite so lucky after all. Grown old and acrid, self-absorbed, short-tempered, a snob, more than a bit of an anti-Semite, Amis uses his fictional self to cast a cold eye on all that's wrong in modern England. He follows in the great tradition of English comic writers from Dickens to Waugh to Anthony Powell, but what is unique in Amis is his uncanny ability to cast the same icy glance on what was wrong with himself. This quality of microscopic self-examination--the ability to look in the cracked mirror but without self-detestation--makes his men and women extraordinarily human and tri-dimensional--real if not always likeable. They are not cartoon characters. An incorrigible truth-teller about others as well as himself, Amis documented what he saw and heard with an unequalled ear and eye for contemporary speech, dress and behavior. We laugh in recognition, often in horror, at what fools (particularly English fools) these mortals be. JAKE'S THING, with good reason, demolishes the then fashionable (1984), practice of quick-fix sex therapy with its all its well-meaning but often fraudulent practioneers and their victims, many of whom were women. In the end, however, the women in his books, not matter how ridiculous they may behave at times, often turn out to be the wisest.
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on December 9, 2012
Oxford don Jake Richardson's diminished libido and torturous marriage form the backdrop for Amis's acid satire on the helping professions circa 1980. Many reviewers have noted Jake's scathing observations concerning his female characters'unjustified views of themselves and labeled Amis a misogynist. But the real thing of Jake's Thing is the question raised by waning libido: why do we care about each other? What are we giving and getting in our close relationships? This is a cautionary tale on the false consciousness that is sexual hunger. Jake doesn't hate women; he no longer finds them enchanting. This book is about what little is left after the enchantment departs.
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on November 1, 2009
The book arrived promptly in the condition in which it was advertized. The story itself stays in line with most of Amis' other novels so I wouldn't reccommend it for younger audiences or those who don't like to talk about sexual issues.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2006
Anyone who has had to seek out an elusive medical diagnosis should laugh aloud. The novel is scabrous and cringe-inducing---and uproariously funny. It should be required reading in all medical schools.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2005
In a new millennium awash with exotic and mainstream treatments for the euphemistically phrased class of conditions referred to as `erectile dysfunction', Jake's Thing reads as an interesting period piece from less medically interventionalist times.

What exactly is Jake's Thing? Surely a decline in libido is to be expected as one approaches 60. Maybe his thing is no more than a reaction to his overweight, frustrated (and as we later learn desperate) housewife. According to his treating physician, Jake's Thing is a reflection of his failure to adequately express a myriad of repressed perversities. (Jake repeatedly denies the presence of even one solid perversity, maintaining that in this respect his `thing' is missionary relations with women possessed of very large breasts.) Another possible interpretation is that Jake's Thing is no more than a reaction to the increasing presence of feminists on and around his beloved Oxford who demand to be allowed equal access to the inner sanctums of the college.

Whatever the case, Jake, with the encouragement of his wife Brenda, decides to seek treatment for his thing. After a couple of very up close and personal encounters with a device known as a `nocturnal mensurator' Jake's doctor decides that group therapy is the only way Jake will release the emotional blockage that is negatively impacting on his theoretically fully functional thing. One thing that is most certainly not Jake's thing is group therapy. Let's just say that Jake comes to regret assuring his referring medical practitioner that he has no objection to exposing his genitals in public.

Not to spoil the ending but the Jake and Brenda do end up resolving the issue of the `thing' in quite different ways. It is virtually impossible to find any sympathy for Jake who's a stuffy Oxford don used to getting away with various infidelities, treating women as though they are sub morons, neglecting his wife and single mindedly pursuing his area of expertise, Minoan history to a suitable plateau of mediocrity. This is largely a result of Kingsly Amis missing the mark with his usually deft humorous touch. The interactions of the university academics are dry and dull rather than dry and droll making Jake's Thing and unworthy successor to other Amis novels such as the sparklingly amusing Lucky Jim. The other characters are largely uni dimensional, serving as foils to illuminate whatever slightly noxious personal quality Jake elects to showcase. The group therapy participants promise a variety of mad, bad and dangerous personal problems but just end up as bland as the rest. Brenda's most notable individual achievement, finale aside, is to lose weight.

Maybe the slightly sensational nature of the topic resulted in a more generous assessment of the quality of this novel when it was written. I'm not sure. Whatever the case, I can honestly report that I really didn't care for Jake or his thing.
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