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Lucky Jim (New York Review Books Classics) Kindle Edition
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- File Size : 1545 KB
- Publisher : NYRB Classics (October 2, 2012)
- Publication Date : October 2, 2012
- Print Length : 276 pages
- ASIN : B007OLQD8G
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #44,730 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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When you first meet Jim Dixon, what strikes you is not only his penchant for mockery but his incredible ability to pull the most inventive faces. In fact, I counted no less than ten throughout the book, my favorite being his shot-in-the-back face. Those coupled with his irritatable mumblings, drunken ramblings, and blatant ignorance about women make for an antihero par excellence. And the highlight of these antics? A leaden, uninspired speech he must deliver to hundreds of students and faculty entitled “Merrie England,” whatever that means.
If you love scathing, satirical stories featuring romance, give Lucky Jim a try. And don’t worry that the book was published more than sixty years ago. Its razorlike humor is as fresh as ever. Try to decide which is your favorite Jim Dixon face. And imagine you had to deliver that ill-fated “Merrie England” speech. Hint: a few pulls of good Scottish whiskey and you will indeed be merry. Good luck.
One of Amis's few close friends at Oxford was a fellow student named Philip Larkin, Larkin also eventually became a successful novelist and poet.
Kingsley Amis began his first novel, "Lucky Jim," in 1951 when he was only twenty-eight-years-old. He dedicated the book to Philip Larkin, and Larkin played an active role in editing the book. Over the years some readers and critics have felt that "Lucky Jim" was autobiographical in nature and that Amis was essentially describing his own life in the exploits of the book's central character, Jim Dixon. Both the author and the character were lecturers at out-of-the-way provincial universities, and both felt that life was on the verge of passing them by, and that they would forever be stuck in their mundane circumstances.
Others thought that the character of Jim Dixon was more of an intentional description of Philip Larkin than it was of Amis. In the bright light of hindsight, Dixon may have been a representation of both Amis and Larkin at that particularly formative stage of their lives.
"Lucky Jim," which was finally published in 1954, is today regarded as a comedic classic of British literature.
Jim Dixon, a.k.a. "Lucky Jim," was a lecturer of Midevil history at an out-of -the-way provincial college during the year or so that the novel encompasses. His position was tenuous. He was either at the first step of a long climb into the upper levels of academia, or he was, as he somewhat suspected, already at his educational pinnacle and preparing for a grand slide downward into public school teaching. Throughout his year of minor adventures, Jim seemed to sense that his career as a university lecturer would be short-lived, and at times he appeared to be actively sabotaging the future that he wanted so desperately to attain.
Jim had a small circle of friends at the university, some of whom seemed to be fostering his success and others who came across as working against him. He had a love interest of sorts, a neurotic professor named Margaret, who tried to control Jim's life - and the lives of others near her - through acts of high drama, such as a very sketchy attempted suicide. Jim also played up to his supervising professor, Dr. Welch, and ingratiated himself to the elder professor by attending social events with him and his family and even spending occasional weekends in their country home.
Jim enjoyed drinking, a habit which led to some embarrassing situations, and he also liked to smoke. At one point while visiting in Professor Welch's home, he had the predictable misfortune to fall asleep in his bedroom while intoxicated - and smoking - and woke up to find that he had burned a large hole in the bed clothes. Instead of owning up to his reckless behavior, Jim decided to cut the charred edges away from the holes in the sheets and blankets, and then to remake the bed so that the damaged bedding would be harder to notice. His cigarette had also burned across a bedside table, and he managed to hide that table in a storeroom that he discovered in the house.
The smoking-in-bed story, and the tale of a lecture given while intoxicated, and a lengthy description of an elder professor driving a car while not minding other traffic, served as the comedic fodder for this novel. Yes, there were several places where I found myself laughing out loud, but for the most part the story was moe generally amusing than it was ribald.
"Lucky Jim" is a comedy of manners, a genteel period piece that reflects the times as they were in the lower branches of academia during the years just following World War II. The Jim Dixon whose life is revealed in the book's pages is undoubtedly representative of Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, and all of the other "angry young men" who were trying to both push and pull British literature - and British thought - into the light of the 20th century.
"Lucky Jim" is an important novel for its clever reflection of academic life in post World War II Britain - but one reading will certainly suffice.
While perhaps shocking to Readers in the 1950s, it just didn't move the needle that much for this Reader in content or humor, although I am sure that the presentation of the stereo-typical educational establishment was hilarious at the time. This Reader awaits the book that pokes fun at the present-day educational establishment, which is equally as pompous and ridiculous.
Top reviews from other countries
Amis's standard comic mode is to ridicule his characters by having the hero view them as if he had just arrived from another planet and had nothing in common with them. The effect of this is to make their every action seem bizarre and inexplicable. While this strategy pays unfailing comedic dividends, it doesn’t exactly make for depth of character, because the characters are always viewed from the outside.
Jim Dixon himself constitutes the measure by which other characters (except Christine) are found wanting. His own beliefs seem to be 1) what he believes is invariably the case, 2) he thinks he is in the wrong job (why did he take it in the first place?), 3) other people are crosses to be borne, and 4) once prettiness in a woman has been established, falling in love with her surely follows.
Having said all of this, it is true that Welch, if not Jim Dixon himself, is one of the great comic characters in literature. And it is pleasant to be back in the days before smartphones and computers when people held one another on the dance floor and wallflowers sat at the side hoping in vain to be invited.
The book concentrates far more on Jim Dixon's complicated love-life involving three women - Margaret, Carol, and Christine. The three women are very different, but all love him to a greater or lesser extent. It is Jim's tragedy (or good fortune, perhaps) to love all three, but not to make any decision as to which one he prefers, much to the ladies' chagrin. He nearly gets to the marital state with one of them, but she withdraws at the last minute.
LUCKY JIM is in many ways a historical document, describing a world of tertiary education that has disappeared forever, where staff didn't have to publish much and the concept of getting money for the university in the form of grants was unheard. Faculty members just had to bowl up, give their classes, and were generally left alone. Dixon's boss, Professor Welsh, has published a little, but not for many years. On the other hand the university environment has not changed as much as we might think: Dixon's department is riven with petty struggles between academic competing with one another for promotion as well as professiorial favor. Jim Dixon has to remain polite to Welsh, even though he cannot stand the senior man. For non-university people, the world should like s hotbed of personal struggles: anyone who has been through this life will recognize it instantly.
Kingsley Amis, for one who cultivated such an acerbic public personality during his lifetime, writes sympathetically. He understands Jim's struggles - most likely the book is more autobiographical than the author would have admitted - and how he is looking for something constructive, both professional and personal. He has to learn how to branch out away from university life to find it, however.
The book itself remains a rattling good read, a record of a world gone by as well as of a world unfortunately dominant in contemporary academe.
This edition of the classic comedy caper has an introduction by David Lodge, which I’m sorry to admit I couldn’t be bothered to read. The book itself is enjoyable enough, though the idea of it being ‘hilariously funny’ as some folk would have it, just isn’t true. Amis writes in a way that must have been refreshing and quite delightful at the time (1954), and though his hero is likeable, the dialogue is peppered with clunky phrases that went out of fashion (if they were ever in), many years ago.
The character of Jim is said to be inspired by the poet Philip Larkin, though in my opinion, Larkin had a gift for humour that is light years away from Amis’s creation. While the author’s comments on culture and, in particular, the pretentious nature of people like the Welch family, is mildly amusing, I’d have to say that the novel doesn’t hold up too well against contemporaries like Graham Greene.
All in all, a bit disappointing.
Fighting his way out of a dusty attic could be a metaphor for what our hero Jim Dixon is doing in this story. He's stuck in world of limited options, not sure how to go further. A working-class grammar school boy (remember those ?) who has scraped a lecturing job in an un-named provincial university, cheekily sticking his nose into a world of drawing-room music recitals where the unavailable prettiest girl in the room and her artist boyfriend talk about chaps they know from the BBC. He gets his girl in the end of course, and a plum job too - the clue is in the title. But that doesn't spoil the plot one little bit. You'll be rooting for Lucky Jim all the way through, right to the hilarious end. How does he get what he wants ? A bit of cleverness; a bit of perseverance; but mostly he's just lucky, right at the moment when he seems to have screwed up everything.
A joy to have this stupidly funny book on my Kindle (even with a few typos) three decades after I first discovered it and sixty years after it was published.