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Modern Classics Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – International Edition, May 30, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 228 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookforum

We still read it for the humor, the biting dialogue, the bitter lines. —Christian Lorentzen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Modern Classics (Book 590)
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classic; New edition (May 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141182598
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141182599
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (228 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,328,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on September 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
In the introduction to the Penguin edition of Kingsley Amis's 1954 novel "Lucky Jim," David Lodge puts forth several possible influences Amis relied upon when writing the novel. Probably the most significant theory advanced by Lodge is that Amis wrote his book with one eye on Graham Greene's novel, "The Heart of the Matter." Lodge convincingly argues that "Lucky Jim" is actually a comic inversion of Greene's story. Of course, if one has not read Greene's novel, this point may not register on the radar. But what is important is that Lodge proves to us that "Lucky Jim" is much more than a collection of funny scenes. Most will read this book because they have heard that it is uproariously funny, which it certainly is, as the book does contain enough humor to cheer up the most heartless people among us. However, don't get hung up on the humor and forget to look deeper.
"Lucky Jim" is set in the seemingly unfunny world of academia, specifically British academia. The hero of the story, James "Jim" Dixon, is a young man on the make, fresh out of school and dutifully working at his first real job; a position in the history department at an obscure provincial university. Jim really hates his job. This hatred stems from the cast of assorted characters Jim must put up with on a daily basis. Jim's biggest problem is Professor Welch, the head of the history department. Welch is a forgetful fool who holds Jim's future job in the palm of his hand. Then there is Margaret, a neurotic fellow lecturer who latches on to Jim and won't let him go. Welch's son Bertrand, an arrogant "artist" who torments Jim while flaunting his girlfriend Christine (who Jim quickly becomes enraptured with, creating a tension that leads to several hilarious confrontations between the Welch family and Jim) also makes an appearance.
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Format: Paperback
Kingsley Amis is one of my favorite writers, and Lucky Jim (1954) of course is probably his most famous novel. It's also his first novel, which makes him one of those writers who spent their entire career trying to live up to early success. Despite Lucky Jim's preeminent reputation, several later novels are at least as good: I'd mention as my personal favorites The Anti-Death League, The Green Man, Ending Up, The Alteration, and The Old Devils.

I think this is my third reading of Lucky Jim. It remains a very enjoyable book. It's the story of Jim Dixon, a history lecturer at a provincial English university shortly after the second world war. Jim is involved in an unsatisfactory relationship with a drippy fellow lecturer called Margaret Peel, who uses emotional blackmail such as implicit suicide attempts (she took sleeping pills after breaking with her previous boyfriend) to keep him on the string. He hates his job, and he hates his boss (Professor Welch) if anything even more, while worrying that he won't be retained for the next school year. He hates phoniness in general, particularly that represented by Professor Welch, who is into recreations of old English music (recorders and all).

The plot revolves mainly around Dixon's growing attraction to Christine Callaghan, a beautiful girl who is nominally Professor Welch's son Bertrand's girlfriend -- but Bertrand is also fooling around with a married woman, and he's a crummy artist to boot. Also, Dixon is working on a lecture about Merrie Olde Englande, which he hopes will impress Professor Welch enough that he can keep his job, but every sentence of which he hates. The resolution is predictable, if rather convenient for Dixon (involving a rich uncle of Christine's), but it satisfies.
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2 Comments 28 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
When it was first published in 1954, it turned the author, Kingsley Amis (the father of Martin, also a fine author), into a celebrated writer and a spokesman for his generation, a position that he didn't seem to want or care about. The novel was "Lucky Jim," and it tells the story of a young academic, Jim Dixon, at work in one of England's provincial universities. The book is hilarious, from the first page (where Jim describes the physical sensation of hangover) to the last, when he leaves the shady groves of academia for a job with better pay in London. Along the way, Jim learns a lot about academic life--he hates recorder concerts, musical evenings, and academic pretentions--and he learns a lot of girls; his main preoccupation.

I keep thinking this book is ripe for a movie version, with someone like Daniel Day-Lewis as the title character; it was made into a film in the 1950s, but I've never seen it and the reviews are not great. The book remains a delight to read, however, and, like all good satires, has some serious points to make, about things that Amis detected, like pretentiousness. "Lucky Jim" is also noteworthy because it launched Amis's career, and he wrote novels, short stories, poems, and journalism for the rest of his life, which ended just last year. He's a very different writer from his son Martin (rumor has it he didn't like Martin's work all that much), but they both share a real gift for comic writing. It is a work that achieves that rare combination of being interesting in a literary sense, but also humorous and a real pleasure to read. I recommend it heartily.
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