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Modern Classics Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – International Edition, May 30, 2000
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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The damaged goods girl is Margaret. The down-to-earth beauty is Catherine. Jim is “lucky” because Margaret is eventually proven to be a grandstander who faked an empty bottle of sleeping pills. Otherwise, readers would not stand for Jim Dixon’s superficial switch to the beautiful Catherine, who is also mismatched with the real comic figure of Bertrand. Not only does he have the English name, he has the beret, the nepotism, and the exaggerated art career. Although he is clearly a cad, a word Amis might not ever use in the book, Jim is not clearly a protagonist. The story is very patient in turning this into clarity.
The love story is a blueprint. Everybody recognizes it, but Amis perfects it by delaying in all the way until page 142. “She said nothing for a moment, then spoke rather in her censorious manner: ‘Even if that were not true, it needn’t prevent me from marrying him’.” She would continue on with Bertrand, whose father is Welch, the tenured professor grown stiff with academic parties, except for some of the nebulous characters in the book. Dixon answered Catherine with a cutting observation, which the book grows full of, “Yes, I know women are all dead keen on marrying men they don’t much like … I mean, he’d always be having rows, and you say you don’t like rows. Are you in love with him?” The last question echoes the Victorian hangover. She answers that she does not know what “love” means.
All of this was set up by the very straight forward hole burning episode. Dixon drinks to excess and then falls asleep smoking in the room Welch has provided for him. Another tricky plot was a cab sabotage. These are two things harder to believe than to just read. The explanation finally comes out on page 181, presumably after the laugh out loud antics like prank phone calls had been revealed as hardly believed.
This sort of book is for me, a book to lift my spirits, and a book to identify with. As much as I have never been a don at any uni much less in the 50's I too make faces and I too groan and I too try to get out of things that are boring. Anyone who says they don't can date Margaret.