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Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics) Kindle Edition
Audio, Cassette, Audiobook, Import
'A brilliantly and preposterously funny book' Guardian
'A flawless comic novel ... I loved it then, as I do now. It has always made me laugh out loud' Helen Dunmore, The Times
Jim Dixon has accidentally fallen into a job at one of Britain's new red brick universities. A moderately successful future in the History Department beckons - as long as Jim can stave off the unwelcome advances of fellow lecturer Margaret, survive a madrigal-singing weekend at Professor Welch's, deliver a lecture on 'Merrie England' and resist Christine, the hopelessly desirable girlfriend of Welch's awful son Bertrand. Inspired by Amis's friend, the poet Philip Larkin, Jim Dixon is a timeless comic character, adrift in a hopelessly gauche and pretentious world, in a witty campus novel that skewers the hypocrisies and vanities of 1950s academic life.
With an introduction by David Lodge
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 alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B002RI99E6
- Publisher : Penguin; New Ed edition (25 May 2000)
- Language : English
- File size : 2453 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 276 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #52,132 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from India
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By Priya Banerjee on 19 March 2019
Jim Dixon, the protagonist, is a young lecturer in history in an unspecified English university in the Midlands in the early 1950s. Dixon is a relaxed sort who being put off by the cant and pretensions of his academic colleagues tends to mimic and deprecate them to himself. Much of the humour and the most endearing parts of the novel revolve around this aspect of Dixon's response to his academic setting.
Fearing that his contract will not be renewed, Dixon bows to pressure from his pompous departmental chair, Professor Welch, and agrees to give the end-of-the-term lecture on the topic "Merrie England." Unfortunately, he becomes drunk at the reception and inadvertently mimics the voice of Professor Welch, mocks him, and then passes out. He loses his job, but later wins the heart of the fair lass he has been pursuing, which is a minor plot element in the greater farce of Dixon's attitudes and behaviour. The other equally enduring episode in the novel is when Dixon becomes drunk at a party at Professor Welch's house, falls asleep while smoking, and burns his host's bedclothes.
In re-reading Lucky Jim I found the story line to be rather thin. However, the redeeming aspect of this novel is the portrayal of Jim Dixon as the straightforward and irreverent academic who is repulsed by the cant and pretension of his stuffy academic environment, and who cannot get himself to fit in no matter how hard he tries. His concealed hostility to it all and his bungling attempts to do what he thinks is required of him provide most of the humour. With this re-reading I was struck with how the character of the protagonist, Jim Dixon, resonated with that of Lorenzostein, the protagonist in Mary Smetley's recent novel of that name. It was interesting to see how a more contemporary treatment of the theme of not fitting into academia and of rebellion against cant and pretension was worked out.
Top reviews from other countries
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.
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.