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Next Up: Lucky Jim

I’m ready to move on from the intensity of The Confessions of Nat Turner and read something a little lighter. Enter Lucky Jim.

Lucky Jim was written by Kingsley Amis, and it portrays the sad but comical life of an English professor in post-war England.

The character of Jim is based on Amis himself, as well as influenced by his friendship with the poet Philip Larkin.

Some quick facts about Lucky Jim and Kingsley Amis:

  • The novel was published in 1954.
  • Christopher Hitchens called Lucky Jim the funniest book of the second half of the 20th Century.
  • It’s an early example of a genre called the “campus novel.”
  • Amis, who passed away in 1995, is the father of British novelist Martin Amis (who wrote Money).
  • The Times ranked Kingsley Amis 9th on their list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.
  • Amis is probably most famous for having written Lucky Jim, but he also penned That Uncertain Feeling, Ending Up, Jake’s Thing, and The Old Devils.

Like I said, this novel comes at a perfect time. I love good comedy writing, and I definitely need a mental break from The Confessions of Nat Turner.

Anyone read Lucky Jim?

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15 Comments Post a comment
  1. I read Lucky Jim thirty years ago. I appreciated the writing more than the comedy. Martin Amis is I think a better writer than his father. Experience, his autobiography is possibly his finest work.
    The greatest comic writer of the Twentieth Century is Wodehouse for his Jeeves and Wooster creations

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    October 30, 2014
  2. Ted Fontenot #

    I have to admit I prefer the writer Kingsley to the writer Martin. Kingsley, in fact, is one of my favorites. And I really didn’t keep up with their opinions of each other, but I do remember Kingsley once saying that Martin’s work gives the impression of too much conscious effort. Of being, stylistically, overwritten. I think Martin was hurt. Kingsley’s stuff has more of an air of extemporaneity. But, even at his most outrageous cantankerousness, Kingsley is immensely likable. I think this is because his characters always reveal themselves, and see themselves, as complicit in their being put upon. I highly recommend Stanley and the Women. Yeah, I know it has the reputation of being misogynistic. It’s that and a lot more. Sometimes you should read the loyal opposition. Kingsley also wrote the most feeling novel, The Old Devils, about old people, and of old people in love, and I mean romantic love.

    Like

    October 30, 2014
    • I agree. It’s interesting the massive difference in the characters, as you mention. Kingsley’s are likeable and Martin’s are intensely difficult to like. And there was quite a rift between the two for years over those comments.

      Like

      October 31, 2014
  3. Ted Fontenot #

    I go along with the opinion that Wodehouse is incomparable, the best comedy fiction writer ever. And Wooster/Jeeves is the apex of his achievement, although there are many good novels in The Blandings Saga.

    I will also put in a word for Peter De Vries, a staple of The New Yorker for decades, where I believe he specialized in coming up with captions for the cartoons–indeed, he wrote a bestseller, The Tunnel of Love, about a guy who was no good at the cartoons but great at the captions.

    I recommend highly Comfort Me With Apples, a sunny tale of pretentious youth coming to terms (or not) post-war suburbia, It is filled with funny lines. It’s like they breed. De Vries’s main character works as a columnist for a local paper and becomes a master of the “pepigram”, a combination of the Wildean epigram and the homespun bromide. Later, De Vries’s work turned darker. For that, I recommend Let Me Count the Ways or The Vale of Laughter–or the two brilliant novellas in The Cat’s Pajamas & Witch’s Milk. His earlier schizophrenic tragi-farce (my term), The Blood of the Lamb, is alternately hilarious and wrenching.

    Like

    October 30, 2014
    • I haven’t read any of those texts but I would like to now follow you

      Like

      October 31, 2014
      • Ted Fontenot #

        Great! And I hope you enjoy them as much as I did (and do–for I re-read them). The De Vries sampling is him at his best–he’s a one of a kind.

        For Jeeves/Wooster, the first four novels are all masterpieces: Thank You, Jeeves, Right Ho, Jeeves, The Code of the Woosters, and Joy in the Morning.

        For The Blandings Saga, I’d recommend starting with the last Psmith novel: Leave it to Psmith. Others that are excellent are Summer Lightning, Heavy Weather, Uncle Dynamite, Full Moon.

        Liked by 1 person

        October 31, 2014
  4. I read the novel 20 years ago while staying in England for a year. I had a great laugh then, and, yes, it saved my life.

    Like

    October 30, 2014
  5. I read it during my freshman year of college and, while I enjoyed it, I think I read it too quickly. It seems like a re-read is sorely overdue.

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    October 30, 2014
  6. I loved this book so much… it is a lnadmark of my youth

    Like

    October 30, 2014
  7. I read it first years ago in my late teens and it was okay, it didn’t grab me but… Then I re-read it for book group a year or so back and hated it, it was so dated, I didn’t find it funny and I couldn’t wait to finish it. However, two of the older ladies in the group loved it, I guess it was of their generation.

    Like

    October 30, 2014
  8. Great book. Enjoy!

    Like

    October 30, 2014
  9. I read it the last year I worked as a college professor. Coincidence? I think not.

    Like

    October 31, 2014
  10. This is one of my favourites. I have read it twice, once when I was in my twenties and more recently in my 50s. Both times I laughed out loud at the description of the scary car ride with Welch, among other episodes. I think Amis’s observation of human nature and his cleverness with language are wonderful I will probably read it again when I want something intelligent but not taxing

    Like

    November 14, 2014

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