Title: Lucky Jim
Author: Kingsley Amis
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: NYRB Classics
Awards: Somerset Maugham Award (1955)
Finished Reading: November 13, 2014
About: “Regarded by many as the finest, and funniest, comic novel of the twentieth century, Lucky Jim remains as trenchant, withering, and eloquently misanthropic as when it first scandalized readers in 1954. This is the story of Jim Dixon, a hapless lecturer in medieval history at a provincial university who knows better than most that “there was no end to the ways in which nice things are nicer than nasty ones.” Kingsley Amis’s scabrous debut leads the reader through a gallery of emphatically English bores, cranks, frauds, and neurotics when whom Dixon must contend in one way or another in order to hold on tho his cushy academic perch and win the girl of his fancy.
More than just a merciless satire of cloistered college life and stuffy postwar manners, Lucky Jim is an attack on the forces of boredom, whatever form they may take, and a work of art that at once distills and extends an entire tradition of English comic writing, from Fielding and Dickens through Wodehouse and Waugh. As Christopher Hitchens has written, “If you can picture Bertie or Jeeves being capable of actual malice, and simultaneously imagine Evelyn Waugh forgetting about original sin, you have the combination of innocence and experience that makes this short romp so imperishable.”
I was scrolling through WordPress reading articles and reviews at work, when I got an IM from the woman next to me. She asks if I’ve read that book. I had no idea what she was talking about. She said she’d been peaking over my shoulder and saw Lucky Jim pop up. When I told her I had not, she went on to say how wonderful it was and that I absolutely needed to read it. While I was adding it to my “to-read” list, she plopped it down next to me. She warned me it was insanely British.
She was right. It is insanely British. The whole book is a barrage of awkward moments. To begin with, I’m not much of a fan of Brit Lit. My history goes back to Jane Eyre, and Pride and Prejudice, and other “classics”. I just didn’t care of the subtle nuances that were supposed to be huge deals. Holy crap! He twitched his mouth; you know what that means?! It means he’s falling for the fair maiden and he’s making a rather funny joke. Get it? It means I don’t give a shit!
I figured I would try this book out since it came so highly recommended and is supposedly a comedy. I did not laugh. I don’t even think I smiled – not once. I do, however, recall thinking That was clever or Oh, I see what they did there or How apropos. Maybe it was because I was sick and really didn’t see or want to see the humor. I didn’t feel much like laughing, but I doubt that’s really what was going on.
Everyone writes or talks about the scene where Dixon (main character) is looking at himself in the mirror and making faces. I’ve heard and read numerous times how that was the best part of the book. The funniest. Laugh-outloud-able. I did not laugh. I did not smile.
Let’s get something straight. I’m not an Oscar the Grouch. I love to laugh and I love to smile, but I only do so when something is funny. And this book, just didn’t cut the cake. Again, it could totally just have been because I was feeling under the weather…and if I were to read it again this book would make me wet my pants. I’m not going to re-read this book. Sorry Amis.
My rating and why: I gave this book 2.5/3 stars. I read it and it was ok. It wasn’t horrible, but it’s definitely not my cup of tea. It was just “ok”. My outlook on Brit Lit hasn’t changed. Maybe I’m just a silly American and can’t understand subtly. Maybe this book is just overrated. Maybe the people that love this book are pretentious. Maybe nobody really loves this book, but they know it’s regarded highly, so they pretend. I know I’m in the minority with this one, but that’s ok. I’ll just sit over here with my coffee and move on.
Your turn! Do you like Brit Lit? Have you read Lucky Jim? Is my review completely ridiculous and I should be banned from literature for forever? Let me know in the comments below! Like. Comment. Follow. New book review to come tomorrow.
Until next time my fellow bibliophiles!