Lucky Jim (New York Review Books Classics)

Lucky Jim (New York Review Books Classics)

Kingsley Amis

Language: English

Pages: 296

ISBN: 1590175751

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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 with whom Dixon must contend in one way or another in order to hold on to 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.”

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suggestion and, in part, under his advice. These facts had been there for all to read in the Acknowledgements, but Dixon, whose policy it was to read as little as possible of any given book, never bothered with these, and it had been Margaret who’d told him. That had been, as near as he could remember, on the morning before the evening when Margaret had tried to kill herself with sleeping-pills. When Welch said in a far-away half-shout, ‘Oh, by the way, Dixon,’ Dixon turned to him with real

asking?’ Michie asked as they turned downhill into College Road. Dixon did mind, but said only: ‘Well, I think the main emphasis of the thing will be social, you know.’ He was trying to stop himself from thinking directly about the official title of his subject, which was ‘Medieval Life and Culture’. ‘I thought I might start with a discussion of the university, for instance, in its social role.’ He comforted himself for having said this by the thought that at least he knew it didn’t mean

next one’s what they called a ballet. Of course, they didn’t mean what we mean by the similar . . . Rather a well-known one, this. It’s called Now is the Month of Maying. Now if you’ll all just . . .’ A bursting snuffle of laughter came from Dixon’s left rear. He glanced round to see Johns’s pallor rent by a grin. The large short-lashed eyes were fixed on him. ‘What’s the joke?’ he asked. If Johns were laughing at Welch, Dixon was prepared to come in on Welch’s side. ‘You’ll see,’ Johns said.

books, its filing cabinets full of antique examination papers and of dossiers relating to past generations of students, its view from closed windows on to the sunlit wall of the Physics Laboratory. Behind Welch’s head hung the departmental timetable, drawn up by Welch himself in five different-coloured inks corresponding to the five teaching members of the Department. The sight of this seemed to undam Dixon’s mind; for the first time since arriving at the College he thought he felt real,

looked at the telephone where it stood on a black plush cloth in the middle of a bamboo table situated in Miss Cutler’s drawing-room. He felt like an alcoholic surveying a bottle of gin; only by using it could he obtain the relief he wanted, but its side-effects, as recent experience had proved, were likely to be deleterious. He must cancel the tea-date with Christine, now only six hours ahead. To do that he must take the chance of Mrs Welch answering the phone. This, in other circumstances a

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