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Lucky Jim

Lucky Jim

4.1 16
by Kingsley Amis, Keith Gessen (Introduction)

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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


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.”

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Lucky Jim illustrates a crucial human difference between the little guy and the small man. And Dixon, like his creator, was no clown but a man of feeling after all.” – Christopher Hitchens
“Mr. Kingsley Amis is so talented, his observation is so keen, that you cannot fail to be convinced that the young men he so brilliantly describes truly represent the class with which his novel is concerned….They have no manners, and are woefully unable to deal with any social predicament. Their idea of a celebration is to go to a public bar and drink six beers. They are mean, malicious and envious….They are scum.” – W. Somerset Maugham
“’After Evelyn Waugh, what?’ this reviewer asked six years ago….The answer, already, is Kingsley Amis, the author of Lucky Jim….Satirical and sometimes farcical, they are derived from shrewd observation of contemporary British life, and they occasionally imply social morals….Lucky Jim is extremely funny. Everyone was much amused, and since it is also a kind of male Cinderella or Ugly Duckling story, it left its readers goo-humored and glowing.”  —Edmund Wilson, The New Yorker, 1956

“I was recommended [Kinglsey Amis’ Lucky Jim] when I was a teenager trying to figure out how to start reading 'serious' books. Great recommendation, because on the surface it’s nothing of the sort, but it is brilliant.” —Hugh Dancy, T: The New York Times Style Magazine
“Remarkable for its relentless skewering of artifice and pretension, Lucky Jim also contains some of the finest comic set pieces in the language.” —Olivia Laing, The Observer

“Remarkably, Lucky Jim is as fresh and surprising today as it was in 1954. It is part of the landscape, and it defines academia in the eyes of much of the world as does no other book, yet if you are coming to it for the first time you will feel, as you glide happily through its pages, that you are traveling in a place where no one else has ever been. If you haven’t yet done so, you must.” —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

Product Details

New York Review Books
Publication date:
NYRB Classics Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are Saying About This

David Lodge
"A classic comic novel, a seminal campus novel, and a novel which seized and expressed to the mood who came of age in the 1950s. But there is more to it than that...it's university setting functions primarily as the epitome of a stuffy, provincial bourgoise world into which the hero is promoted by education, and against his values and codes he rebels, at first inwardly and at last outwardly."
Anthony Burgess
"Dixon make little dents in these smug fabric of hypocritical, humbugging, classdown British society...Amos cought the mood of post-war restiveness in a book which, does socially significant, wise, and still is extremely funny."

Meet the Author

Kingsley Amis (1922–1995) was a popular and prolific British novelist, poet, and critic, widely regarded as one of the greatest satirical writers of the twentieth century. He won an English scholarship to St. John’s College, Oxford, where he began a lifelong friendship with fellow student Philip Larkin. Following army service in World War II, he completed his degree and joined the faculty at the University College of Swansea in Wales. Lucky Jim, his first novel, appeared in 1954 to great acclaim and won a Somerset Maugham Award; from that point on he would publish roughly a book a year. Amis received the Booker Prize for his novel The Old Devils (also available from NYRB Classics) in 1986 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990.

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Lucky Jim 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lucky Jim is a satirical tale about a disaffected youth Jim Dixon, an old guard English professor and relevant to today opinions about the class system and distribution of wealth. One of the themes, logically so, is incongruence. Jim is torn, he at once abhors his stuffy professor yet needs him to secure a teaching post the subject of which he hates. Jim dislikes his nemesis Bertrand’s pretentiousness yet he is attracted to Bertrand’s girlfriend, the beautiful trophy Christine. Oh, and by the way Bertrand is the professor’s son. Like Jim readers will experience some incongruity of their own as they react to him. You’ll either be amused by Jim’s antics or frustrated by them, you’ll like him or hate him but you will not be indifferent. I experienced a few laugh-out-loud moments as I worked my way through this challenging read. For me it was worth it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My buddies and I read this book for our book group. We are all educated and pretty well-read and were looking forward to a well-written comedy (as advertised). We all agreed that the book was very difficult to get through. The plot was original for its time, and the character development was thorough. The readability, however, was nonexistent. The author's monotony stifled any potential enjoyment I might have had. It was a chore to read. By the time I was halfway through this short book, I was already counting the pages until the end. The others in the group agreed with the sentiment. It seems, however, we are in the minority of those who reviewed this book, so perhaps it is best to take our opinion with a grain of salt.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Funnier than Wodehouse.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This humourous tale features English professor, schoolmaster, Jim Dixon; whose travels through academia, and love, are often, hilarious. With lively characters, Kingsley Amis, author of Take A Girl Like You, and the Green Man, paints a portrait of English life and love that can be interesting, to say the least, for our hero Jim. Christine, the love he seeks, is also an interesting character, his friend and sometimes confidant, Margaret, are drawn with an interesting touch. A lighthearted read. Of course, the British expressions might throw one off, but do not detract too much. Worth a look.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the hilarious story of Jim Dixon, an unhappy college lecturer who dreams of escaping his job. For anyone who has ever felt 'stuck' in a job, Jim Dixon is your hero. But most of all, the book is amazing for it's constant stream of laugh-out-loud observations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love a book that I can lie down and roll around in, so to speak, and 'Lucky Jim' is just that. Amis' descriptions of people and things (Dixon's hangover, his violent and childish fantasies, Bertrand's eyes, etc.) are so unique and delightful that I was often laughing out loud while marvelling at his literary dexterity. Dixon's faces are often better when they're only named, not described - the Martian Invader face, the Sex Life in Ancient Rome face... The wit of this book is biting and Dixon's pain and helpless anger is palpable as he struggles through fusty academia, the arty weekend and the business of Margaret. I savored it, much as I savored 'Cold Comfort Farm.' I highly recommend 'Lucky Jim' to anyone with a keen sense of humor and irony.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first encountered Kingsley Amis because his study of science fiction, 'New Maps of Hell,' was on a 1961 Harvard reading period list. Though I read little fiction, I bought 'Lucky Jim' because I'd been impressed by that study. The novel is the only book that has ever made me laugh aloud. I've re-read it many times since: it is so hilarious I still laugh aloud when Amis describes Lucky Jim's 'faces,' his voices, and -- especially -- his frantic effort to obscure evidence of the destruction his cigarette did to bedclothes.
Flowerodesert More than 1 year ago
This book, Lucky Jim, is about a loser, a man who is constantly finding himself making all the social mistakes he desperately wants to avoid. Jim is a new college professor on probation who wants to be made permanent while at the same time finds himself bored with the work and loathing his boss. Even as Jim attempts to make a good impression on his boss, he finds himself making stupid mistakes that nearly guarantee he will not be offered a permanent job. At the same time, Jim falls in love with the gorgeous young girlfriend of his boss's son. It is a situation that leaves the reader both cringing every time Jim does something stupid and cheering him along, hoping he will walk away with both the girl and the job.