Townhouse Books

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lucky Jim: by Kingsley Amis

My favorite line:

"I just wondered," Beesley said, bringing out the curved nickel-banded pipe round which he was trying to train his personality, like a creeper up a trellis.


round which he was trying to train his personality... So good.

Another good one:

He felt for his cigarettes, but before he could use the offer of one of these as a means of breaking her pose, she switched back to him with a little smile which he recognized, with self-dislike, as consciously brave.


I picked this up after reading two reviews of the new Kingsley Amis biography. I've read a few of his son's books, Martin Amis, but had never read Kingsley.

In Lucky Jim, our protagonist, James Dixon, is a pathetic academic sinking in a field barely of his own choosing. He has a secret face he makes for numerous events, cruelly judges everyone (including himself) and observes life with a brilliant and wry turn of phrase.

Pros: Incredibly keen descriptions, satire that makes you laugh out loud, excellent prose, properly exposes the worst in people

Cons: Irritating main character, unpleasant people abound, and foreignness -- university life in England in the 1950s. Though a slim novel, I took an accidental break of it for about two weeks, actually forgetting if I'd finished it or not.

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6 Comments:

  • See, if someone else wrote this review I would give Amis a try. But I know how you feel about Updike, so (exclusively) on the topic of reading bitter old white guys I don't trust you!!!

    By Anna, at 8:31 AM  

  • Funny -- I just came across a Metafilter post that references Salman Rushdie's feuds with Martin Amis and John Updike. He told the Guardian that Updike should "stay in his parochial neighborhood and write about wife-swapping, because that's what he can do." Haw!

    By Anna, at 8:38 AM  

  • That is hilarious. Eventually I think I'll get around to really reading Updike and Amis, but right now I'm still not interested. Is it wrong to throw Mailer into that group, too? Perhaps I'm just a spoiled brat. I prefer to think of it as using my limited time in more productive areas. Some writers make me feel like my brain is changing and expanding. Some writers make me feel like they're inviting me into a perfectly created world, but a world that's so insular and particular that I can't carry anything away from it.

    Oh, and it's a world inhabited by useless women. That's awesome, too.

    I'm cranky this morning. I can make more sweeping and uneducated generalizations if you'd like.

    By a.rust, at 9:16 AM  

  • That I forgot about this book for two weeks could be a good indicator that it is quite different from Updike. So, you might like it.

    And for the record, few books are perfect. Updike mishandles women horribly but I can take it because of the genius flow of story/prose, etc. (Also, although we tend to surround ourselves with men who tend to respect women, there are a lot of people out there who are more like Updike's characters.) Science fiction books can give you a new world, if you can slog through the too often crappy writing and atrocious dialog to see it. And mysteries, while there's joy in the repetitiveness, are still repetitive. Everything offers something...

    Back off ladies, or I'll start reading all of Philip Roth (err, queasy at the thought).

    Wait, Anna, I thought you hated the '50s?

    By evt1618, at 11:32 AM  

  • "I'm cranky this morning. I can make more sweeping and uneducated generalizations if you'd like."

    Crankypants!!!
    :)

    By evt1618, at 11:39 AM  

  • "Also, although we tend to surround ourselves with men who tend to respect women, there are a lot of people out there who are more like Updike's characters."

    Not true! Can't hear you! Lalalalalalalala...

    By a.rust, at 10:33 AM  

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