Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim is a classic. It's one of the first comic send offs of the English style higher academic system, and tells the story of Jim Dixon, a young lecturer at a small British college. Although Jim drinks too much and is somewhat of a cad, he is less annoying that everybody else in the book, and you find yourself rooting for him despite yourself. I felt an obligation to read this book due to its history and the genre it started, but it really wasn't that enjoyable and I don't recommend it unless you appreciate dry British humor and Jane Austen style dialog driven stories. In fact, Lucky Jim is what would have happened if Jane Austin had written The Big U (which I recommend instead).
Jim is a history professor serving his first year of probationary duty. And, duty it is. As low man on the totem pole, he gets to lecture on merry ole medieval Englanda topic shunned and seriously avoided by the rest of the department. Her you will find all of the stuffiness, smug self-centeredness, egocentric, mind-numbing, sometimes boorish world of academia. I've been there as you can probably tell. Anyway, this book starts out slooooowly but finally picks up some steam when he inveigles himself with some wacky dames and the family of his out-to-lunch department head. Some of it is witty and at any rate it is a pretty good jab at academia.
I first read this when I was 18, was shocked at how much the "hero" hated so many people with, I thought, so little reason. As I got older I learned that some people just have a low threshold for irritation. The writing is brilliant, original and stunning. Amis scrutinizes his surroundings with a ferocity which reveals local color which no other novelist seems to even notice. His language is succinct, and quite devastating in its savagery.
The book contains some famously hilarious scenes, such as the description of a morning after, and the scene where his hero delivers a lecture drunk. But my favorite is the one where he takes a bus to the train station in hopes of seeing the girl he wants before she leaves town, and every imaginable delay drives him to distraction.
Note: To compare this book to Jane Austen is laughably wide of the mark, Nor is it "dry British humor."
My nominee for the funniest book in the English language. Very British. Follows the short career of a professor hoping for a permanent job and fouling up royally. First 10 pp. or so off-putting, but if you survive those, it's golden.
Though there were some laugh out loud moments in this book, overall I didn't like it very much. I had read it several years ago and didn't care for it, but since it is a British classic, I thought maybe if I read it again, it might actually be more enjoyable this time around. Not the case. It wasn't that it was bad, it just wasn't my cup of tea.
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."
This is a very humorous satire about a young academic, Jim Dixon, who works as a medieval history professor at one of England's provincial universities during the 1950's. It pokes fun at people who take themselves too seriously and the boring dinner parties one must attend. Kingsley's writing is amazing and quite poetic at times. It's filled with wit and lots of wisdom. This book is truly a masterpiece and should be read by everyone.