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Amber's Thoughts

Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series

 

 

A Comic Classic: Lucky Jim

Lucky Jim - Kingsley Amis, Keith Gessen

I wish I could hide behind some papers at a faculty assembly and make my Martian Invader face, or close the door to my office after some event of special academic absurdity and leap about in an ape imitation as private commentary. Lucky Jim is dangerous reading for an underpaid college lecturer. His ways of coping with such a position could get a person in trouble, if anyone opened the door or looked. I’ll have to recommend reading about his creative behaviors, not doing them. Laughing out loud is stress relief enough. When Jim copes unwisely, by drinking, his blunders are as funny as his faces, and the description of a hangover early in the book is somehow one of the most guffaw-inducing paragraphs I’ve ever read. The book is sixty years old and the only thing dated about it is the smoking. Colleges haven’t changed that much and human nature, not at all.

            The art of humor isn’t easy, and it takes mastery of language and characterization to do it well. Amis describes people and their eccentricities with relentless accuracy, seen through Jim Dixon’s occasionally fogged up glasses. Even the people Jim likes come across as vividly in their flaws as in their virtues. The girl he falls in love with is not a paragon, but the reader can see their compatibility and root for them to succeed as a couple. Their relationship, like the whole book, is a triumph of mischief and the urge for liberation, over conformity to the things other people expect of us.

            This novel is also a compassionate and hilarious exploration of the very nature of frustration. The annoying over-achieving student, the professor whose every word and mannerism drive Jim crazy, a slow bus and everything that delays it when punctuality is matter of unbearable romantic importance, are conveyed with comic perfection. This being a comedy, of course the seemingly worst possible outcomes in Jim’s professional life and even his most egregious mistakes turn out to be for best, but the suspense as to how he’ll get out of his difficulties doesn’t let up until the end.

            Lucky you, if you discover Lucky Jim.