Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Why did this book end up on my reading list? Was it a recipient or runner-up for a major award? Recommended from a trustworthy friend? I have no idea! But once it ended up on my book shelves, it was inevitable I would eventually read it. What a disappointment! But, lucky for me, Lucky Jim was a quick read.
Lucky Jim is a British farce. Could it get any worse than that? I guess there are some readers who would enjoy this book, but I have no idea who. If it were purely a script for a 1940’s movie, I’m sure it would have fared well. A state-of-the-art black and white cinema screen depicting a fat stodgy absent minded professor with his big bosomed, shrill voiced, elitist wife. And the professor’s inept, oafish assistant – that would be Jim – with a few manipulative, whining, stereotype female characters for filler.
Kingsley Amis’ descriptives of Jim were strange and for the most part irrelevant. What must have been meant to appear funny was actually annoying and down right disgusting… Jim’s temper tantrums, his childish destructive pranks, and his inane antics… actions generally associated with an adolescent bratty punk rather than a twenty-something college teacher. Throughout the story Kingsley refers to Jim’s facial expressions as though all his reactions were as insincere as coming from a cartoon character… or maybe Kingsley just lacked the verbal skills to express Jim’s emotions. He writes descriptives like – Jim put on “his tragic face”, “his Chinese mandarin face”, “his lemon-sucking face”, and “his Evelyn Waugh face”… whatever that implies.
And speaking of Evelyn Waugh, there is a quote on the front cover of the Viking paperback edition that Lucky Jim was as funny as Evelyn Waugh “at his best”. This is absolutely – without any doubt – just not true. For one thing, even when Evelyn Waugh was being funny, there was usually a deep dramatic story involved. And second, Evelyn Waugh was naturally witty, presenting humorous scenes and comical dialogues that are natural and seemingly authentic. Even in writing satire, Evelyn Waugh’s characters always appear to be real people. Kingsley Amis’ wit is grossly-exaggerated staged humor… slapstick and totally ludicrous. There is really no comparison so I suggest you don’t waste your time on this one.
Rated 1 Star… with Kingsley Amis removed from my list of interesting authors.
All contents © 2014 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.