Do you have any idea how pretentious it must have sounded to introduce yourself as Kingsley Amis your entire life? Had to be positively dreadful.
Anyway, he’s the guy who wrote Lucky Jim. Lucky Jim has been on my Kindle for almost 3 years. I can’t remember why I grabbed it. Maybe I saw it on some suggested reading list and then sat there thinking better of it every time I was due to read a new book. Who knows?
I think I might have read the introduction for the book, which is not something I enjoy. This go round, I tried to read the introduction and gave up on it fairly quickly and instead decided to just read the stupid book (which isn’t stupid, but my mood dictated that I think of it as that stupid book).
The book’s weird. So weird. And enjoyable. Once you start to deal with the weird.
It follows a reluctant academic at a small college in England as he nears the end of his first year at the school. He’s dealing with the normal trappings of academia: dealing with students, trying to publish journal articles, and doing his best to avoid conversations with his boss about dealing with students and trying to publish journal articles.
As a faculty member, it’s a little weird to read this book. It’s a different enough academic world that it doesn’t quite feel like looking into a mirror, but it’s still close enough to be creepy. You get to see out-of-touch intellectuals monologuing about the world outside they don’t interact with, you get to see petty grievances between colleagues, and you get to see attempted suicides by coworkers. Ok, maybe that last one isn’t common, but the others are.
The real trick with reading this book is I couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to be. For some reason, I got it in my head that this was a dark, depressing book, which is what it sometimes feels like, instead of a comedy, which is what I think it’s meant to be.
It took basically 100 pages to get this all sorted out.
The book is very British. The sense of humor is so dry it will burn your skin. You get major ordeals over trivial things and then very mundane reactions to things that should be serious. You also get very convoluted wording throughout that screws with your ability to follow along at times.
That said, once I got the rhythm of the book, I enjoyed it. I found someone to relate to in the titular Jim, though I worry that’s a little like relating to Holden Caulfield or Charlie from Perks of Being a Wallflower. The character doesn’t largely get along with the world around him, plays the stupidest pranks to avoid normal interactions, and spends most of his time making faces when no one can see.
The book has the honor of having the only love heptagonal I’ve ever seen. It was difficult to figure out who’s on first.
I think the one thing that threw me off the most was plagiarism (well really it was outright theft in whole) of someone’s work. As an academic, I would punch someone over that. But I also live in the age of internet and digital copies hiding all over the place, so outright stealing someone else’s work would be less feasible (though you’d be shocked how often people plagiarize or inappropriately recycle content).
One the whole, I’d recommend this to anyone who likes the English sense of humor and to anyone who just needs a dose of weird in a mundane setting. As for me, I have no idea what I’ll be reading next. All I know is I have a cold and a headache, so I’m calling it a night. Bonne nuit.