Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (1954) 265 p.
Kingsley Amis and Martin Amis (father and son) are two major writers of the 20th century, yet more names on the list that I need to tick off, and Lucky Jim is Kingsley’s most famous novel. It’s a comedy of manners revolving around a young university lecturer who is shambling his way through life in a manner reminiscent of George Costanza – silently loathing those around him, perpetually analysing the motives and opinions of everyone he interacts with, and getting involved in ridiculous social traps.
It’s a 60-year-old novel, but I still found it quite amusing, full of clever turns of phrase and witty dialogue. My favourite moment comes when Jim is speaking to Bertrand, an artist he hates, and entertains the notion of “devoting the next ten years to working his way to a position as art critic on purpose to review Bertrand’s work unfavourably.” The book suffers when it moves out of comedic territory and wander towards serious romance, which it does quite a bit of in the second half. I didn’t find it a struggle to read, but it was certainly slow to grab my attention, and I suspect it’s the kind of mid-century novel that will fade from my memory.