Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis

Jim Dixon is a morose lecturer at a rural British university who executes emotional acrobatics in dealing with his work, his idiotic department head, his quasi-psychotic quasi-girlfriend, his evil housemate, and other obstacles to happiness (or at least financial stability). This naturally requires imbibing large amounts of alcohol and self-humiliation.

Jim is very rude, and he is very, very lucky. He's so ill-behaved one must feel disapproving, but so endearingly desperate that you can't help sympathizing with him.

Amis has a genius for situation and metaphor that is truly unmatched. Here's a choice quote:
"Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad. "

The reader for this 'Books On Tape Special Library Edition', Richard Green, was just awful. He did the various British accents well enough, but his voice has a gravelly, mucousy feel to it that could make anything sound boring. It wasn't until a third of the way through that I realized that this was supposed to be funny and not soul-breakingly sad.

Stick to a print edition where you can properly savor the prose.

No comments: