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Monday, December 07, 2015

Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis

Maybe an Angry Young Man, but certainly a deft comic novel.
Book Review
Lucky Jim (1954)
 by Kingsley Amis

  If you like contemporary English comedy, whether in book, television or film, you like Lucky Jim, you just may not know it yet.  Lucky Jim is a primary text for understanding 20th century English comedy.   Early Kingsley Amis is either a prime example of the "Angry Young Man" genre of English literature OR a temporal associate with some similarities and more striking differences with the "Angry Young Man" genre of English literature.   I actually had a conversation about this subject last night with inclusive results, ("The Wikipedia page on Angry Young Men lists Amis in the first paragraph,"  "Yeah, but did you read the actual article, it says that he isn't really part of it.")

  Another example of "Angry Young Man" English literature is Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse, which of course was published in 1959.   Generally, "Angry Young Men" literature can be described as post World War II "kitchen sink" plots with a wry awareness of changes in contemporary society and the role of class and education for young men.   The gender part of the term is crucial, English literature was hardly at the forefront  of sponsoring diverse voices before the 1960s.
  Lucky Jim is also an academic novel, which is a genre that is barely emerging in the 1950s- I can think of John Barth- who published The Floating Opera- which is certainly also an academic novel, in the United States, in 1958.   The academic novel is still out there in contemporary English language fiction and also exists in the literature in other languages.  These novels concern themselves with the minutiae of individuals who work as professors or assistant professors. their lives and loves.  The academic location is like an update of the English Country House novel of the 19th century- a place where people have ample time and energy for ridiculous emotional shenanigans.


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