by Kingsley Amis
Time 100 Novels, Guardian 1000 Novels
Humor has a hard time holding up over even a decade or two, much less the 60 years since Lucky Jim was written, but it's easy to imagine the events of the novel in a half-hour sitcom. In one scene, Jim wakes up at his boss' house, hung over, to find that in his sleep he has damaged the sheet, blanket, bedside table, and rug with a lit cigarette. But in classic sitcom fashion, he tries to cover up the damage rather than fess up to what he's done. It's the sort of madcap situation that's just as funny today as it was in the 1950's.
Amis' prose adds to the humor. When a paper Jim writes is accepted by an academic magazine, he concludes, "Perhaps the article had had some merit after all. No, that was going too far." This dry British wit and deep cynicism pervades the novel. The humor also helps the reader understand the class struggles that undercut the novel. It's not always easy to relate to British social politics, but it's easy to side with Jim against the rich, pompous, useless blowhards that make up his world, and to take joy in him undermining them with pranks and other small measures of revenge.