Critical Assessment

“Mr. Amis has successfully accomplished at first shot the rare feat of creating a genuinely comic yet credible character. Dixon is a young lecturer at a northern university, determined to stand on his own feet, who finds that in so doing he is unable to avoid treading on the toes of many of the people around him. Mr. Amis shows him off sympathetically as well as humorously, and his account of the various incidents that cause Dixon’s academic career to be a short but not glorious one makes most enjoyable reading. . . .

“The style of Lucky Jim is at times rough, and Mr. Amis could have afforded to give it a further polish, but he writes with such energy and enjoyment that it matters little. He has a sharp eye for character, which shows in the description of Dixon’s colleagues as well as of Dixon himself, and his dialogue is sometimes brilliant. Altogether Lucky Jim is a notable achievement, not only as a first novel.”

“New Fiction: Standing Alone,” The Times, January 27, 1954.

First Excerpt

“After a few moments he swung his legs back and lay down. The room lifted. He put his feet to the floor. The room stayed still. He put his legs on the bed but didn’t lie down. The room moved. He sat on the edge of the bed. Nothing. He put one leg up on the bed. Something. In fact a great deal. He was evidently in a highly critical condition. Swearing hoarsely, he heaped up the pillows, half-lay, half sat against them, and dangled his legs half-over the edge of the bed. In this position he was able to lower himself gingerly into sleep.

“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.”

t100_novels_lucky_jimSecond Excerpt

“‘Good morning, Professor.’

“Welch recognized him almost at once. ‘Dixon,’ he said.

“‘Yes, Professor?’ Dixon had forgotten until now Margaret’s report that Welch, in common with the other members of his family, was ‘out for his blood’. How would Welch manifest his pursuit of that entity?

“‘I was wondering about the library,’ Welch said, rocking to and fro on his heels. He was looking more than usually wild-eyed and dishevelled this morning. There was a small golden emblem on his tie resembling some heraldic device or other, but proving on closer scrutiny to be congealed egg-yolk. Substantial traces of the same nutritive were to be seen round his mouth, which was now ajar.

“‘Oh yes?’ Dixon asked, hoping to encourage Welch to indicate what point, within the framework of ideas connected with the library, could be taken as the focus of his wonderment.

“‘Do you think you could go there?’

“Dixon began to feel definitely alarmed. Had Welch’s long-heralded derangement finally come to pass? Or was this a bitterly sarcastic way of alluding to Dixon’s own disinclination to approach any possible arena of academic work? Badly rattled now, he stole a glance over his shoulder to make sure that they were, in fact, standing within two paces of the library entrance. ‘I expect so’ seemed the safest sort of reply.”