Wednesday, April 21, 2004

On a completely different note, "Lucky Jim" by Kinglsey Amis offers a cynical look at academe in the forties and fifties, well before the radical sixties. Yet, the ambiance of the book, the complete and utter cynicism and the attitude of Jim Dixon, the protagonist, all give what should have been a scent on the wind of the 60s. Jim is completely the opposite of the "engaged" employee. He is, in fact, more like the crew of "Office Space" than like anyone around him. He is not playing the game for rehire very well, and he constantly shoots himself in the metaphorical foot. I laughed a lot. Some of the funnier stuff here came as a quick blow of surprise, and was as contemporary as could be. If you work in academia you will enjoy the irony even more. I had seen the BBC production of a few years ago, and enjoyed that, but I thought perhaps the humor was colored by a contemporary slant. Nope, it was all in the book.

I do think that "Pictures from an Institution" by Randall Jarrell is a more artfully crafted and more compassionate look at the academic scene, while being bitingly ironic as well. Oddly enough, both novels appeared in 1954.