When he published his first novel, Lucky Jim, in which his misbehaving hero wreaks havoc with the starchy protocols of academic life, Kingsley Amis emerged as a bad boy of British letters. Later he became famous as another kind of bad boy, an inveterate boozer, a red-faced scourge of political correctness. He was consistent throughout in being a committed enemy of any presumed “right thinking,” and it is this, no doubt, that made him one of the most consistently unconventional and exploratory writers of his day, a master of classical English prose who was at the same time altogether unafraid to apply himself to literary genres all too often dismissed by sophisticates as “low.” Science fiction, the spy story, the ghost story were all grist for Amis’s mill, and nowhere is the experimental spirit in which he worked, his will to test both reality and the reader’s imagination, more apparent than in his short stories. These “woodchips from [his] workshop”—here presented in a new selection — are anything but throwaway work. They are instead the essence of Amis, a brew that is as tonic as it is intoxicating.
Although Kingsley Amis's acid satire of postwar British academic life has lost some of its bite in the four decades since it was published, it's still a rewarding read. And there's no denying how big an impact it had back then-- could be considered the first shot in the Oxbridge salvo that brought us , , and so much more.
In , Amis introduces us to Jim Dixon, a junior lecturer at a British college who spends his days fending off the legions of malevolent twits that populate the school. His job is in constant danger, often for good reason. hits the heights whenever Dixon tries to keep a preposterous situation from spinning out of control, which is every three pages or so. The final example of this--a lecture spewed by a hideously pickled Dixon--is a chapter's worth of comic nirvana. The book is not politically correct (Amis wasn't either), but take it for what it is, and you won't be disappointed.