Who Is The Old Man And The Gun Based On Sir Kingsley Amis and the era of Lucky Jim

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Sir Kingsley Amis and the era of Lucky Jim

Kingsley Amis was a modernist and popular writer who began his career as a major and ended up promoting an image of curmudgeonly conservatism. He was well known in 1990. Amis is remembered first and foremost for Lucky Jim (1954). The title became a legend in the 50s along with “I’m all right Jack” – a film made famous by Ian Carmichael who also played Jim Dixon in the film based on Lucky Jim. The challenge for modern readers is to understand why this book was so popular at the time.

Post-war Britain was a very dirty place, a country of demographics and social policies. The Education Act of 1944 allowed promising young people from the middle and working classes to attend university; and it was intended as a social movement to break down the old barriers of class and privilege and bring to New Britain justice and equality after the most destructive war in history.

Lucky Jim’s main theme is that of a fish out of water. A working young man has become a university teacher and is trying to understand the whole business of education. What is the relationship between the knowledge of Latin and the works of Matthew Arnold and the work of the profession? Lucky Jim was not so lucky: he came far from home and found himself nowhere to go.

The lyrics included by Amis were ‘Angry Young Man’ and a member of ‘The Movement.’ The latter was created in 1954, by the Literary Editor of The Spectator, to include new writers Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, DJ Enright, John Wain, Elizabeth Jennings, and Robert Conquest. John Wain denied the existence of any such group in 1957.

Angry Young Men is a standard term associated with John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger (1956); and the readers of the first twenty-two years, who will not listen, are asked to believe that it was really interesting in its day. Osborne, Amis, Colin Wilson, and Alan Sillitoe were all Angry Boys.

What he was angry about was the speed of social change. They may have been trained as protégés of New Britain but met with a lot of British criticism. For them the war was not about the preservation of the cottage weekend and the fun of the golf game. He found himself in a similar position – or so it seemed at the time. Soon, the 1960s, because of its excesses and stupidity, was sweeping the dust from the old rooms of Albion – especially the old shame of class and respectability of the beloved English gentry.

During this time, living standards gradually rose from their wartime lows. Martin Amis, who followed his father as a successful writer, remembered growing up in the 1950s in a world of nappies drying on the stove and a tin bath in front of an open cupboard with bread and dripping with suet pud. The sun hadn’t shone in the fifties and all the houses were wet and pitifully cold.

Kingsley Amis had three children with his first wife and could not give up his teaching job and risk becoming a full-time writer, despite the income coming from his books and Lucky Jim film rights. After leaving Swansea, he worked in Cambridge and the United States for two years.

To make money in the 60s he completed Ian Fleming’s final James Bond novel The Man With The Golden Gun (1965) and wrote the Bond novel Colonel Sun (1968) under the pseudonym Robert Markham. He was a fan of science fiction along with Robert Conquest.

Amis was also a poet and lifelong friend of Philip Larkin who wrote so well that Amis was in awe. They correspond frequently and many of their letters have been published. Larkin famously declared: ‘We are the last generation that will write to each other.’ But they couldn’t wait for the internet and e-mail.

Apart from books and poetry, Amis also wrote fiction. Rudyard Kipling and His World (1975) is an examination of the author at risk of Political Correctness. Memoirs (1990) shows Amis criticizing all the people he was proud of – of which there were quite a few – whose reputations were reserved for Dylan Thomas and Roald Dahl. However, there are images of conviviality in the book and pub fun. Background figures include Peter Quennell who helped publish many of Amis’s books and the American scholar Paul Fussell who wrote in praise of Amis.

Read the full story at:

http://www.literature-study-online.com/essays/amis.html

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