Among all the two men’s accomplishments, Lucky Jim remains unique. Larkin, especially, would do much to make poetry of depressed and declining middle age (‘Life is first boredom, then fear/Whether or not we use it, it goes.’), and Amis’s later work is not insensible to the grotesquery of trying to live the rest of your life as if you were 25. Lucky Jim is their one document of youth, their youth. It is in a way as optimistic as it is angry. Jim’s rages are impotent rages, his small acts of vandalism useless and self-destructive – and yet he undertakes them in the belief that they are not meaningless, that the world he is disparaging can be changed. Lucky Jim is a weirdly hopeful book, written when the failures of the men whose sensibilities and lives it captured, as well as the successes, still lay very much in the future. In 1951 all these things were something to imagine and laugh at. Lucky Jim is a lucky book, snatched improbably from time, the product of a collaboration, both editorial and spiritual, that neither writer, once firmly established, could afford to attempt again.
—From Keith Gessen’s introduction to Lucky Jim, up at the New Statesman, about the germination of the book in Kingsley Amis’s friendship with Philip Larkin. Amis died seventeen years ago today, but we hope to keep his books alive by publishing ten of them over the next few years—Lucky Jim and The Old Devils are first, to be followed by The Green Man and The Alteration. And the great thing about Amis’s career is that there is a novel for every age (and mood).