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David (John) Lodge Biography

David Lodge Comments:

(1972) My novels belong to a tradition of realistic fiction (especially associated with England) that tries to find an appropriate form for, and a public significance in, what the writer has himself experienced and observed. In my case this experience and observation include such things as: lower-middle-class life in the inner suburbs of South East London; a wartime childhood and a postwar "austerity" adolescence; Catholicism; education and the social and physical mobility it brings; military service, marriage, travel, etc. My first, second, and fourth novels are "serious" realistic novels about such themes, the last of them, Out of the Shelter, which is a kind of Bildungsroman, being, as far as I am concerned, the most inclusive and most fully achieved.

My third novel, The British Museum Is Falling Down, was something of a departure in being a comic novel, incorporating elements of farce and a good deal of parody. I plan to write more fiction in the comic mode, as I enjoy the freedom for invention and stylistic effect it affords. On the other hand, I have not (like many contemporary writers) lost faith in traditional realism as a vehicle for serious fiction. The writer I admire above all others, I suppose, is James Joyce, and the combination one finds in his early work of realistic truthtelling and poetic intensity seems to me an aim still worth pursuing.

As an academic critic and teacher of literature with a special interest in prose fiction, I am inevitably self-conscious about matters of narrative technique, and I believe this is a help rather than a hindrance. I certainly think that my criticism of fiction gains from my experience of writing it.

(1981) Since writing the above I have come to have less faith in the viability of the traditional realistic novel of the kind that seeks, by suppressing the signs that it is written and narrated, to give the illusion of being a transparent window upon the real. This shift of attitude does not entail abandoning the novel's traditional function of engaging with, organizing and interpreting social-historical experience—merely being open about the necessarily conventional and artificial ways in which it does so. My last two works of fiction, therefore, have a prominent "metafictional" thread running through them through which the self-consciousness about fictional technique referred to above is allowed some play in the texts themselves—licenced by comedy in Changing Places, but with more serious thematic intent in How Far Can You Go?

(2000) The comic-carnivalseque-metafictional strain in my fiction that started with The British Museum Is Falling Down perhaps reached its fullest development in Small World: An Academic Romance (1974). After that book I began to move back towards a more realistic, and perhaps more "serious," engagement with my material, though still aiming to amuse, and still experimenting with narrative technique. Nice Work (1988), for instance, has a playful intertextual relationship with certain Victorian Industrial Novels, but it also attempts to give a faithful account of what it was like to work in industry and academia in England in the 1980s, the Thatcher years. Nice Work was also the most "researched" of my books to date, since the industrial side of the story was unknown territory to me when I first got the idea. This set the pattern for subsequent work. The basic story of Paradise News (1991)—the hero's visit to his dying aunt in Honolulu—was based on personal experience, but I made two research trips to Hawaii and did a great deal of reading in modern theology and about tourism before beginning the novel. Therapy (1995) drew on personal experience of depression and knee surgery, but involved extensive reading of Kierkegaard. In these two novels I made extensive use of first-person narrative for the first time in my work since Ginger You're Barmy, but with more variation and conscious artifice than in that early novel. This will also be a feature of my next full-length novel, to be published in 2001. I try to write novels that tell more than one story, that have several levels of meaning and many voices, that will entertain but also provoke thought, that reflect contemporary social reality, but at the same time acknowledge their debt to literary tradition.

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