David Lodge is the author of twelve novels and a novella, including the Booker Prize finalists Small World and Nice Work. He is also the author of many works of literary criticism, including The Art of Fiction and Consciousness and the Novel.
Lodge's (Thinks) meticulously researched but disappointingly tepid "docu-novel" opens in 1915, with Henry James on his death bed, and quickly establishes the context of this take on the great Anglo-American writer's life: James's conflicted jealousy about his friend George Du Maurier's success with the now virtually forgotten novel Trilby, his chaste relationship with the American novelist Constance Fenimore Woolsey, and the fateful evening of January 5, 1895, when his play Guy Domville premiered in London and James was humiliated by the booing from the cheap seats. Why does a man who believes that the theater was noteworthy for "its vulgarity and aesthetic crudity" aspire to be a playwright? For the banal reason that "it was for an author the shortest road to fame and fortune." It may be Lodge's point that James sublimated his desires for love or sex into a longing for acclaim and wealth, but the James of this novel-the second this year to deal with his theatrical career, after Colm Toibin's The Master-is petty, priggish and egocentric in the extreme (his reaction to the apparent suicide of Woolsey: "what he really dreaded was finding some evidence that she had done it on account of him"). Even if this portrayal is accurate-and given the author's scholarly credentials, there's no reason to doubt it-it makes for a singularly undramatic story. Agent, Emilie Jacobson at Curtis Brown. 4-city author tour. (Oct. 11) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
So who's the author of the title? The immortal Henry James, here about to fail as a playwright, or his pal, Punch artist George Du Maurier, who has just become a best-selling author with Trilby? With a four-city author tour; note that Colm Toibin's The Master (LJ 5/1/04) covers similar ground. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A bold new departure for Lodge... his portrait of Henry James
explores an interaction of fragility and strength, delicacy and
force. ("The New York Review of Books")
"A Smart, seductive novel of ideas ... Lodge is at the top of his game."