|Born||David John Lodge|
28 January 1935
Brockley, London, England
|Occupation||Writer, author, literary critic|
|Notable awards||Hawthornden Prize |
David John Lodge CBE (born 28 January 1935) is an English author and literary critic. A professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham until 1987, he is known for novels satirising academic life, notably the "Campus Trilogy" - Changing Places: A Tale of Two Campuses (1975), Small World: An Academic Romance (1984), and Nice Work (1988). The second two were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Another theme is Roman Catholicism, beginning from his first published novel The Picturegoers (1960). Lodge has also written television screenplays and three stage plays. Since retiring, he has continued to publish literary criticism, which often draws on his experience as a novelist and scriptwriter.
David Lodge was born in Brockley in south-east London. His family home from 1936 to 1959 was at 81 Millmark Grove, a quiet residential street of 1930s terraced houses running from Brockley Cross to Barriedale, Brockley. His father, a violinist, worked in the orchestra pit of south London cinemas playing music to accompany silent movies. Lodge's first published novel The Picturegoers (1960) draws on his early experiences in "Brickley" (based on Brockley), and his childhood home in Millmark Grove, Brockley, which he revisits again in his later novels, Therapy (1995), Deaf Sentence (2008) and Quite A Good Time to be Born: A Memoir (2015). World War II forced Lodge and his mother to evacuate to Surrey and Cornwall. He attended school at the Catholic St Joseph's Academy, Blackheath.
In 1952, he entered the University of London (University College), and obtained a Bachelor of Arts (BA) with first-class honours in 1955. He met his future wife, Mary Frances Jacob, at University College when they were 18; she was also a student there. After graduating, he spent two years in the Royal Armoured Corps as his national service. This experience became the basis for his novel Ginger You're Barmy. He then returned to London University where he earned a Master of Arts (MA) in 1959, with a thesis on "The Catholic Novel from the Oxford Movement to the Present Day". During this period, he wrote a first (unpublished) novel at the age of 18 (1953), "The Devil, the World and the Flesh".
In 1959, when they were 24, Lodge and Jacob married. Lodge later said of his marriage, "It seems extraordinary now. I had no prospects, no job, little money but it never bothered me. We didn't really want children at the point they came along, but we got on with it." They had two children in the years 1960 to 1963, a son and a daughter; a second son, Christopher, was born in 1966 with Down Syndrome.
From 1959 to 1960, Lodge worked in London as an English teacher for the British Council. In 1960, he obtained a job as a lecturer at the University of Birmingham, where he was preparing his PhD thesis on the Oxford Movement. At Birmingham, Lodge met the novelist Malcolm Bradbury, who was to become his "closest writer friend"; the example of Bradbury's comic writing was, according to Lodge, a major influence on the development of this aspect of his own work. In 1963, he collaborated with Malcolm Bradbury and another student, James Duckett, in the development of a satirical revue for the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, entitled Between These Four Walls and performed in the autumn of 1963. The cast included Julie Christie. It was during the performance of a certain skit that involved a radio being played on stage, that Lodge (and the audience) heard the news of the assassination of John F. Kennedy: "Some members of the audience had caught the words and tittered uneasily, taking it as a joke in poor taste. In the interval everybody discovered the awful truth, and the second half of the show fell very flat."
In August 1964, Lodge and his family went to the United States. He had received a scholarship from the Harkness Commonwealth Fellowship, which requires the recipient to travel at least three months out of twelve in the United States, with a car provided by the company. The family first lived in Providence, Rhode Island, where David Lodge followed the American literature course at Brown University. During this period, free of teaching obligations, Lodge was able to complete his third novel, The British Museum Is Falling Down. Lodge's original title for this novel was The British Museum Has Lost Its Charm, a line from a George and Ira Gershwin song but he was refused permission to use it by the Gershwin Publishing Corporation. In March 1965 the family went on a trip across America, eventually moving to San Francisco.
In 1966, Lodge published his first book of academic criticism, Language of Fiction and in 1967 he successfully defended his doctoral thesis. He was awarded his PhD in English in 1967 by Birmingham University.
From 1967 to 1987, he continued his academic career at the University of Birmingham, becoming Professor of English Literature in 1976, while writing many more novels and essays. In 1969, he was an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, a second American experience important for the development of his work, both theoretical and fictional.
Lodge retired from his post at Birmingham in 1987, to become a full-time writer. He says of his retirement, "It was the right time to leave. All my former colleagues say: 'You are well out of it.' There's a weary disillusion to university life now and that's a shame because, when I was there, there was excitement, a joie de vivre. Now it has become like a machine, servicing large numbers of students, and much less attractive and interesting." He retains the title of Honorary Professor of Modern English Literature at the University and continues to live in Birmingham. Some of his papers are housed in the University of Birmingham Library's Special Collections.
Lodge's first published novels, evoke the atmosphere of post-war England (for example, The Picturegoers (1960)). The theme occurs in later novels, through the childhood memories of certain characters (Paradise News, 1992; Therapy, 1995). The war is covered in Out of the Shelter (1970), while Ginger, You're Barmy (1962) draws on Lodge's experience of military service in the 1950s. The Guardian review of the 2011 reissue of Ginger, You're Barmy, called the novel "an impressively humane and feelingly political indictment of a tawdry postwar compromise" and "a moving glimpse of a world on the cusp of change".
Lodge was brought up as a Catholic and has described himself as an "agnostic Catholic". Many of his characters are Catholic and their Catholicism, particularly the relationship between Catholicism and sexuality, is a major theme. The British Museum Is Falling Down (1965) and How Far Can You Go? (1980; published in the US as Souls and Bodies), examine the difficulties faced by orthodox Catholics due to the Church's prohibition on artificial contraception. Other novels in which Catholicism plays an important part include Small World (in respect to the character of Persse), Paradise News (1991) and Therapy (1995). In Therapy, the protagonist Laurence Passmore, known as Tubby, suffers a breakdown after the failure of his marriage. He reminisces about his adolescent courtship with his first girlfriend at a Catholic youth club and seeks her out, on her pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Lodge has said that, if read chronologically, his novels give a picture of an orthodox Roman Catholic becoming "less and less so as time went on".
Several of Lodge's novels are satirical depictions of the world of academe. The so-called "Campus Trilogy" (Changing Places, Small World and Nice Work) are all set at a fictional university in the English Midlands town of "Rummidge", modelled after Birmingham. The novels share characters; notably, Rummidge's English literature lecturer, Philip Swallow and his American counterpart, Professor Morris Zapp, who aspires to be "the highest paid teacher of Humanities in the world". Swallow and Zapp first cross paths in Changing Places, where they swap jobs for an exchange scheme (and later, swap wives). Lodge has said that the plot of the novel "was a narrative transformation of the thematic material and the socio-cultural similarities and differences I had perceived between Birmingham and Berkeley" (during his time as visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley).
Other fictional universities appear in Lodge's novels. Persse McGarrigle in Small World, is a doctoral student at the fictional University College Limerick, the book having been written before the foundation of the real University of Limerick. Another campus novel, Thinks..., was set at the fictional University of Gloucester, before the founding of the University of Gloucestershire.
Lodge's novels cover the world of business in Nice Work, the world of television in Therapy and deafness and Alzheimer's disease in Deaf Sentence. The latter draws on Lodge's experience of hearing problems; Lodge has said, "I hate my deafness; it's a comic infirmity as opposed to blindness which is a tragic infirmity". Lodge has said of his own work, "each of my novels corresponds to a particular phase or aspect of my own life [but] this does not mean they are autobiographical in any simple, straightforward sense".
Two of Lodge's recent novels are based on the lives of authors: Author, Author (2004), about Henry James and A Man of Parts (2011), about H. G. Wells. Author, Author suffered from comparisons to Colm Tóibín's novel about Henry James, The Master, which was published six months earlier and went on to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize; most reviews of Lodge's novel focused on his unfortunate timing. Lodge wrote about the experience in The Year of Henry James (2006).
In 2015, Quite a Good Time to Be Born was published. The book is an autobiography covering Lodge's life from 1935 to 1975.
Lodge's major influences include English Catholic novelists (the subject of his MA dissertation), notably Graham Greene. Amongst his contemporaries, he has most often been compared to his friend Malcolm Bradbury, also an exponent of the campus novel. Lodge has acknowledged his debt to Bradbury: "The British Museum Is Falling Down was the first of my novels that could be described as in any way experimental. Comedy, it seemed, offered a way of reconciling a contradiction, of which I had long been aware, between my critical admiration for the great modernist writers, and my creative practice, formed by the neo-realist, antimodernist writing of the 1950s. My association with Malcolm Bradbury, and the example of his own work in comedy, was therefore a crucial factor in this development in my writing." Lodge says he "was once rung up by a man to settle a bet by declaring whether I was the same person as Malcolm Bradbury".
As an academic, Lodge was one of the earliest proponents in the UK of the work of Mikhail Bakhtin. Lodge also makes frequent allusions to other literary works in his novels. The British Museum Is Falling Down is influenced by Mrs Dalloway and Ulysses, in that all of the action takes place in one day. The novel is mostly from the point of view of Adam Appleby but the last chapter contains a long stream-of-consciousness section, from the point of view of Adam's wife Barbara, modelled on Molly Bloom's famous soliloquy at the end of Ulysses. The novel contains a number of other passages which parody well-known writers, a fact not recognised by most reviewers on the novel's first publication.
Small World makes constant reference to Arthurian legend, in the plot, character names and in allusions made by the characters (all academics). Lodge says of the novel's genesis, "It gradually grew on me that there was an analogy between my story and the Arthurian story, particularly the Grail quest in which a group of knights wander around the world, having adventures, pursuing ladies, love, and glory, jousting with each other, meeting rather coincidentally or unexpectedly, facing constant challenges and crises, and so on [...] This all corresponded to the modern world with its Round Table of professors: the elite group who get invited to conferences, who go around the world in pursuit of glory. Sometimes they take the opportunity to indulge in amorous intrigue, or to joust with each other in debate, pursuing glory in the sense of wanting to be at the top of their profession."
Lodge's work first came to wider notice in Britain in 1975, when he won the Hawthornden prize for Changing Places. He went on to win the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 1980, for How Far Can You Go? and Sunday Express Book of the Year in 1988 for Nice Work. Two of his early novels were reissued during this period (Ginger, You're Barmy, 1962/1982, and The British Museum is Falling Down, 1965/1981). His novels were published in paperback in the 1960s by Pan and Panther Books, by Penguin Books from 1980 and by Vintage Publishing (Random House Group) since 2011. Vintage has reissued most of his earlier work.
Lodge has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize twice (for Small World and Nice Work) and in 1989, Lodge was chairman of the Booker Prize judges. His 1970 novel Out of the Shelter was long-listed for the Lost Man Booker Prize in 2010. Anthony Burgess called Lodge "one of the best novelists of his generation".
Lodge's work first received recognition in France in the early 1990s, after the publication by Rivages of two of his novels, Nice Work and Changing Places. These were followed in 1991 by Small World and The British Museum Is Falling Down. Since then almost all his works of fiction have been translated and his new works are translated fairly quickly. His work is now published in France by Payot et Rivages. The publication of his theoretical works in France began later, beginning in 2003 with Consciousness and the Novel. The earlier works of this area remained unpublished in France, except The Art of Fiction. His books are routinely translated into a number of other languages including German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Czech, Polish and Turkish.
In The Art of Fiction (1992), David Lodge studied, through examination of extracts from novels, various stylistic devices (repetition, variation in levels of language, etc.) and narrative techniques (varying viewpoints, defamiliarisation, etc.). Lodge self-consciously uses many of these techniques in his own novels: for example, in Paradise News (1991), the narration is mostly third-person point of view but there are also first-person narratives (diary and autobiography, letters, postcards, emails) and various other documents, such as theoretical writings on tourism. In Therapy (1995), the bulk of the novel is told through the protagonist's diary but there are other texts, presented as written by minor characters about the main character. It is eventually revealed that these were all written by the main character, as part of a therapy exercise.
Two of Lodge's novels have been adapted into television serials: Small World (1988), and Nice Work (1989). Nice Work was adapted by Lodge himself, and was filmed at the University of Birmingham, where Lodge was Professor of English. He also adapted his play The Writing Game for television broadcast (1995).
Lodge has written three plays: The Writing Game, Home Truths (which he later turned into a novella), and Secret Thoughts (based on his novel Thinks...).
In his autobiography Quite a Good Time To Be Born: a Memoir, 1935-75 (2015) Lodge notes that The Old Rep was one of his favourite theatres, with a long distinguished history. With the likes of Laurence Olivier, Edith Evans, Ralph Richardson, Albert Finney and Derek Jacobi performing there. He referred to the theatre as "a gem", but noted that shabby as it was then, he could not have had a better venue for his first attempt at writing for the professional stage.
The Writing Game is about the staff, teachers and students at a residential course for writers. The action of the play is interspersed with readings by the characters of their own works-in-progress. According to Lodge, the play "originated in the experience of teaching such a course myself - not because its plot bears any resemblance to what happened on that course, but because it struck me that the bare situation possessed the classic dramatic unities of time, place and action. Indeed it would be true to say that I invented the plot of my play to fulfil the dramatic possibilities inherent in the situation." The play opened at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 13 May 1990, and ran for three weeks. An American production was staged at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts in March 1991. Lodge subsequently adapted the play for television. It was broadcast on Channel 4 on Sunday 18 February 1996, attracting 1.2 million viewers.
Home Truths was performed at the Birmingham Rep in 1998. The story mainly focuses on Adrian Ludlow, a half-retired writer, interviewed by Fanny Tarrant, a journalist famous for sarcastic portrait of her interviewees. Lodge later rewrote it as a novella of the same name.
Lodge adapted his novel Thinks ... into a two-character play, Secret Thoughts, which premiered at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton on 12 May 2011.The Stage called it "an intriguing, intensely witty, brainy play [...] one of the most compelling two-handers imaginable". The Guardian review said that "Lodge's novel boils down neatly into an intellectually and erotically charged dialogue on the nature of the mind", yet felt that "Lodge cannot quite eradicate the sense that some of the cerebral jousting has a more natural home in a novel than on stage".Secret Thoughts won Best New Play at the Manchester Theatre Awards, being hailed as a "bracing and ambitious production that wowed everyone who saw it".
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