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Book Review : The Art of Fiction by David Lodge

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

I've read a few of David Lodge's novels - Small World and How Far Can you Go? for example - and enjoyed them very much. I also encountered Lodge as a literary critic and academic during my Eng. Lit. BA and thought he made a lot of sense. So this collection of his essays on the workings of fiction appealed to me very much.

It doesn't disappoint. It's divided into fifty bite-sized essays, each on some aspect of fiction, and each of which can be read in ten minutes (they were originally all newspaper columns.) For example, there are sections on character, time-shift, point of view and, everyone's favourite, showing and telling. Some chapters are more useful than others. You can probably skip the one on aporia and still live a full and happy life, for example. But most are fascinating.

Lodge's writing is always easy to follow. He does stray into academic analysis a little, but it's never dry. And it means I, for one, can now distinguish between metonymy and synecdoche. Which, you know, is always useful when the conversation flags at a party.

Lodge's knowledge of literature is impressive. He clearly prefers the great, canonical works of English literature : Dickens, Waugh, Austen and so on. You won't find any Tolkien or Stephen King, let's say. Edgar Allen Poe is about the raciest he gets. But what he has to say is all pretty universal. Some of the pieces are outdated and could be revised. I really don't think that faxes represent the future of the epistolary novel, for example. But, by and large, this book provides a useful and enjoyable insight into the techniques employed by authors.



  1. Hi

    Thanks for this info.

    Now if only I can discover how to pronounce metonymy and synecdoche with least embarassment to myself..


    But this is defintitely going on my what to get with my amazon christmas vouchers list!

    Take care

  2. Old Kitty,

    Yes, it's a pretty purr-fect little book.


  3. The fax? Really? Having been born just short of the 90's, I am giggling profusely at the thought. It reminds me a little of a woman I worked with who once told me she had had a long-distance relationship in her youth. They conversed via fax and they were very hip. :P

  4. Amanda,

    At least it didn't say Telex Machine - and you may have to Google that to even find out what it is!

  5. Hello Simon
    I'm catching up on blogs from Nicola's party - I like yours and was trying to follow it on Twitter, but don't think I've succeeded.
    This book sounds interesting and I have always (so far) enjoyed Lodge's novel. I have a soft spot for him as he presented prizes at a ceremony for my very first prize in a very minor, local competition.

    This post includes a clipping from a local newspaper from exactly 25 years ago! (January 23rd 1985)

  6. Hi Christine,

    Thanks for the comment - glad you made it to the party! I'm enjoying your blog so I've become a follower!


I'd love to know what you think.