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Author, Author [Hardcover]

David Lodge
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Sep 2004
In David Lodge's last novel, Thinks... the novelist Henry James was invisibly present in quotation and allusion. In Author, Author he is centre stage, sometimes literally. The story begins in December 1915, with the dying author surrounded by his relatives and servants, most of whom have private anxieties of their own, then loops back to the 1880s, to chart the course of Henry's 'middle years', focusing particularly on his friendship with the genial Punch artist and illustrator, George Du Maurier, and his intimate but chaste relationship with the American writer Constance Fenimore Woolson. By the end of the decade Henry is seriously worried by the failure of his books to 'sell', and decides to try and achieve fame and fortune as a playwright, at the same time that George Du Maurier, whose sight is failing, diversifies into writing novels. The consequences, for both men, are surprising, ironic, comic and tragic by turns, reaching a climax in the years 1894-5. As Du Maurier's Trilby, to the bewilderment of its author himself, becomes the bestseller of the century, Henry anxiously awaits the first night of his make-or-break play, Guy Domville ... Thronged with vividly drawn characters, some of them with famous names, others recovered from obscurity, Author, Author presents a fascinating panorama of literary and theatrical life in late Victorian England, which in many ways foreshadowed today's cultural mix of art, commerce and publicity. But it is essentially a novel about authorship - about the obsessions, hopes, dreams, triumphs and disappointments, of those who live by the pen - with, at its centre, an exquisite characterisation of one writer, rendered with remarkable empathy.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Secker; 1st Edition edition (2 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0436205270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0436205279
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.2 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,063,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Lodge's novels include Deaf Sentence, Changing Places, Small World, Nice Work, Therapy, Thinks... and Author, Author. He has also written stage plays and screenplays, and several books of literary criticism, including The Art of Fiction, Consciousness and the Novel and, most recently, The Year of Henry James. Formerly Professor of English at Birmingham University, David now writes full-time. He continues to live in Birmingham.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Since the death of Malcom Bradbury, David Lodge remains unquestionably the finest comic novelist working in the English language – with fierce intelligence matching the sardonic wit. Author, Author is not quite a new departure (the great novelist Henry James was a presence in Lodge’s much-acclaimed Thinks…), but here The Master is the central character in a brilliantly vivid picture of the man and his times.

Those who find James’ own abstruse sentences too impenetrable for their taste may fear that Lodge is aiming for a recreation of James' allusive 19th century style, but that's definitely not the case. When Lodge has James speak, it is, of course, exactly as we would expect the famous chronicler of suppressed emotion to speak – anything else would be a failure (Peter Ackroyd carried off a similar act of ventriloquism in The Lat Testament of Oscar Wilde), but the style of the novel is very much Lodge's own: humorous, sensitive to all aspects of human behaviour, rich in authentically recreated period detail. Needless to say, the effect is nothing like that of Lodge’s contemporary novels such as the wonderfulNice Work and Small World; for some, that will be a cause for disappointment, but for readers prepared to follow Lodge on this journey into another century, the rewards are considerable.

Author, Author begins with the Great Man’s death, surrounded by worried servants (struggling to cope with his growing irrationality); then we are shown his remarkable life, including his friendship with the affable Punch illustrator George Du Maurier. The literary success and the American ex-pat James’ social lionising by the cream of London society are strikingly conveyed, as is the man’s sexual repression. The most powerful passages involve James’ disastrous failure as a playwright, and this section crowns Lodge’s achievement. Lodge fans may prefer his customary style, but there are riches here. --Barry Forshaw


"Great skill is shown, and affection." (P.J. Kavanagh, The Spectator)

"a work of immense sympathy" (Margaret Cook, New Statesman)

"Not only does Lodge capture the kindliness and humour of the Master, but his novel is a rare portrait of friendship between men It enlarges the spirit as well as entertaining the heart and is a really fine novel." (Amanda Craig, New Statesman)

" perceptive and moving marvellously illuminating" (Peregrine Worsthorne, New Statesman)

"Stylistically genial and socially panoramic" (Boyd Tonkin, Independent)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insight into gifted yet complex man. 12 Dec 2004
Despite what felt to be a slow start, David Lodge provides a lively and interesting insight into an incredibly gifted yet complex man, the late Victorian writer Henry James.
By writing the story as "fiction", Lodge uses his great skill of capturing his characters essence without historical records clouding what is a man of great contrasts and depth. Some James purists may find this style offensive but that is not the intention of the author - he provides a more human insight to James than may otherwise have been achieved due to the subject's deeply personal nature and a lack of personal records.
Henry James was an incredibly skilled and accomplished author who was not greatly appreciated in his own time yet arguably was the father of the modern novel. Lodge deals sympathetically with James's perceived failure of his work, his intense craving for reward both adulatory and financial that always seemed within reach, be it in periodicals, books or the stage and that yet was always just out of reach or dashed by events outside his control. He also deals deftly with the issue of James' sexuality through his relationships with contemporaries, friends and past experiences - in particular his inability to reciprocate emotions and feelings to others, especially those closest to him.
Definitely worth buying if you have read and liked Lodge's earlier work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing 1 Oct 2010
This book is an intriguing idea - a fictionalised biography of Henry James - but does is work as a novel? Yes and no. Lodge is obviously bound by the facts of HJ's life, but has naturally used his own novelistic flair to bring certain periods to life - namely James's very last days (touchingly depicting the dealings of his servants who care for him and his affairs) and his attempts to find fame writing for the theatre.

One limitation is that Lodge has few opportunities to do what he does best, i.e. exploring the nitty-gritty of relationships between men and women (HJ was celibate). Thus, parts of the book felt a little dry compared to, say, Changing Places or Nice Work. However, James's complex friendship with Constance Fenimore Woolson does make for engaging material and is handled well by Lodge.

I don't know enough about Henry James's own writing style to assess how well David Lodge gets inside his mind and represents the rhythms of his thinking.

In summary, not DL's best - nor an ideal starting point for the Lodge-curious - but a fascinating novel nonetheless.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The personification of Henry James is a triumph! 12 Dec 2004
The personification of revered author Henry James is a triumph for David Lodge. For many, James' novels are rather impenetrable; skilfull prose which is hard work! Taking us behind the writing, Lodge introduces us to an endearing and definitively Victorian character, in many ways more British than American. Rigidly confined by the social mores of the time and his own self-discipline, he nevertheless resolves into a surprisingly simple character, who inspires admiration, some pity and, occasionally, frustration. Lodge avoids the ploy of some historical novelists, who name drop famous characters in order to define the period and score credibility points; he slips in appearances by well-known James' acquaintances and historical events with consumate skill and a total lack of artifice. In particular, George Du Maurier is a delight. A very fine novel, and a revelation to those, like me, who knew nothing about the background of Henry James.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating, unsatisfying ... but worth reading 13 April 2005
By A Customer
Comparisons with Toibin's "The Master" will be inevitable, and Toibin's book is undoubtedly the finer of the two. In fact the Henry James of "The Master" and the Henry James of "Author, Author" might as well be two entirely different characters who only coincidentally happen to bear the same name.
Toibin captures the the interior world of James as well as the atmosphere of Victorian England, while Lodge deals with the outward events, the facts of James' life more comprehensively but with less insight. Of course, we can never know if either writer's rendering is accurate - and, as always, reality is probably only tangentially caught by either of them, but this is not a weakness in a work of fiction.
The disappointing aspect of Lodge's novel is that for much of the book it reads more as a biography than a novel, with occasional dramatisations of key events, much like one of those documentaries where the narrator is occasionally replaced by actors to illutstrate the point that has just been made. Yet in the midst of this recounting of events, there often appears incongruous reminders that there is an authorial voice. To his credit, Lodge does not mimic James' prose style, although he does occasionally suggest that the authorial voice might be a contemporary (ie 19th century) one rather than a modern one with references to "word-of-mouth" or a play being a "flop" as if these terms were recent and unfamiliar inventions.
Ultimately, Lodge's book disappoints - we don't really understand James more from this book than we would from a biography (which, as noted above, this book is to some extent), and Lodge's writing lacks the poetry and insight of Toibin's book.
Nevertheless, for those who are interested in Henry James (and there now seems to be a lot of us for some reason), "Author, Author" is an engaging and often entertaining read, if one which doesn't satisfy in quite the same way as Toibin's "The Master" or James' own work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent novel giving outstanding insight to another novelist
What can beat a novel about a giant of literature with all the rigour of a skilfully researched biography? Read more
Published 11 months ago by David Beeson
5.0 out of 5 stars Your heart is in this one
Mr. Lodge, you really threw yourself into this work, there are many passages
I read again and again for their wonderful craft (lovely long
Nabokovian sentences) and deep... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Jack Swelters
5.0 out of 5 stars The HG Wells of the academic novel
I'm a fan of David Lodge. This summer I've read five back to back. All of them had characters I cared about and I think he does women particularly well. Read more
Published on 16 Aug 2012 by Dumas2010
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story, but suffers in comparison to Toibin's the Master
If you know your Henry James, don't bother with this book: read Colm Toibin's The Master instead. Lodge's novelised take on Henry James has by the far the better STORY, but it's... Read more
Published on 18 July 2011 by Cardew Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Take a bow, Mr Lodge
First things first. This is a novel. I've read a few by now and I can recognize one when I see one. They include an earlier one by the same author (Changing Places?). Read more
Published on 4 Feb 2011 by S. Coleman
2.0 out of 5 stars Lodge should get the same treatment as James in his final bow
Auwgh what a boring book. Incredible. I usually just love Lodge's books, but this time he just kills me with this tedious story of a an ever more boring author. Read more
Published on 23 Oct 2008 by John Hultberg
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel based oh the life of Henry James
"Author, Author", like Colm Toibin's "The Master", tells of a particular period of Henry James' life. Read more
Published on 28 Oct 2007 by HORAK
5.0 out of 5 stars Not missing a sentence
David Lodge's individual sentences are a tribute to Henry James - I reread any sentence that I feared I had missed in my haste to get to the next paragraph. Read more
Published on 22 Oct 2004 by Cristina Bettencourt
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