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The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts [Illustrated] [Paperback]

David Lodge
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 July 1994

‘The Art of Fiction’ is essential, thoroughly entertaining reading for writers, students and anyone who wants to understand how literature works.

The articles by David Lodge, which first appeared in the Independent on Sunday, are expanded here and consider the subject under a wide range of headings such as ‘The Intrusive Author’, ‘Suspense’ and ‘Magic Realism’. Styles and techniques are illustrated in each case by passages from classic or modern fiction. Drawing on writers as diverse as Henry James and Martin Amis, Jane Austen and Fay Weldon and Henry Fielding and James Joyce, Lodge also demonstrates the richness and variety of British and American fiction.

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The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts + How Novels Work + How Fiction Works
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (28 July 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140174923
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140174922
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,338 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


"Exciting...a book for starting up trains of thought or discussion... It did make me think, as a writer, as a reader, as a teacher" (AS Byatt Sunday Times)

"Here is scholarship made human... There has been no better populist study of fiction since Forster's Aspects of the Novel" (Financial Times)

"It is wonderful to be clued in to some of the magic tricks of the trade; the point of view, the stream of consciousness, the use of names, the sense of place, time-shift and intertextuality" (Los Angeles Times)

"Lodge has the knack of wearing his scholarship lightly... One finds here precisely that expansive, humane wisdom which is so sorely lacking in much narrow-minded modern criticism.... He gets to the bottom of things, telling us why we read fiction....admirers will find in The Art of Fiction concentrated essence of Lodge" (Guardian)

"These essays are as fresh and as readable as ever" (David Evans Independent) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A collection of David Lodge's articles from the Independent on Sunday and the Washington Post --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Even Thetis, dipping her mortal boy In Styx, dreaming of armoring him Against both worlds, gripping her joy In fatal fingers, allowed the dim Danger of her handhold on his heel. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An understated and friendly guide 20 Feb 2001
By AshC
This collection of essays represents an understated and friendly guide. Thorough but accessible, Lodge has written a readable journey into the ways in which texts can be read. Although neither as challenging nor thought-provoking as more academic volumes on 'ways of reading', The Art of Fiction has the brevity and lightness of touch that makes it an excellent starting point for those interested in fiction in all its forms, and for those who want to indulge in the magical variety of classic and contemporary fiction.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and insightful 9 July 2007
"The Art of Fiction" is divided into 50 chapters, each devoted to a different aspect or theme in fiction (in this case primarily novel-writing). Some of these themes are standard topics: 'Beginning', 'Point of View', 'Introducing a Character', 'Chapters' and 'Ending' for example. Others are more unusual: including 'Suspense', 'Symbolism', 'Epiphany', 'The Telephone' as well as more technical-sounding topics such as 'Aporia' and 'Intertextuality'. Through these themes Lodge explores the construction of the novel and underlines the sheer variety of approaches taken by different writers over the course of time.

Each chapter is drawn from an article in Lodge's own newspaper column, which means that the subject matter is easily accessible and digestible for the casual reader. Lodge's style is easy to read and follow and he occasionally intersperses his analysis with his own anecdotes. This is 'a book to browse in, and dip into', as Lodge himself explains, which assumes very little prior knowledge of the texts concerned. Indeed his subjects are very diverse, ranging from Henry Fielding in the 18th century, and Victorian writers such as Brontė and Dickens, all the way to 20th-century authors including, among many others, George Orwell and Kazuo Ishiguro. However, it is not necessary to have read all - or even any - of these texts, as Lodge begins each chapter with a relevant passage quoted in full to illustrate his point.

The goal of "The Art of Fiction" is to enhance the reader's understanding of modern literature, and not explicitly to teach lessons in composition to aspiring authors. Nevertheless, for any writer it is always instructive to dissect those works which have gone before, and this book would therefore be of tremendous use.

Everything considered, "The Art of Fiction" is a worthy addition to the bookshelf of anyone with an interest in deconstructing how modern fiction works - either the casual reader or the student. Recommended.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fifty steps to understanding literature. 14 Jun 2003
As an aspiring novelist I can highly recommend this book. In fifty chapters David Lodge explains pretty much everything you need to know to gain a deeper insight into reading literature. I have read further than this book, such as I.A. Richard's Principles of Literary Criticism and Jonathan Culler's works on literary theory and literary criticism but Lodge's more modest work still has pride of place on my bookshelf next to these other giants.
So many critics seem to know the way but are unable to drive.
With Lodge this is not a problem as he is both a critically acclaimed author and a respected academic. As a result he is able to offer an insight into literature from within and without. The only criticism I have, and it is a very small one, is that he only comments on English and American literature because he specialises in these fields of literature. Something he admits to in the introduction. But this is largely unimportant considering the wealth of English and American literature.
Whether you are a student of literature, an aspiring writer, or simply someone who wishes to better understand what you read then this is a book to start with as it is refreshingly free of pretentiousness.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful and interesting guide to fiction 21 July 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the best introductions to understanding fiction - particularly the novel - that I've read. It's particularly suitable for someone without any background in the arts. It's divided into 50 short chapters, each beginning with a short extract that provides the basis for discussion for what follows. It covers topics such as division into chapters, symbolism, voice, and just about everything you ever needed to know. It is clearly written without any of the pretension and unnecessary difficulty that often dogs the area. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable for the novelist 14 Dec 2007
Terms are bandied around for different forms of novel writing, and you dismiss them as 'jargon', or perhaps 'gobbledegook', and move on. It's only when you've actually written a novel that doesn't fit the standard genre - historical, fantasy, adventure, thriller, etc - that you wish you'd paid more attention. If you've completed writing such a book without having recourse to the Art of Fiction, you'll need it at this point, otherwise you might be excused for thinking you've ploughed a completely new literary furrow. So, before you start preparing your witty acceptance speech on winning the Booker, do read David Lodge and you'll learn that someone famous has been there before you and that, in some cases, they have been lauded and slated by the critics in equal proportions.

You'll learn about Magic Realism, Stream of Consciousness, The Reader in the Text, Teenage Skaz etc etc. There's much in the Art of Fiction for the more orthodox writer, too. His essays are beautifully written, very clear and he uses well-known illustrative texts. I can thoroughly recommend this one for the discerning writer and reader.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Fiction Review
Excellent book fulfilled all my expectations clear concise explanations of the various aspects of fictions which I reuired to successfully complete my literature course. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gareth Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars All you need to know about writing fiction.
I bought this book on the recommendation of a writing course I was recently on. David Lodge is a distinguished writer who has enjoyed considerable success with his novels. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dr. W. Onyeama
3.0 out of 5 stars A little too self-referential but worthy nonetheless
Lodge is at best a good rather than a great novelist therefore multiple references to his own work to illustrate by example feels like an author's desperate attempt at recognition;... Read more
Published 3 months ago by john
1.0 out of 5 stars Six Female Authors?
All fifty chapters open with a quote from a literary work. Only six of them are from female authors. Using Jane Austen multiple times doesn't count.
Published 4 months ago by Galala
5.0 out of 5 stars Characters are the most important.
This book has helped me so much during my degree, it is invaluable and I would advise all to buy this. The way it is laid out; makes it easy to read, and very easy to understand.
Published 6 months ago by Miss Unique
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
This book is interesting and very helpful if you are a writer. Intelligently written and compelling, it keeps your interest throughout.
Published 8 months ago by Bluebell
4.0 out of 5 stars Book
Not exactlt what I was expecting in terms of content, however I have been able to dip in and out.
Published 8 months ago by MR PETER L SIMON
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have guide to how fiction works
The most excellent book for unlocking the methods writers use. Brilliant for students of literature or members of book clubs or anyone who wants to broaden their understanding of... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Fiction lover
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Brilliant, thanks! Arrived promptly, super book, very happy with it. Highly recommended. Well worth buying, great to read alongside other literature. L
Published 13 months ago by L
5.0 out of 5 stars The art of fiction
A useful collection articles and examples of many aspects of fiction writing including time-shift, interior monologue, telling in different voices, and magic realism.
Published 14 months ago by karen59
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