"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.