9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Modest and magisterial,
This review is from: The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts (Paperback)
This must surely be one of the most astute crossover books ever: originally conceived as a series of newspaper articles, these fifty chapters make the sometimes forbidding and austere discipline of literary criticism accessible to the general reader.
David Lodge is no stranger to negotiating such crossovers: his comic novels have reached a wide readership while fitting perfectly into the tradition of the English comic novel, about which Lodge, for many years a professor of modern literature, knows more than most people. In "The Art of Fiction", he draws on a wider range of examples than in his other, more academically slanted, works of literary criticism. Each of the fifty chapters begins with an extract [occasionally more than one] from novels, or, occasionally, short stories. The majority of his choices are from twentieth-century British fiction [Kingsley Amis, Virginia Woolf, Muriel Spark, Evelyn Waugh...], but there are also incursions into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and into American and Irish literature. The extracts serve as introductions to aspects of fiction as varied as: symbolism, allegory, time-shift, motivation, irony, and the author is always at pains to link his extract to other literary works.
The overall result is both modest and magisterial. As David Lodge points out in his introduction, "this is a book for people who prefer to take their Lit.Crit. in small doses, a book to browse in, and dip into". His approach works brilliantly: this book is an invaluable source of inspiration. Most important of all, it doesn't matter if you haven't read the novels from which Lodge has chosen his illustrations; the whole point is that in many cases you almost certainly will want to read them soon.
A modern classic in a category all of its own.