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Small World: An Academic Romance Hardcover – 1 Mar 1985

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Macmillan Pub Co (Mar. 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0025740601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0025740600
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14.5 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,339,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

David Lodge is Honorary Professor of Modern English Literature at the University of Birmingham, where he taught from 1960 until 1987, when he became a full-time writer. He is well-known as a novelist, and has also written screenplays and stageplays. He edited "2oth Century Literary Criticism "(Longman, 1972) which has become a companion volume to "Modern Criticism and Theory."

Nigel Wood is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at De Montfort University. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Those of us who enjoyed reading 'how Far Can you go?' and saw it as being far from scurrilous but as being an accurate description of a group of students in a chaplaincy (several friends from my days in that set up wrote 'Have you read… Isn't it just like us, Kevin, Jane and Chris &c.?' and colleagues who are Roman Catholics and have grappled with the contraception issue - all of these found his previous writing so realistic and I wonder how realistic this is as a descriptions of the pretensions of academic life.

The novel blends together well in its structure. Every loose end gets tied up somewhere and the intertwining with various other lives of the main characters is very skilful.

The parody of the opening of Chaucer's Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is as amusing as it seems true; people going to conferences where they endure the penance of hearing papers but are on the look out for sights and sexual adventures. The high number of promiscuous sexual acts strikes one as at least as funny as they are immoral; if one stops moralising for a moment and accepts that they are part of most of our fantasy lives anyway, the joke is on us.

'Obsessive reading is the displaced expression of a desire to see the mother's genitals' condemns me, though I wouldn't have thought that was quite true - obsessive reading is part of my lack of health, certainly.

'In discussing your paper we should not be discussing what you actually said at all but discussing some imperfect memory or subjective interpretation of what you said.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars 41 reviews
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars been there 17 Aug. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I am an academic and I must say that this book nails the academic world to the wall in a way that is somehow wicked and sweet at the same time. The pretension, the meanness, the self-absorption, the lack of social skills, the pettiness, the competition for attention and glory. All too true.
I especially enjoyed the clever superimposition of the Grail legend on a tale of modern English professors pursuing a UNESCO endowed chair that entails no academic duties. Persse McGarrigle (Percival), the Irish innocent. Morris Zapp (Merlin), the canny but cynical sage. Morgana Fulvia (Morgan le Fay), the decadent, hypocritical Italian witch. They and the others are all here playing their time-honored rolls.
The coincidences come so thick and fast in this book that you very quickly get used to them. It is a good joke to make the entire world as small as academia, a place where you run into the same people again and again whether you want to or not.
It was a pleasure to read a book whose prose was devoid of trickery, over-cleverness and gimmicks. Here is a modern novel in a world increasingly full of post-modern works that are too often little more than cleverly constructed rooms full of mirrors. Lodge makes several funny, well-deserved swipes at post-modernism's negative effect on literary criticism.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than an academic satire 15 Jan. 2003
By Russ Mayes - Published on
Format: Paperback
I approached this book with a bit of trepidation, which I ought to explain before my review. Small World is sort of a sequel to Nice Work (it has some of the same characters and locations, but doesn't rely on knowledge of its predecessor). I read Nice Work a few years ago and was put off by it. It wasn't that I didn't find the satire on academia to be humorous. Rather, I thought it was a bit tasteless for someone who had spent most of his adult life employed by universities to turn around and write a satire that was (IMO) often bitter to the point of being unfair.
So, I wasn't sure I wanted to read Small World, though I had been assured it was a better book. I am glad I finally overcame my resistance and read it, because it is a much better book; indeed I think it is a very good book.
Small World is also a satire on academia, and while all the jacket blurbs talk about how biting the satire is, I didn't find that to be the case. Lodge seemed much more in tune and sympathetic with his characters, even as he skewers their antics. Also, the attacks in this novel seem less personal and more on literary studies as a profession.
I actually think Lodge has much bigger ambitions in this novel than writing an academic satire. His goal, it seems to me, is to package the history of the novel into a story in the form of an academic satire. So instead of a relatively simple, satirical plot (as in Nice Work), Lodge gives us a multitude of interwoven plots. He has a standard comic plot, but he also has a thriller plot, several varieties of romantic plots, a few mistaken identity plots, a foundling plot, a reunion plot and probably several others I'm forgetting. As the characters move around the world, they move in and out of the various plots. Some of the great moments in the book are watching how the characters react and change as they move from the comic plot to the thriller plot to one of the romance plots.
Because Lodge is writing about Literature academics and has designed the novel to borrow from many different genres and eras, he gets to show off his extensive literary knowledge as well. The novel is littered with quotations (attributed and unattributed) and allusions (acknowledge and unacknowledged). I had fun trying to pick out these bits as I was reading, but you don't need to catch the allusions to enjoy the book. Overall, I highly recommend the book.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny but seriously contrived. 22 May 2006
By David J. Gannon - Published on
Format: Paperback
Small World is the second installment of a trilogy. Basically a satirical send up of academia, the trilogy by and large (well, for the first two installments, anyway) follow a wild cast of characters as the seek sex, fame and fortune along with academic recognition. The First effort, Changing Places, chronicles the adventures of two professors--one English and one American--as the swap assignments for a year.

This installment follows the two, along with a cast of what often feels like thousands, on the convention, conference and lecture circuit.

Lodge is blessed with a wonderfully sardonic and sharp sense of humor and a deep appreciation for farce. These skills are in admirable display in this book. The comedy level matches--possibly even exceeds--that of the first book--which is saying something.

On the whole, though, this is a somewhat less satisfying read. The cast of characters, as previously mentioned, is huge. It's so big it's often difficult to remember who's who. Moreover, the plot is singularly complex. And contrived. That everything is tied up neat as a pin by the end only adds to the level of contrivance.

This is a very clever book--perhaps too clever by half, as the Brits would say.

However, it is hysterically funny. If you are in need of a good laugh--actually, dozens and dozens of good laughs, this should be your cup of tea.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars funniest book I have ever read 1 Aug. 2001
By Leslie Cheng - Published on
Format: Paperback
Once you start to read David Lodge, you are hooked and would want more. I started with his newest book "Thinks" and ended up reading him nonstop. So far I have read "Home Truths", "Changin Places", "Practice of Writing" and then "Small World". I plan to read on. "Small World" is the best academic satire I have read; it is funny, pereptive and very true. Even on gloomy sleepless nights, it made me laugh so loud that I constantly startled my two poor dogs. They looked at me with their sleepy eyes and wagged their tails in bewilderment. Too bad to be a dog that you cannot appreciate such good and funny stuff.
Having been a literature student and known many academics, I have been constantly struck by the sense of recognition. Lodge writes with his profound knowledge in literature and and his insight in people in the field of literarute. The pretentiousness in that world is mercilessly satirized. And the holy canon is hilariously and wonderfully parodized.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful novel on the underwritten subject of academia 6 April 2003
By Robert Moore - Published on
Format: Paperback
SMALL WORLD easily takes its place among the very finest books ever written about academia. This provokes the question: Why are there so few novels, good or bad, on the world of higher education? A huge number of novelists and writers have attended graduate school, many are themselves teachers or professors, and yet the number of first-rate books covering the world of scholars are rare. Off the top of my head, I can think of Kinsley Amis's LUCKY JIM, A. S. Byatt's POSSESSION, John Barth's GILES GOAT BOY, Robertson Davies CORNISH TRILOGY, and several other novels by David Lodge, including the prequel to SMALL WORLD, CHANGING PLACES. I should also add Malcolm Bradbury's THE HISTORY MAN and magnificent parody MY STRANGE QUEST FOR MENSONGE. Many novels have characters attending college or university at some point, but as a whole it is a genre that is underrepresented.
Even if novels on academic life were plentiful, this one would stand out. Lodge has written many superb books, but this one just may be his best. It was also one of the first to be widely available in the US. I still remember vividly in the 1980s having to search out Penguin editions published in Canada because he was largely unavailable in the US.
The novel features some of the characters we came to know in CHANGING PLACES, including Philip Swallow and Morris Zapp, and takes place to a large extent at a number of academic conferences. Although a first-hand acquaintance with higher education isn't a prerequisite, anyone who has been to graduate school or taught will find a host of familiar characters and situation. Lodge magnificently lampoons the intellectual posturing and gamesmanship that fills the small world of the scholar. The novel manages to be both accurate and quite funny at the same time.
At one point in my life, I worked in a number of bookstores. One of my happier experiences was to have been employed at a campus bookstore in Chicago during Lodge's first reading tour of the United States (I believe this was around 1990). I was happy to spend some time with him along with other employees before his reading, and I remember his being so surprised that so many in the US had read his work, given the difficulty at the time of getting his novels in the states. He was an enormously pleasant person, and he gave a fine reading from NICE WORK. A final word on that: many speak of NICE WORK as being the final novel in a trilogy. I have trouble with that. CHANGING PLACES and SMALL WORLD feature many common characters, none of whom reappear in NICE WORK. Fans of the first two may be disappointed to find that NICE WORK, as fine as it is, does not continue the story of the other two novels.
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