Small World: An Academic Romance Hardcover – 1 Mar 1985
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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
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.