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on 1 October 2012
David Lodge
Therapy

There are always strong autobiographical strains in Lodge's fiction, so much so that the conflation of author and character bemuses and might even inhibit immersion into the fictional world. The ageing narrator in Deaf Sentence, for instance, is a semi-retired academic, a specialist in linguistics and English Literature. Like his author he suffers the agonies of not being what he used to be, plus the suspected ridicule of others, feelings of redundancy, deafness and all the impotent symptoms of the `male menopause.' He inhabits a midland town, as does the professor in Nice Work, and the cityscape is pretty obviously a simulacrum of Lodge's own Birmingham. Campus life is endemic to Professor Lodge's fiction.

In Therapy we are once again in Rummidge (i.e. Birmingham), but this time our linguistically-obsessed narrator is a television script writer - Lodge ringing the changes by drawing upon his experiences with the dramatisation of Nice Work. As ever, marital conflict looms large, as the obsessed writer strives to reconcile the demands of work and domestic life. Laurence `Tubby' Passmore, however, carries his neuroses to extremes, undergoing treatment from his GP, a psychoanalyst, an aroma-therapist, a sex therapist,, an acupuncturist, various drugs and almost any young female who can relieve him of his feelings of inadequacy. `Tubby' is so obviously a paranoid neurotic that his life is constantly in tatters. If you divorce you'll regret it, if you don't divorce you'll regret it. Divorce or don't divorce you'll regret both. Small wonder that he finds comfort in Kierkegaard, the author of Either/Or. Of course, nobody who is capable of writing as fluently, perceptively and humorously as Lodge could be as dysfunctional as Laurence - dysfunctional, except that, as `Tubby' the narrator, he is capable of earning a small fortune by writing a sit-com The People Next Door, which, while pure soap rubbish, seems for a time to have a large viewing public by the throat. Not that Laurence is ever recognised as the author - he is but an essential cog in a vast popular machine.

Always readable, always funny and inventive, this as an immensely enjoyable novel. At one point, Lodge seems to move away from relaying Laurence's journal to presenting us with several internal monologues by his intimates, but this, rather cleverly, turns out to be yet another therapy recommended by one of his practitioners - an attempt to see himself as others might see him.

The concluding third of the book, begins with `Tubby' desperately attempting to revive an old love affair, whose subject seems to be the answer to a reject's prayer. Reminiscent of the obsessive return to an old romance experienced by the narrator of Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea, this twist provides an additional tension and a somewhat sobering but not desperately sad ending to a fine book.
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on 29 April 2002
Though the comic effects are more subdued than in his previous novels "Changing Places", "Small World" and "Nice Work", David Lodge provides us with a very readable, and often poignant account of a man's journey to greater self-awareness.
TV sitcom scriptwriter Tubby Passmore is beset by ailments afflicting both body and soul. Recurring knee pains lead to physioterapy while a general lack of well-being, coupled with dwindling self-esteem, point him in the direction of aromatherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy.
The journal he is encouraged to keep by his psychiatrist forms the basis of the novel, in which the passage of Tubby's life from his humble South London origins is recounted as he attempts to extricate himself from the angst that has engulfed him. Along the way he develops an obsession with Kierkegaard. We are given much information about the Danish philosopher's own life as Tubby sees in it clear parallels to his own. Kirkegaard becomes his spiritual therapist as he attempts to confront ennui and dread and overcome his existentialist dilemma.
The book is suffused with the sort of finely etched humourous detail about contemporary English life that Lodge conveys masterly. Familiar themes re-occur: a Roman Catholic upbringing in the 1950s, class divisions, plus the tensions between metropolitan and provincial life. The characters are extremely well drawn and the writing excellent. The novel will appeal in particular to anyone middle-aged who, when afflicted by the mounting dissatisfactions of the advancing years, has sought to regain lost contentment, whether real or imaginary. That includes most of us over 40 I imagine!
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on 28 January 2006
‘Therapy’ – a book I returned to reread remembering that it dealt interestingly with middle aged Angst; I found parts 1 and 2 rather hard going because there was so much negativity amongst the comedy – which fits of course with ‘Tubby’ Passmore’s fascinations with Kierkegaard. If you are looking for comfort then hold out for the 3rd part where he goes to find his Catholic childhood sweetheart, when the climate turns sunny in more ways than one.
In Part 1 he is ‘angsting’ generally about life, the universe and everything and trying out a range of therapies to deal with what his physoitherpaist calls‘Internal Derangement of the Knee’- IDK or 'I Don't Know'. A wealthy sitcom writer (is it really so well remunerated a profession as suggested?) he feels pride in his work but this is in danger because of a departing actress and a dangerous clause in his contract. He recognises guiltily that he doesn’t always listen to his wife Sally but believes his marriage it in good shape and the end of the part comes with the shocking announcement:
‘Sally just came into my study to tell me she wants a separation. She says she told me earlier this evening, over supper, but I wasn’t listening. I listened this time, but I still can’t take it in.’
Part 2 recounts, written as in the words of people he has been interacting with, Tubby’s frantic search to get himself back on track through sex, trying to reverse past choices and find salvation through identifying himself with Kierkegaard, including the philosopher’s strange failure at romance when he rejected his fiancée in spite of being obsessively in love with her for the rest of his life. Lots of comedy but with a very bitter flavour and you see Tubby’s own low self esteem come through hot and strong.
In part 3 we return to the first person, with a memoir of his teenage romance with Maureen, ending in his following her onto the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. (Interestingly I found out that David Lodge was responsible for making a TV documentary of this pilgrimage before writing this book). Tubby yearns to be called Laurence again as he was in his youth, but when Maureen meets him she adopts the name Tubby and I got the feeling that in accepting that he accepts his ageing and himself – IDK and potency problems fade away and a satisfying compromise of his life comes in the last pages. It is this journey, (along with the threat to the tennis coach’s pony tail in part 2 – you have to read it!) that has stayed with me most strongly from earlier readings. The story of the journey makes a healing read.
If you’re a serious Kierkegaard scholar you may be able to make more sense than I have been able to of how the abstract concepts are interpreted by Tubby, but his developing obsession with the Danish philosopher and his mind boggling ideas is rather endearing. It contrasts interestingly with Maureen’s (and of course David Lodge’s) Catholicism.
I enjoy David Lodge because he writes really well and intelligently, has great humour on a lot of levels and builds satisfying complex worlds. I know enough about his academic subject of English Literature to get a kick out of picking up some of the references and pastiches but am uneasily aware that there is a lot that I miss (sometimes picking up on a reread)– and it is perfectly possible to read his books without worrying about that at all. It is also fun when he brings references of previous books into later books, like Alison Lurie does. I also like the insights he brings me as a woman into the male psyche – Tubby’s obsession with football for example makes more sense after reading ‘Why men lie and women cry’ and reading how Tubby tries to write in the first person as a woman in parts of Part 2 shows a male perception of how women think – mirrors within mirrors. This goes with a healthy respect for feminism and a tendency to provide strong women as a nice positive role model for an anxious female. Having looked him up on Google I see that some people think he is too structured with the way he tidies up all the details but personally I have no quarrel with that. I would recommend ‘Nice Work’ and ‘Paradise News’ if you enjoyed this book – personally I haven’t enjoyed ‘Thinks’ so much.
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on 28 April 2003
Some books make me want to tell everyone how good they are, which is why I'm writing this review. 'Therapy' combines a page-turning story with the kind of sharp observations of daily life that made me laugh with recognition.
Laurence - Tubby - is a wealthy, successful television scriptwriter with a happy marriage and family life, a beautiful family home plus flat in London, friends, security, and the car of his dreams. He also has a crippling condition which defies diagnosis and cure, and which he calls IDK - 'Internal Derangement of the Knee' or 'I Don't Know'. This condition seems symptomatic of a mysterious Internal Derangement of his Life as he approaches his late-fifties, which expresses itself in various forms, such as the Low Frustration Tolerance which gives rise to many hilarious episodes as he meets with stupid notices, out-of-order escalators, barriers that come down just as he gets to them, and the many absurdities and paradoxes of life at the end of the twentieth century. His attempts to understand his condition take him on journeys across the Atlantic and through Europe, as well as philosophical journeys through the works of Kirkegaard and his constant reference to dictionaries and encyclopaedias.
David Lodge's fascination with the craft of novel-writing shows in the surprising twists and turns of the novel, as Laurence tells his own story from different angles, exploring his derangements. In the end, having tried every therapeutic approach from surgery to cognitive behavioural therapy, acupuncture to physiotherapy, Laurence has to become his own therapist. I would guess that I am not alone in recognising my own derangements in this novel and taking pleasure in finding that this fine novelist has mapped out the territory with breathtaking accuracy and wonderful humour.
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on 4 February 2014
This is the first Lodge I have completed; have always had some sort of an aversion to articulate but voluminous middle-aged British narrators whose own navel gazing drowns every incident of any interpretation in the sea of their own explanations and justifications. So it's a surprise that Therapy had precisely this kind of narrator but without the trappings that would send me to sleep. Part of this is because I was prepared what I was going in for (the title!) and partly because of two wonderful strokes: in the middle act, our sitcom writer takes the baton of narrating his actions from the viewpoint of the family and friends surrounding him and contains a trouser-rippingly funny monologue of his mistress confessing her experiences to her therapist. I do not think I have laughed as much with a book in hand. The other brilliant part was, at no point did the main character's journal or any post-modern tropes retard the sequence of events. There was a fair amount of incident, what with the lead character shuffling between sitcom-writing and marriage-in-crisis woes, with an endearing subplot of him discovering a kindred soul in the long dead existentialist Kirkegaard. His vague, generalised angst floats easily thanks to Lodge's snide observations of the cruel banalities of London life.

My gripe would be that the final act, which involved a fair amount of flashback and a pilgrimage, while handled sensitively and staged elaborately, still makes for an arc that felt a bit cinematic. Still, Lodge has a talent for comic writing and dialogue that I have seen the likes of Elton and Nicholls try and fail miserably. Sensitive old British lads don't come more endearing than this. Well worth a read, though it has very little to revisit.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 August 2012
This novel is different from many of David Lodge's earlier works as, in them, the characters are sound emotionally but with external problems (often concerning issues of birth control) but here the central character, Tubby Passmore, is neurotic and most of his problems stem from this as he is comfortably settled in life. He tries several versions of therapy, including affairs - one which is mostly platonic and others fail - before undertaking a pilgimage to Santiago to meet his first love from school days. There is, therefore, a different, quieter humour as well as some skilful writing from the point of view of other characters before he finds resolution. Yet I missed some of the sparkiness of the previous works and found his obsession with Kierkegaard slightly wearisome although I laughed out loud at his attempts to uncover his wife's supposed infidelity. David Lodge does succeed in making middle-aged angst sympathetic and I have read the book a few times, including in a very readable French translation.
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on 15 November 2015
This is the first book I've ever read of David Lodge...and judging by the fantastic experience he gave me with this wonderfully insightful and funny tale, won't be my last! Life has this crazy way of organising itself around your dysfunctions and losses and this story tells that throughout, while making you laugh. Read it.
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on 17 April 2013
Possibly more popular with male readers, Lodge writes effortlessly about middle-aged people living their various lives. He's always funny - sometimes very much so - and yet always causes you to think about your own existence and what you are up to! These three volumes compliment each other perfectly, and should be owned by anyone who loves David Lodge's books - and by anyone who has never heard of him yet!
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on 12 June 2001
Laurence "Tubby" Passmore is a successful scriptwriter for a television sitcom, in his mid-fifties, married and the father of two grown children. He is indecisive and inexplicably depressed, unhappy with himself, his fat body, bald head, wonky knee, and impending impotence. At least, he is confident in his marriage to Sally, an attractive, self-made academic who enjoys sex; on weekly jaunts to London, he maintains a supportive but platonic relationship with the earthy Amy. Seeking to alleviate his woes, he dabbles in acupuncture and aromatherapy and regularly attends a blind physiotherapist and a woman psychiatrist; the latter counsels him to write a journal. His wife suddenly announces her wish for a divorce and the television network invokes a contractual obligation to make unwelcome demands on his skills. These events shatter his unappreciated but complacent "angst" and deepen his identity crisis. Laurence scrambles to rediscover himself. He reads the gloomy, Kierkegaard--because he identified with the titles--and he travels to the existentialist's Copenhagen. He pushes the boundaries of his relationship with Amy in a maudlin trip to Tenerife. He befriends a philosophic squatter, called "Grahame" (with an "e" no doubt to distinguish him from Graham Green whose "writing is a form of therapy" is an epigraph to this book). He flies wildly off to Los Ángeles hoping to rekindle a one-night stand "manquŽ." Finally he recalls and tracks the Irish Catholic, Maureen, his first girlfriend from forty years before. Maureen has suffered too--the death of her son and breast cancer; he finds her on the Road to Compostella.
A former English professor, Lodge is a brilliant satirist whose trilogy spoofing academic life won prestigious awards and two nominations for the Booker Prize. In this deliciously readable comic novel, told through the pages of Laurence's psychotherapy journal, Lodge once again addresses the subject of midlife crisis with great credibility. The painful loss of identity and direction at age fifty generates the "sit" for a personal "sitcom" unfettered by the narrow dimensions of a studio set. Briefly, the voice changes to engaging monologues about the same events by Amy, Sally, and other women in the protagonist's life--but the reader soon discovers these chapters too were "written" by Laurence as therapeutic exercises suggested by his psychiatrist. Insightful as well as playful, Laurence's odyssey into his past and his future is an adventure in self-healing. A skeptic, he eventually concedes that religion, like psychotherapy, study, and writing, is a form of healing and of coping with impossible decisions. His search for himself through his lost girlfriend assumes the aura of a life-long quest for the grail--a pilgrimage in which the journey is part of the prayer.
Uplifting and life affirming
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on 31 January 2000
This review is about "Therapy" by David Lodge. Lodge is an humorous, post-modernist novelist. In this readable, comic novel he faces the subject of mid-life crisis with great realism through the pages of Laurence's psychotherapy diary. The book's protagonist is Laurence "Tubby" Passmore, a successful sitcom scriptwriter. He is going through a difficult period in his life because he is 58 years old and is faced with a typical MID-LIFE CRISIS. He is married to Sally, an attractive, self-made academic who enjoys sex; she is a lecturer in one of the new universities. Instead Tubby is indecisive and inexplicably depressed, unhappy with himself, his fat body, bald head, wonky knee and temporary sexual impotence. He lacks self-esteem, but he does not know the reasons. At first he is very confident in his marriage with Sally even though, when he goes to London weekly, he has a positive but platonic relationship with Amy( "I have a sexy wife at home and a platonic mistress in London"). She also works for the TV series "The people next door". Tubby, seeking something to alleviate his troubles, dabbles in acupuncture and aromatherapy and regularly attends a blind physiotherapist and a woman psychiatrist. The latter advises him to write a diary. His wife, Sally, is unhappy with her married life and expresses her wish to divorce him. He also starts having problems with his job. These events increase his dissatisfaction with his own life and make his identity crisis worse. At this moment Laurence tries to rediscover himself by reading Kierkegaard's books. He thinks of his youth and decides to track Maureen, an Irish catholic girl who was his first girlfriend. Maureen has suffered the death of her son and her breast cancer, but she has found comfort in religion. Tubby finds her on the road to Composted, where she is on a pilgrimage. Lodge's language is so simple and colloquial that the reader can concentrate on the main topics of the book: Tubby 's mid-life crisis and his relationship with women(Sally, Amy, Maureen....). Readers should also concentrate on the title "Therapy" because it can help them to understand better that Tubby hides behind all these therapies not to face his true problems and the disaster his life seems to have turned into. He is so obsessed by these therapies that he sees his meeting with Maureen as a kind of psychological treatment, a way to solve his problems. The first person narrator makes the novel more involving, even though less objective. Certainly the most interesting aspect is the fact that the narrative voice intermingles with various monologuing voices, belonging to Amy, Sally and other women who play a role in the protagonist's life. These monologues provide different perspectives on the same events. But afterwards the reader discovers that these events have been written by Tubby as a therapeutic exercise. My personal opinion about the book is quite good. It is a meditative book where only a few actions happen, but it is interesting thanks to the richness of the language and because it deals with a peculiar theme, which is treated in a very realistic way. This tale gives readers an image of what their lives could be in the future. A must read! You will not be able to put it down!
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