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Lodge transmutes his own experience of Academia into these entertaining novels
on 29 May 2016
This bargain of a volume contains Lodge’s three novels: “Changing Places” (1975), “Small World” (1984), and “Nice Work” (1988), all inspired by his own experiences as an academic. His observations are often wittily satirical, and his descriptions are very evocative, especially for any reader who has been through similar experiences or who knows the many locations in which the stories are set.
I have reviewed each of these novels separately on Amazon; but this collection benefits from an introduction by David Lodge, saying something about each of the three.
“Changing Places”: In 1969 Lodge, who was then a lecturer at the University of Birmingham, had spent six months as visiting associate professor at the University of California. He plots an English academic visiting an American campus at the same time as an American academic visits an English one. The difference between American and English ones was greater when he wrote the book in 1969 than it is today, when English universities have become much more like American ones, so that the novel in some respects has become something of a period piece.
“Small World”: In 1978 Lodge had attended a huge academic conference, with an attendance of 10,000, in Manhattan, and in the following year he attended two smaller ones, one in Switzerland and one in Israel. The participants at indulged themselves, away from the academic sessions, in all sorts of extra-curricular activities, and many of them competing for some Holy Grail like a well-endowed Chair.
“Nice Work”: This is set in 1979, the year in which Mrs Thatcher’s government came to power and wanted universities to be run like businesses and to become less dependent on government funding. Birmingham University, along with most others, tried to strengthen its ties with local industry. So for this novel Lodge uses the same formula he had used for “Changing Places”, this time with an academic visiting a business concern to learn how business works, and a businessman eventually reciprocating by spending time in the university.
My four star rating is the average for the three novels: four stars for the first, three for the second and five for the third.
So now see my separate reviews.