The articles with which David Lodge entertained and delighted readers of the Independent and The Washington Post Book World for fifty weeks between 1991 and 1992 have now been revised, expanded, and collected together in book form. The art of fiction is considered under a wide range of headings, such as the Intrusive Author, Suspense, the Epistolary Novel, Time-shift, the Sense of Place, and Symbolism. Each topic is illustrated by a short passage or two taken from classic and modern fiction, ranging from Laurence Sterne to J. D. Salinger, from Jane Austen to Fay Weldon, from Charles Dickens to Martin Amis. David Lodge takes these passages apart and puts them back together again with the expertise of a novelist, critic, and teacher. Technical terms are lucidly explained, and their applications examined, in the literary-critical equivalent of slow-motion replays of some of the best writing in the English language. To throw further light on a given topic the author sometimes refers directly, and revealingly, to his own experience of writing fiction. This book is essential reading for students of literature, aspiring writers, and anyone who enjoys literary fiction and would like to understand better how it works.
British novelist Lodge ( Paradise News ) retired in 1987 from Birmingham University's English faculty and swore off academic prose, but in 1991 he consented to contribute a series of columns ``of interest to a more general reading public'' to the London Independent . Each of these 50 essays begins with a brief fiction passage, addressed and interpreted topically by Lodge, who discusses point of view, the unreliable narrator, ``the uncanny,'' ``weather'' and other aspects of writing. For example, in Chapter 19, ``Repetition,'' he observes that while Hemingway is famous for the ``charged simplicity'' of his reiterated words or phrases, repetition brings a special flavor to the work of writers as various as Dickens, Lawrence and Martin Amis--and he proves it. The selections are varied, although perhaps slanted to favor gentility (Austen and Nabokov, not Meredith or Dreiser), and tend to verify the opinion that ``the novel has always been centrally concerned with erotic attraction and desire.'' Lodge may be working a bit below full capacity here, but apart from serving as a genial companion, he defines terms of the novelist's craft so deftly and concisely that this pleasurable browse could rescue (or replace) many a college syllabus. (July)