Henry James taking a bow

David Lodge: Author, Author

I have seen this book described as "tepid", apparently because it does not contain scandals or a hard-hitting plot or whatever, but it is a study in indecisiveness – an author wanting to find money and fame as a playwright, but lacking the will both to shape his work to fit the format and a willingness to commit his best work to it. Many a scientist seeking money as a consultant will recognize the feeling, at least I do….

And it works – the "not quite documentary, not quite biograhy, not quite novel" format gives a great impression of the era moving from Dickens to Wilde, with Henry James wanting the latter’s fame using the tools of the former. Another fascination is the time scale of things, and the easy living – while worried about money and deadlines, James had money for servants, a secretary, and leisurely trips to Paris and Venice for weeks and months to write and contemplate. His meticulousness with language was such that a large expense was telegraph fees for last-minute corrections. One suspects he would have been a great blogger, with infrequent but meticulously crafted, long entries.

Recommended, as is anything by David Lodge.

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