David Lodge is the author of ten bestselling novels and a novella. He also wrote two highly successful TV adaptations: his own novel NICE WORK and Dickens' MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. He taught for many years at the University of Birmingham, where he is now Honorary Prof. of English. Though a south Londoner by upbringing, he continues to live in Birmingham.
This audio begins quite brilliantly, with Ralph Messenger, head of the Cognitive Science department of a fictitious university, recording both deep and random thoughts on life's imponderables onto a tape. The listener is immediately engaged. The second chapter is similarly thought-provoking, with recently widowed novelist Helen Read writing her thoughts in her journal as she begins a visiting writer-in-residence tour at the same university. Ralph and Helen meet, of course, and begin to get together to discuss these conundrums. Alas, it becomes quickly apparent, unfortunately, that the real story of the book is whether, or rather when, he will persuade her into bed, despite his wife and four children. A third voice, an omniscient narrator, describes (in the present tense) what transpires in the interim between journal writing and recording. Gordon Griffin provides virtually no differentiation among the three voices, making it annoyingly necessary to gather from context who is speaking with each change, once the listener realizes there has been one. Two, or ideally three, readers would have been a vast improvement. The high level of interest demonstrated at the beginning quickly deteriorates into a pedestrian and predictable tale of a rather ordinary extramarital affair, making this a second choice for purchase unless the library has a large coterie of Lodge fans. Harriet Edwards, East Meadow P.L., NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Inimitable British writer Lodge (Small World; The Art of Fiction) is at his best in another of his comedies of manners set in the academic world. His 10th novel is distinguished by gentle satire, vigorous intelligence, sometimes ribald humor and a perspicacious understanding of the human condition. At the fictitious University of Gloucester, science and literature collide in the persons of 40-something Ralph Messenger and Helen Reed. Ralph's research as the director of cognitive science and his wit and charisma as an explicator of artificial intelligence make him a bit of a star in Britain, and with the ladies. He delights in opportunities for extramarital activities within the confines of the don't-ask-don't-tell arrangement he's established with his wife. Ralph's worthy opponent, newly widowed Helen, a novelist and Henry James devotee, has come to the university to teach creative writing. Helen represents the religious conflict common to Lodge's characters. She has nostalgic respect for her Catholic upbringing, but she's enduring a crisis of faith. Because of her strong moral conscience, she disapproves of Ralph's infidelities. Yet sparks fly during their heated debates, and they share an undeniable attraction and mutual respect. Ralph argues convincingly for artificial intelligence as the next rung on the evolutionary ladder, but Lodge's own opinion clearly corresponds to Helen's: she's dubious of a machine that could embody human consciousness, "a computer that has hangovers and falls in love and suffers bereavement." The perfectly paced story unfolds alternately via Helen's diary, Ralph's audio-dictated journal and an omniscient narrator. Although still politically aware, Lodge is arguably less concerned with social commentary (as in his Booker-nominated Nice Work) than with human nature, and he digs deeper here than in Therapy into the universal mysteries of death and the soul. Readers and booksellers will be more than pleased by this entertaining and appropriately thought-provoking novel. 6-city author tour. (June) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.