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Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
Publisher: Viking

Having retired from theory-dominated academia in 1987, British novelist and critic Lodge (Therapy, 1995, etc.) reflects on the practice and practicalities of writing for a living in this engaging essay collection. Lodge has written ten novels, five works of criticism (The Novelist at the Crossroads, not reviewed, etc.), a play (The Writing Game), and a considerable body of essays and reviews. The book's first section includes pieces on some broad issues in writing (""Fact and Fiction in the Novel"") and deft, precise readings of modern writers, including essays on D.H. Lawrence, Henry Green, and Vladimir Nabokov, among others. Lodge delivers an excellent introduction to Kingsley Amis's novel Lucky Jim, vigorously demonstrating why the book deserves to be remembered and reread. And as a Catholic, he sympathetically and informatively reviews discordant biographies of Graham Greene. There's a pleasant frankness and freshness about these pieces, as if Lodge, freed from the constraints of the university, can speak freely in a less formal voice. The pieces in the book's second section focus on Lodge's adventures in other media, including his work on a screenplay adaptation of Charles Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, and another based on his own novel Nice Work (1989). When laboring over Dickens, Lodge actually finds himself trading traditional places with his director, as he argues for a dramatic reworking of the story over any lengthy fidelity to the text. He also includes excerpts from his diary having to do with the production of The Writing Game; they display Lodge's easygoing adaptability and persistent fascination with the theater, despite difficulties with casting, rehearsals, and reviews. Lodge sums up this theatrical departure from his campus novels as ""the most intensely interesting experience of my literary career to date."" Neither wholly journalism nor academic theorizing, The Practice of Writing offers the best of both worlds.