Esteemed English novelist Lodge (Home Truths, 2000, etc.) explores the relationship between consciousness and literature.
Intrigued by the way the very notion of consciousness seems to be evolving in an age of cyber and virtual reality, the author focuses here on a wide range of topics that offer perspective on consciousness in fiction. He discusses, among other things, recent theories of artificial intelligence, the historical give-and-take of literature and literary criticism, the timelessness of Dickens, and E.M. Forster’s juggling of the various English class-consciousnesses in his seminal novel Howard’s End. Delving into the recent popularity of filming Henry James’s fiction, Lodge reveals the disparity between James’s in-depth examination of human consciousness and the usually inadequate attempts to replicate it onscreen. He explores the work of the prominent American postwar authors John Updike and Philip Roth, with particular emphasis on Roth’s prolific body of work and daring (or reckless) plumbing of the depths of sexual consciousness. Lodge also provides an affectionate portrait of England’s father-and-son novelists Kingsley and Martin Amis (whose relationship was as special as it was famously troubled), and sympathetically assesses Experience, Martin’s account of the years in the mid-1990s when his father died and his marriage broke up, among other life crises. In a warm appraisal of Evelyn Waugh’s work, Lodge contrasts his own lower-middle-class origins in postwar England with the sparkling appeal of the glittering Brideshead Revisited cosmos, affectionately dissecting Waugh’s precise and unerring comic flair. Finally, Lodge describes the rationale behind one of his own recent novels, Thinks . . . (2001), in which he pursues the subject of consciousness in a fictional form. All of these pieces have the well-crafted tone of an assured master who knows writers and the business of writing extremely well. Lodge offers a kaleidoscopic adventure into the potentially forbidding realm of “consciousness studies,” sticking with familiar elements (well-known authors and books) and skillfully breaking his larger, more amorphous ideas into digestible bits.
Provocative and fascinating.