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Changing Places: A Tale of Two Campuses Paperback – October 25, 1979

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Anyone intrigued by differences between American and British academic institutions will find this an amusing and accurate send-up. David Lodge, portraying two American and British professors who replace one another at their respective institutions, gives greed, pettiness, and pretense full rein.

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David Lodge's sharply funny trilogy set in academe toggles between the very American Euphoria State University and the utterly British University of Rummidge. -- Entertainment Weekly
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 2nd edition edition (October 25, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140170987
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140170986
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #785,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Glen Engel Cox on June 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this on the train to New Jersey and back in January, and I'm sure my fellow passengers were looking at me strangely, because I was snorting and saying, "ha!" Maybe it's just being around academics again, but I found this novel extremely funny, and I probably will search out more Lodge based on it.
The idea is simple: two professors, one at a small college in England, the other at a huge conglomerate in California, switch places for an academic year. The English professor, who is barely scraping by, longs for the materialism of American society; the American professor, on the verge of divorce, is trying to get his wife to see past his infidelities and acknowledge his worth as a husband. But people are people all over, and while both professors undergo quite a bit of culture shock, and cause some culture shock in the academic societies that they become a part of, the real story here is that it is a small world after all (hmm, funny that, but Small World is the name of the sequel to this novel.
One of the best sections of this novel is the depiction of a game called Humiliation, wherein you must name a novel that you have not read, but that you expect everyone else at the table/party to have read. The idea is that by admitting not having read a canonical text (especially among Literature scholars) you will be humiliated. It's the kind of intellectual party game that Seinfeld watchers just can't join in on, because it assumes a sophistication. Either that, or it's just snobbery.
The other thing that raises this story about similar counterparts (including Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim, which I liked, but not as much as this novel) is the clever way in which it shifts form within the story.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Paxman on January 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
As a British graduate student at UC Berkeley, the campus upon which "Euphoric State" is closely modelled, and as a graduate of an English university similar to "Rummidge," which doubles for Birmingham, I can vouch for the accuracy of Lodge's beautifully-wrought satire. I zipped through "Changing Places" in less than a day and can't remember the last time I enjoyed a novel so much. Lodge was a visiting professor from Birmingham who taught at Berkeley in the late 60s (Philip Swallow is thus a kind of alter ego), and thirty-two years after the action takes place, there's much that's still recognizable here. The satire of academic life in England and America hits the bullseye, the characterizations are broad but retain a sympathetic humanity, the drama is compelling and amusingly risqué. There's also a nicely constructed vein of self-referential literariness that emerges on occasion, without being obtrusive. Accusations by some readers that the novel is "dated" miss the point - one might as well say Jane Austen is dated. Yes, the era of campus radicalism and sit-ins has receded into history, but the comparisons Lodge draws between English and U.S. campus life, academic politics and professors are still mostly valid. (Perhaps the biggest difference is that British academics have since come closer to their U.S. counterparts in having to worry about "publish or perish.") It's fascinating to note that many of the minutiae have not changed: British lecturers still give grades like Swallow's ultra-precise B+/B+?Read more ›
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
David Lodge's "Changing Places" had me in stitches. It's such a funny book. The prose is highly readable, crisply written and races along so charmingly that it's hard to put it down once you've started. Although Philip Swallow and Morris Zapp are drawn from the two contrasting cultures they symbolise, they are never allowed to degenerate into caricatures. Both are highly real and believable characters, sharing much the same human frailties. While Zapp is unashamedly direct, hollow and crass, Swallow is rather more reserved, diffident, but with the same potential though not the guts for dishonesty. It is only by "changing places" that they become themselves, albeit in a different environment. Even the behaviour of their wives change when subjected to the opposite cultural influences. Admittedly, the setting of the "exchange" in the late 60s (with all the references to student protests and pot smoking in university campuses) has tended to date the book a bit. But who cares, when you derive such enormous pleasure, laughter and fun from reading what must seem like a novel for the ages. I can see thousands reading it 50 years into the new millenium.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By AppleBrownBetty on November 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
It is obvious that Lodge is looking at the tumultuous student movements and blossoming women's movements of the late 60's from a critical distance. Both are satirized in this novel; but it is primarily concerned with exposing the inherent differences between British and American Academia and poking fun at the upper echelons of the ivory tower of English literature. The student movements serve merely as a backdrop for the mid-life crises of Lodge's main characters.
This is the story of Morris Zapp, an American professor of English literature and Jane Austen expert, and Philip Swallow, his English counterpart. They undertake an academic exchange between their respective universities, and swap more than just their positions, as their personal lives become intertwined in a typical Lodgian move: all things are connected.
This is an intelligent book, full of interesting if not improbable plot twists. The dialogue is witty, the prose full of brilliant and well-used ten cent words to build a vocabulary on. It is not laugh out loud funny, but snicker out the side of your mouth humor. The experimental part at the end is a bit misshapen and very disappointing, especially for the reader, who comes to care about his characters.
And yet this is about something much bigger, especially for the academic. These are men who are trying to make their way in a world where publish or perish is the only mantra. Their respective crises are coupled with new couplings on both sides of the Atlantic, and a new view on life--all they needed was a change of place. They seem to have discovered how much there is to gain by leaving that which you know. I'm not sure how much truth there is to that belief, this is most unfortunate for the marriages in discussion, but in the end, aren't the women also better off?
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