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The Practice of Writing Hardcover – January 1, 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

English author, literary critic, and Birmingham professor David Lodge has given us a thoughtful collection of essays on writing, serving as an end-of-century bookend for E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel. But given the particular century in which Lodge writes, he doesn't stop with prose but also considers stage and television work--he adapted Martin Chuzzlewit for the BBC-- giving the book its greatest strength. Lodge's range runs from academic musings to television scripts, a breadth worthy of any scribe here on the disparate, millennial cusp.

From Publishers Weekly

Lodge, a wry and stylish British novelist (Changing Places) and former university professor, has collected a fair sample of his literary criticism and re-formed it into an insightful and surprisingly unified look at the craft of writing. He says flat out that this is not a book of literary theory but an examination of the way writers go about their work. His aim, he writes, is "to demystify and shed light on the creative process, to explain how literary and dramatic works are made, and to describe the many different factors, not always under the control of the writer, that came into play in the process." The result is a book that should be required reading in any creative writing class not bogged down in dogma. Lodge reviews the work of a number of writers?Graham Greene, D.H. Lawrence, Henry Green, Kingsley Amis, Anthony Burgess, Joyce, Nabokov?but the heart of the book is a series of essays on adapting his own work, as well as Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, for television, and on staging a sketch by Harold Pinter; and the diary Lodge kept while his play The Writing Class was in production. Although his nonfiction writing style is not as free of its academic roots as he would like to think and his outlook is not as satiric as readers of his novels might expect, here is a collection that is both engaging and useful.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st American ed edition (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713991739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713991734
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 20 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,711,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In contrast to the towering arrogance of many critics, academics and novelists who have published reflections on the craft of writing, Lodge stands alone as an enduring voice of common sense - probably because he's worked as all three. This breadth of experience keeps him grounded in the real world - which is good, because that's where writing and reading are actually done. In this collection of essays, he never disappears into theoretical ivory towers, nor does he make ridiculously large claims for the art of the novel or the enormity of his own talent. His essays are characterized by a generous, unpretentious ease. This book will be immensely enjoyable for writers and readers alike, but particularly for writers. Lodge's refreshing honesty about his own writing practices and experiences - especially in adapting his own novels and others - is a treat.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have at times been disappointed by books like this one: collections of essays, all written at different times for different purposes and venues, and of course, all written on various topics that happen to interest the author. If your interests as a reader don't coincide with the author's, at least through a majority of the essays, or if the essays are too closely tied to the purpose for which they were originally written to be of much interest outside that context, then you're likely to have a ho-hum and disappointing book. But this book was certainly no disappointment. David Lodge is such an engaging writer, with so much to say that's fun and informative, I think pretty much anything he writes would be an enjoyable and worthwhile read.

Some notes on particular essays/chapters in the book:

"Fact and Fiction in the Novel: An Author's Note" is an engaging and at times very funny look at how authors may use (or not use, when you might think they are using) real-life experiences, places, and characters in their fiction.

Several chapters are interesting discussions of aspects of the lives and careers of some well-known authors: Graham Greene, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Anthony Burgess, and Vladimir Nabokov. Most of these are presented as overviews of existing biographies and autobiographies of the persons in question, so you have both the sources of Lodge's information and also recommendations for further reading. And even in a chapter where Lodge discusses a lesser-known writer (Henry Green), the chapter is still thoroughly interesting for its insights on the processes and difficulties of writing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Lodge's book, The Practice of Writing contains much that is interesting, parts that do not fit together and little that related to the practice of writing. Because he is an interesting and intelligent writer it is easy to forgive the lack of unity across the parts of this book.

The first part, Novelists, Novels and The Novel covers more than ½ of the text and includes some of the best writing. This section opens and closes with essays about the Novel and its role in literature. There are six biographical and literary discussion of what he considers major English Novelists who presumably had the most effect on the future novelist: David Lodge.

James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Vladimir Nabokov and etcetra, in other words all men; nothing about Rebecca West or Virginia Wolf. It is possible that his generation did not study these women. I would like to know if he missed them or dismisses them. Was Henry Green really more important than either of these women?

His essay on Kingsley Amis focuses on his first major novel, "Lucky Jim". This essay was of particular interest to me. It is routinely listed as a very funny book. I found it amusing but not great. Lodge explains much about placing the book into the context of its time and about how certain of the jokes work. I found his discussion illuminating but concluded that the book is not funny and the jokes tend to be too serious to be funny. Reading the book in the context of its time is a reminder that comedy does not always travel well. Yet writers like Wodehouse maintain a following. I enjoyed learning more about Amis, but I am still not the fan that Lodge is.

The closing essay of this section is: The Novel as Communication. This like most of the book is a reprint of material from other sources.
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Entertaining as always.
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