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4.0 out of 5 stars
Author, Author
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on December 6, 2014
One of my favorite books. Henry James'last years were fascinating and often sad.
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on May 14, 2015
I'm not a fan of Henry James writing, though I've been pleasantly surprised by liking most movies made from his stories. And yet David Lodge wrote a fascinating story about James and some of the people close to him. I have come away from Lodge's tale with an appreciation for James' lessons learned hard at the hands of theatre: learning to construct a clear scenario for each part of a play was James' best lesson which he then transferred to novel-writing. He reinvigorated his literary career by applying that perception. Even though it took him five brutal years of failing on the stage to learn that, it appears he made better lemonade out of the distasteful lemon he had created.
My own mental picture of James is that of a decent guy who spent too much time alone and unattached notwithstanding his close friendships. As he went back and forth with his theatre associates revising his plays I began to wonder if that might have been the most feedback he'd ever gotten about his complicated writing style up to that point. It probably was. I can only wonder and regret what else he might have learned about life as much as writing if he had written something with Constance Fenimore Woolson - and especially if he had found the strength and humility to marry his dear Fenimore. (Now there's someone to mourn...and maybe look up her writings about the South under Reconstruction, so called.)
And I feel bad that James appears to have ended his long life and career thinking he had not been a success, if not a partial failure by his own lights. I found myself thinking of Keats' tombstone enscription, Hear lies a man whose name was writ upon water - painful to think of that for either of them.
My last two-cent observation is James' desire not to beat down his friends who didn't write nearly as well as he. The scene where he wondered about his close friend George du Maurier's naive scepticism. It reminded HJ uncomfortably of his own father's faith which came under the influence of Swedenborg, a man I'd barely heard of. Suffice it to say, HJ was amazed at how intelligent, thoughtful people coild reject Christianity and then replace it with something embarrassingly naive. In du Maurier's Peter Ibbetson, his beloved dies and returns to PI in a dream with a reassuring word about the next world: "Ever thus may a little live spark of your own individual consciousness be handed down mildly incandescent to your remotest posterity." Little live spark...mildly incandescent...remotest posterity?! I'm glad James recognized it is not enough to reject a belief in something you should replace it with something better or at least not dreadfully implausible such as that. Good grief!
Mr. Lodge has gotten me interested in the story of a writer I never thought I'd care much about and he deserves a lot of credit for pulling off that feat.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon August 7, 2010
A sympathetic and interesting historical novel about the great novelist Henry James. This book is somewhat different from most of Lodge's prior work, which tends towards relatively gentle satire and irony. Lodge's James is an outsider, an aesthete dedicated to his art while simultaneously constrained by what appears to be a real streak of prudery. A man whose only passion appears to be his artistic vocation, James' disinterest in a good deal of normal human life at a personal level is accompanied by real dedication to psychological understanding and careful description of human relationships. To a great extent, this book is an effort at a Jamesian description of James and a rather sympathetic one at that. Lodge focuses on 2 major episodes in James' life; his death and his unsuccessful attempts to become a popular playwright. The latter episode, which resulted in tremendous disappointment and an episode of actual humiliation, occupies much of the book. Lodge shows the interesting way in which aspects of James' life are mirrored in some of his work. I suspect also that aspects of the organization of book and some of the different stylistic devices used in different parts of the book mirror the different ways in which James approached his work over the course of his career. The climactic sequence showing the failure of James playwriting attempts, for example, is presented in a series of play-like scenes. A number of other interesting figures pass through the book, including members of James family, the popular writer and artist George Du Maurier, and friends of James like the now largely forgotten writer Fenimore. Some notable individuals, like the young HG Wells and Bernard Shaw, make small appearances. Like all of Lodge's books, this novel is written very well.
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on November 14, 2011
I'm not a huge fan of Henry James, but David Lodge does a fair job of channeling him in this somewhat fictionalized bio, written in a formal, Jamesian style. It focuses mainly on two aspects of James's life--his failed attempts as a playwright and his friendship with George Du Maurier, a more successful but less gifted writer. James struggled between good will toward his friend and jealousy of Du Maurier's popularity. He could never have imagined that The Portrait of a Lady and The Wings of the Dove would be made into major motion pictures later in the twentieth century. Lodge characterizes James as a celibate homosexual, married to his art, who never realized commercial success during his lifetime. On the other hand, although Du Maurier created the character Svengali whose name has entered the lexicon, his work has not stood the test of time, but his granddaughter Daphne's has. There are several other well-known writers of the period, including Edith Wharton, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and H.G. Wells, who peripherally figure into James' life. It was especially interesting to me, though, that Du Maurier's grandchildren by his daughter Sylvia were the boys who inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan. Also, James's agent's daughter married Rudyard Kipling. What a small, interconnected, and talented world Henry James inhabited.
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on August 3, 2012
Author, Author became my unexpected favourite David Lodge book. I'd be reading it again right now if my sister hadn't snapped away my copy.

I'm apprehensive about admitting that I've never read a word of Henry James, but perhaps that fact allowed me to approach this fictionalized account of his life events from a pristine angle. As an author who has been called "boring" many times over, I found myself identifying strongly with dear Henry. Lodge does a glorious job of communicating the hope of a new literary enterprise, the build-up, the sheer WORK of it all, and then the tremendous sense of defeat in failure. It's a great book to read amidst poor reviews of one's own books.

I highly recommend Author, Author to other authors and anyone who enjoys literary humour and academic fiction. This book actually reminded me more of Robertson Davies (whom I adore) than other works by Lodge. And, again, you don't need to be a James groupie to enjoy this one.
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on March 31, 2007
I have been a fan of David Lodge for a long time. I like his choice of subjects and his witty style. I have also admired the novels by Henry James for about two years now, but I know little about his life, except dry facts. "Author, Author" seemed a logical following.

I was spellbound from the very beginning of the book, which starts in 1915, with James bedridden after a second stroke. As we get more and more convinced that his death is imminent, the author travels back in time, to the period in James's life when he desperately tried to become a successful playwright, at the same time not abandoning his ideas for novels and novellas. The psychical torment associated with the creative process, combined with extraordinary sensitivity and shyness covered with a mask of ever proper behavior are depicted by Lodge with exceptional ability, evoking the image of James as very complex human being. James's financial struggle and his yearning for success, his perfectionism, his high hopes and constant disappointments make his life not dissimilar to the lives of talented authors, artists and scientists of today... Clearly, HJ, as he was called by friends, was not free from vices, but at the same time his imperfections made him real to me, a man of flesh and blood, not only an admired author of perfect novels. He had intense passionate feelings, and although he might have appeared cold to the outside observer, he was capable of great care for his family and friends. The descriptions of the people connected with James, especially, of course, George du Maurier and his family, as well as Edith Wharton and Constance Fenimore Woolson, are very perceptive. The mention of other famous characters, who at some point were in contact with James (to mention, as an example, Oscar Wilde, James Lowell, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells; I particularly like the encounter with Agatha Christie) are very stimulating for imagination.

George du Maurier is almost as important for the novel as James and his life, work, constant worry to provide for his family and utter astonishment when, after the success of his popular novel "Trilby", George does not have to worry any more, are reconstructed in detail. After his death, and the death of many other people dear to James, Lodge takes us back to James's deathbed, to expect the end together with his family and faithful servants.

As Lodge admits in the preface, he tried to be as accurate as possible with the facts (which he researched well, judging after acknowledgements at the end of the book, which were for me an excellent source!), but the dialogues are, obviously, his own invention. The prefect rendering of the spirit of the era and the theater adds to the novel's charm. It is not so easy to categorize "Author, author" so quickly as pure biography, because it reads as the most exciting fiction. And although (as Lodge also admitted himself at the end of the book) Henry James attracts more and more biographers (Colm Toibin's "The Master" and Emma Tenant's "Felony" are on my "To read" list now, and very high), this is certainly an valuable position and a remarkable achievement of Lodge's who managed to venture out of his usual domain of academic comedy with absolute success. I would like to end with a paraphrase of his own words: "David, wherever you are - take a bow".
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on February 11, 2013
Lodge has written, through documents, autobiographies, notes by famous contemporary writers and friends of James, a novel about the life (or better the last years) of Henry James.
it His anxiety, the literary and theatrical failures, his decision to be a "bachelor" all his life long.
A view of his friendships and above all Du Maurier's. His best friend, who will turn into one of the best selling authors of that time.
The conflict between envy and friendship underlines the great humanity of James.
It's not a catching novel, but it is beautifully written (like all books by Lodge) and I appreciated very much only after I finished it.
For all Henry James lovers, a book to read!
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on April 9, 2009
David Lodge has long been one of my favourite authors. For some reason I find that I can easily identify with his protagonists who I suspect are not too far removed from the author himself as they question the absurdities of life with pathos and humour.

Author, Author, however, reveals a different David Lodge who with great charm and sympathy transports us back to a world standing at the starting line of modern technology all ready to go; a world bursting at the seams with creative talent. He lets the writer Henry James hold stage as he paints vivid pictures of England of the time, introducing us to many literary giants and makes them come alive for us again as a backdrop to Henry James's struggles with his ambitions, creativity and his claim to fame and fortune.

This novel is so very good and enjoyable and works perfectly on many different levels. It is painlessly educational; it is intriguing with a slow pastoral eloquence that one savors until it suddenly turns into page turning frenzy. This novel is good at the beginning; it is excellent in the middle and that oh, so eloquently written end which I had to reread for the sheer pleasure of it. I must thank and congratulate the author, come on David take a bow.
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on July 8, 2006
An excellent book: perceptive, passionate, meticulous, and intelligent. Lodge accompanies his subject wisely, sympathetically, but never indulgently. He's especially good at showing how literature can never transform itself into a performance art, and what makes the theatre a precursor to the book, an implacable mechanism. The novel is an entire education in taste, literacy, fashion, and the essentials of fiction.

Lodge's account of literary friendships and of the curse of Envy is spot-on. James himself would have blanched at its accuracy.

I have a question. The UK edition (paperback) is printed in 8-pt type, virtually unreadable to those over 24, which is surprising, since people under 24 don't read books. And especially novels about dead white American-Victorian Anglophiles. So how about it? Is there any edition, anywhere, printed in something bigger than 9 points?
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on February 7, 2006
In this novel David Lodge makes his first foray into historical fiction, and the results are a disappointment.

I should preface this review by saying that I am a huge David Lodge fan, having read nearly all of his novels. And both he and I are huge Henry James fans. But Lodge made a far better tribute to James in Thinks..., where one of the protagonists enjoys quoting James and emulating his writing style, than he does here. In Author, Author, Lodge turns James into a Lodge stock character - fumbling, neurotic, not self-assured, though inwardly arrogant. Worse, Lodge's James thinks in Lodge's vocabulary - even to the point of incorporating Lodge's signature Catholic perspective, though James was Protestant. I certainly learned a lot about Henry James's life from the book, but I learned nothing about James's character, since I found this portrait disturbingly similar to Lodge's contemporary characters.

The book begins as a straightforward historical novel, one that begins at the end of the author's life, but then jumps back in time to a period when the author failed. Lodge makes the fatal mistake, one third of the way through the book, of slowing his pace down and devoting approximately fifty pages of the book to one day in Henry James's life - a day that Lodge deems particularly important, though as a reader I was not convinced of the day's weight. It is a ridiculous conceit in a historical novel, made even worse by the fact that James suddenly tries to bring in the points of view of other characters in the novel - characters about whom the reader could care less. The attempt at weighty character study disappears as Lodge has fun imagining what an evening at the theater might have been like at the turn of the century. It's a betrayal of the reader's trust, and it's boring. Lodge returns to his original style for the final third of the book, but it was too late by that time for him to regain this reader's respect.
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