- Series: King Penguin
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; first edition ?; Thirteenth Printing edition (July 27, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780140133967
- ISBN-13: 978-0140133967
- ASIN: 0140133968
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 31 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nice Work (King Penguin) Paperback – July 27, 1990
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From Publishers Weekly
"His tongue caustic, and his take on British society provocative and funny, Lodge skewers virtually every aspect of Thatcherite Britain in this top-notch satirical novel," observed PW . 35,000 first printing.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
David Lodge is the author of twelve novels and a novella, including the Booker Prize finalists Small World and Nice Work. He is also the author of many works of literary criticism, including The Art of Fiction and Consciousness and the Novel.
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It's not as funny or as well-plotted as "Changing Places" or "Therapy", his two greats, but then again that's hardly much of a condemnation. The man's only mortal, after all---and this novel, while not his best, is still a brilliant read and an essential conclusion to the Rummidge Campus trilogy. Read it!
The businessman is Victor Wilcox. He, short of stature, is the Managing Director of J. Pringle & Sons, an engineering firm in Brummidge and he is worried because it is experiencing some decline since the boom years. The academic is Robyn Penrose, tall and lissom, who has a three year lectureship in English Literature at Rummidge University. Her speciality is the Industrial Novel (and we are given an account of the literary theories of the time: she sides with the continental ones; she is also left-wing, a feminist and reads all sorts of Freudian symbolism into the novels.) She is told by her Head of Department (Philip Swallow, whom we have met in “Changing Places” and in “Small World”) that regrettably the financial cuts imposed by the government will not allow the university to make her post a tenured one when her three years come to an end.
When the University decides that each department should show an interest in industry by sending a member of staff to shadow an industrialist for one day a week during the winter term, her head of department Philip Swallow (whom we have met in the two earlier novels of the trilogy) nominates Robyn: she does, after all, specialize on the industrial novel. The Chairman of Pringle & Sons asks Vic to let Robyn shadow him. Both Vic nor Robyn resent the scheme, the more so when they find at their first meeting that they have totally different points of view which are displayed at length. She is duly appalled by the noise, dirt, heat and repetitive work when Victor shows her round the factory, and also by what she hears when she sits in on a management meeting.
Vic and Robyn keep on challenging each other’s philosophy, each making telling points. (In the course of it, Robyn provides a sexually loaded deconstruction - which irritates the hell out of Vic - of a Silk Cut cigarette advertisement). All the time there are suggestive leers and sniggers from coarse males whenever they see Vic with Robyn; soon Vic has erotic thoughts about her, and he does indeed fall in love with her.
“It was, perhaps, inevitable that Victor Wilcox and Robyn Penrose would end up in bed together” - it’s certainly inevitable in a David Lodge campus novel: he has already described several similar scenes in detail, as well as a few others involving pissing. But this particular scene has a psychological dimension which goes beyond the erotic, for while Vic is in love with Robyn, she makes it clear to him that she is not in love with him. She retains her cool.
And there is a cool analysis of the changes that have come over Britain with the Thatcherite revolution. Lodge has always mocked the Critical Theory which he presumably taught at Birmingham and to which Robyn was committed. Now it is not only Vic the manufacturer who has questioned its usefulness, but so does one of its practitioners who is now leaving academia for the world of finance. Vic has already railed against the world of finance whose activities have contributed so much to the decay of British manufacturing. At the end, the novel comes down on the side of Robyn and academic work, but it also tips its hat in respect to Vic’s resilience and enterprise.
All three of the novels in the Campus Trilogy are witty; but this one is by far the best and most mature of them, and that for a number of reasons: the issues here really matter and are more important and profound than the differences between the British and the American academia and manners in “Changing Places”; certainly more important than the conference circus in “Small World”. The plotting in this novel is vastly superior to that of the other two, and much more enjoyable. The characters of Vic and Robyn have far more depth to them than any of those in the preceding ones. The lubricious passages here are nothing like as frequent or as compulsive as before.