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Small World Paperback – June 1, 1995
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I especially enjoyed the clever superimposition of the Grail legend on a tale of modern English professors pursuing a UNESCO endowed chair that entails no academic duties. Persse McGarrigle (Percival), the Irish innocent. Morris Zapp (Merlin), the canny but cynical sage. Morgana Fulvia (Morgan le Fay), the decadent, hypocritical Italian witch. They and the others are all here playing their time-honored rolls.
The coincidences come so thick and fast in this book that you very quickly get used to them. It is a good joke to make the entire world as small as academia, a place where you run into the same people again and again whether you want to or not.
It was a pleasure to read a book whose prose was devoid of trickery, over-cleverness and gimmicks. Here is a modern novel in a world increasingly full of post-modern works that are too often little more than cleverly constructed rooms full of mirrors. Lodge makes several funny, well-deserved swipes at post-modernism's negative effect on literary criticism.
So, I wasn't sure I wanted to read Small World, though I had been assured it was a better book. I am glad I finally overcame my resistance and read it, because it is a much better book; indeed I think it is a very good book.
Small World is also a satire on academia, and while all the jacket blurbs talk about how biting the satire is, I didn't find that to be the case. Lodge seemed much more in tune and sympathetic with his characters, even as he skewers their antics. Also, the attacks in this novel seem less personal and more on literary studies as a profession.
I actually think Lodge has much bigger ambitions in this novel than writing an academic satire. His goal, it seems to me, is to package the history of the novel into a story in the form of an academic satire. So instead of a relatively simple, satirical plot (as in Nice Work), Lodge gives us a multitude of interwoven plots. He has a standard comic plot, but he also has a thriller plot, several varieties of romantic plots, a few mistaken identity plots, a foundling plot, a reunion plot and probably several others I'm forgetting. As the characters move around the world, they move in and out of the various plots.Read more ›
This installment follows the two, along with a cast of what often feels like thousands, on the convention, conference and lecture circuit.
Lodge is blessed with a wonderfully sardonic and sharp sense of humor and a deep appreciation for farce. These skills are in admirable display in this book. The comedy level matches--possibly even exceeds--that of the first book--which is saying something.
On the whole, though, this is a somewhat less satisfying read. The cast of characters, as previously mentioned, is huge. It's so big it's often difficult to remember who's who. Moreover, the plot is singularly complex. And contrived. That everything is tied up neat as a pin by the end only adds to the level of contrivance.
This is a very clever book--perhaps too clever by half, as the Brits would say.
However, it is hysterically funny. If you are in need of a good laugh--actually, dozens and dozens of good laughs, this should be your cup of tea.
Having been a literature student and known many academics, I have been constantly struck by the sense of recognition. Lodge writes with his profound knowledge in literature and and his insight in people in the field of literarute. The pretentiousness in that world is mercilessly satirized. And the holy canon is hilariously and wonderfully parodized.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really weird book, but sort of interesting. Not something I would have chosen, but not a waste of time.Published 9 months ago by Sarah George
Well-written, clever, excellent satire. Excellent management of multiple plot and sub-plot lines. Ingenious melding of literary theory and form. Read morePublished 15 months ago by now what
Those of us who enjoyed reading 'how Far Can you go?' and saw it as being far from scurrilous but as being an accurate description of a group of students in a chaplaincy (several... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Mr. D. P. Jay
One of my College English Profs made me read this book. I was an English minor, but I have to say, I was truly disgusted by this book. Read morePublished on March 28, 2014 by B. Fowler
This is a great book. The copy I got was marred by a lot of printing blots, but it was readable. And I'm lucky for that. Small World is a parody of various academics. Read morePublished on April 5, 2013 by Sierra Reader
Anyone who has ever been at a conference, not just academic, corporate, church, activist, etc. will find that it rings true with people out of their own closeted lives.Published on January 3, 2013 by Susan K. Russo
I've read this book several times and think it's the funniest novel ever written, with the possible exception, depending upon your tastes, of the best of P.G. Wodehouse. Read morePublished on November 4, 2012 by William Carrington
This book is mostly a waste of time. A few pages are somewhat funny (like Zapp's lecture where he compares literary criticism with striptease), but they don't make up for a few... Read morePublished on August 11, 2011 by vs