David John Lodge is a writer who is able to extract comedy from the soul-searching of Roman Catholics in an increasingly secular world. Unlike converts such as Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene, whose faith seems to wobble when pressed, Lodge, a born Catholic, never leaves the fold while still burdened with doubts. He was born in 1935 to William Frederick and Rosalie Murphy Lodge. Out of the Shelter portrays a five-year-old boy living through the excitement of the London Blitz, as Lodge did. He was educated at University College, London, and graduated in 1955. Lodge was in the British army, mainly in Germany, from 1955 to 1957. Ginger, You’re Barmy suggests how much he hated this experience. He returned to University College, receiving his master’s in 1959. That year, he married Mary Frances Jacob; they would have two sons and a daughter. In 1960, Lodge began teaching modern literature at the University of Birmingham, where he received his doctorate in 1967. He has been awarded the Harkness Commonwealth Fellowship, the Hawthornden Prize, the Royal Society of Literature Fellowship, and the Whitbread Award.
For some time, Lodge successfully maintained two careers, one as a scholar and the other as a novelist. He published school texts of novels by Jane Austen and George Eliot and a widely used collection of essays, Twentieth Century Criticism. Also an astute reviewer, his critical leanings are most clearly displayed in Working with Structuralism. In Modes of Modern Writing, he defends the role of resemblance in literature and attacks art that is content with configuration. This view is consistent with Lodge’s very British commonsense practicality. In 1987, however, he resigned his university post to concentrate on writing.
It is Lodge’s novels that draw most readers to him. The novels have been increasingly impressive; their comedic element is striking, while their seriousness gives them substance. Ginger, You’re Barmy indulges in barracks humor, yet the work is mainly an attack on national conscription and the colonial spasm during the Suez crisis. The main contrast is between the angry but passive narrator and an Irish conscript who deserts to join the Irish Republican Army. There is more humor, even farce, in The British Museum Is Falling Down. This novel traces a day in the life of Adam Appleby, a graduate student at University College, London. He is worried whether his wife is pregnant with a fourth child, whether his dissertation (“The Structure of Long Sentences in Three Modern English Novels”) is foundering, and whether he can get a teaching position to support his growing family. The Joycean parallels are occasional, although the novel ends with a Molly Bloom-like reverie.
Out of the Shelter is an initiation story in which the child hero comes to consider the shelter, to which his family goes during an air raid, as a lost haven as he grows older. The central episode takes place in Heidelberg, where the fifteen-year-old hero goes to visit his sister, who works there for the Americans. There he is a foreigner among foreigners, and his sexual awakening under the tutelage of a precocious American girl deepens his sense of estrangement. This...
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