24 aprilie 2012

David Lodge & HG Wells: A Man of Parts

My interest about HG Wells (see previous post) did not come out of the blue. I have read some of his SF novels and stories as a child. Of course, few were translated in Romanian at the time: the communist regime was not eager to promote deviationist ideas among the citizens. However, the Time Machine and the Invisible Man were enough harmless to pass the censure.

My beloved wife offered me, as Christmas gift, the most recent David Lodge’s book, A Man of Parts, a biographical novel with HG Wells as main character.

My wife did not know that the book has anything to do with HG Wells, but was aware of me liking David Lodge’s novels. Lodge wrote more than a dozen of comic novel, all very hilarious. I think that best known is the trilogy on academic life (Small World, Changing Places, Nice Work*), but the British Museum is Falling Down, Deaf Sentence and all the others are just lovely. Lodge really knows how to write, has always something interesting to describe, has a message, and is very amusing.

I always asked myself if either being university professor and scholar of criticism helped David Lodge to become a writer, or it is just his natural gift.

Anyway, as a novelist, Lodge produced more than pure fiction and comic texts. A Man of Parts is an example. It is probably far from being one of his best works, but it is a good pretext to mention the writer on this blog ;). I really do not know if I like or not A Man of Parts. My opinion is surely biased: as I said, I like both HG Wells and David Lodge. The book is abundant in details about Wells passionate life, even without insisting much on the époque (which I think that is an unfortunate minus). It depicts gradually the pattern of thinking that Lodge considers it was specific to Wells. The story is always reinforced with examples from Wells' books, and from his private correspondence with contemporaries, friends and/or lovers, many of them known writers by themselves. However, these excerpts tend to reduce the rhythm in which the action develops, diminishing the novelistic quality of the book. On the other hand, the fiction-like narrative makes the non-fiction character of the book to be too much dispersed in the 559 pages of the tome.
Romanian edition, Polirom
(in my opinion, the title translation
-literary: The man made of pieces-
could have been better)

I would say that reading the book was quite informative, but not actually thrilling. Probably I would have preferred to have two different volumes: a document-based description and a novel. However, I still have the strange feeling that A Man of Parts is not a bad book?

My evaluation: 5/10.

*For my Romanian readers: The Romanian translations of the titles are slightly different, but one can easily retrieve the books from any online bookshop…

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