Thursday, April 22, 2010

David Lodge's The British Museum is Falling Down

I bought David Lodge's The British Museum is Falling Down while in the British Museum in late 2001. I hereby absolve myself for all the guilt I've suffered for not picking it up before now, since it's the perfect novel to read with Ulysses in progress.

A "novel where life" keeps "taking the shape of literature," it's a day in the life of PhD student Adam Appleby, who spends a Saturday at the British Museum worrying over his wife's suspected fourth pregnancy instead of actually getting any work done on his thesis. There are parodies and pastiches and Catholic prohibitions against any contraception beyond the rhythm method.

And there's all the literary talk at the department sherry party in the evening:

'What do you think of anus?' said the man.

'I beg your pardon?'

'The novelist, Kingsley Anus,' said the man impatiently.

'Oh yes. I like his work. There are times when I think I belong to him more than to any of the others.'

'Please?' said the man, frowning.

'Well, you see, I have this theory,' Adam, who had just thought of it, said expansively. 'Has it ever occurred to you how novelists are using up experience at a dangerous rate? No, I see it hasn't. Well, then, consider that before the novel emerged as the dominant literary form, narrative literature dealt only with the extraordinary or the allegorical--with kings and queens, giants and dragons, sublime virtue and diabolic evil. There was no risk of confusing that sort of thing with life, of course. But as soon as the novel got going, you might pick up a book at any time and read about an ordinary chap called Joe Smith doing just the sort of things you did yourself. Now, I know what you're going to say--you're going to say that the novelist still has to invent a lot. But that's just the point: there've been such a fantstic number of novels written in the last couple of centuries that they've just about exhausted the possibilities of life. So all of us, you see, are really enacting events that have already been written about in some novel or other. Of course, most people don't realize this--they fondly imagine that their little lives are unique. . . Just as well, too, because when you do tumble to it, the effect is very disturbing.'

Book seven for the Girl Detective's 15/15/15 project.

3 comments:

Margaret WV said...

One of my favorite authors! I think I'll re-read Therapy soon . . . .

Jessica said...

This sounds great! Just requested in from our library. Thanks for the review.

Thomas at My Porch said...

I love David Lodge and this is such a great scene. Makes me want to read this book all over again. The sentiment about all the material for novels seems to be used up is what I feel about classical music sometimes. Hard not to be derivative.