Thoughts on A Man of Parts — David Lodge

* A Man of Parts is surprisingly dull despite H. G. Wells’s salacious, important life; there are too many passages like this:

Amber seemed to him a golden girl that summer and autumn, an almost mythical creature, such as the gods of classical Greece coveted and descended from the heights of Olympus to ravish in human disguise or in the form of some animal or bird.

The novel is dutiful yet has a limited feeling for what it’s like to be a writer; the novel deserves comedy but it isn’t particularly funny. There are good moments:

“You hear so much talk about sex, and read about it in books, and you don’t know what or who to believe, and anyway, words can never tell you what it’s actually like. Is it wonderful, or just ordinary?”
“It’s both wonderful and ordinary,” he said.

which capture the feeling of much of life; so often it’s two or more contradictory things at once, and the question of ordinariness or extraordinariness say much about the temperament of the consciousness doing the observing.

* The travails and politics of the Fabian Society arise in so many novels set in the 1890 – 1929 period, but in this novel their machinations are dull. Something like A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book covers similar territory but much more effectively, and more strangely.

* Science itself is mostly absent, as it is not from, say, Ian McEwan’s Solar or Peter Watt’s Blindsight.

* Novels about people who really know things are surprisingly rare.

%d bloggers like this: