The Art of Fiction

David Lodge, The Art of Fiction - e-book
Read from August 29th  to September 22nd, 2012

My Rating: 3/5 stars


No wonder this book is mandatory in the bibliography of many Literature students. It explains beautifully, by analyzing excerpts from various masterpieces, essential notions of literary theory and criticism. Even if its 50 sections were initially written for a weekly newspaper column, and with the declared intention to be comprehensible to a general public, "The Art of Fiction" introduces the basic notions for anyone who intends to lose the innocence of reading and become a critic en herbe. 

Somehow ironically dull, the book begins with the Beginning, and ends, of course with the Ending, both chapters presenting various ways to introduce and finish a story. In between, we learn about narrative voices, about the form and the structure, the time and the space, the language, the plot and so on, as we did (and forgot!) in high school and college. 

I liked a lot of text analyses and, as always, I enjoyed reading Lodge, but I have to confess I'm familiar with many of the notions presented. 

However, I learnt some, too: that you can use the term "skaz" "to designate a type of first-person narration that has the characteristics of the spoken rather than the written word." (The Catcher in the Rye is an example); that another term for poetic prose is fancy prose; that there is a form of intertextuality named missed opportunity (a piece of information that would have suited a novel had it been discovered while writing it); that there is an experimental novel named Alphabetical Africa in which the first chapter contains only words that begin with a, the second with b, a, the third c, b, a etc., and so on until z, and then back until a again; that Paul Eluard could have saved the life of the surrealist Czech poet Zavis Kalandra but he refused to intervene.

On the other hand, I don't think I'm too comfortable with the term "non-fiction novel", which is very oxymoronic (to use an euphemism for contradiction in terms) even if it was coined by Truman Capote, and I perfectly understand his reasons. Anyway, I prefer Tom Wolfe's "new journalism" to describe this type of novel. 

Finally, I would add that I was amused to discover that I had already spotted many of the tricks he revealed he used in his own novels.

Overall, as usual, and I repeat myself, I love the critic Lodge as much as I love the novelist. And of course, my to-read list is longer now, including Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Fay Weldon, Female Friends, Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day, Evelyn Waugh, A Handful of Dust, and Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable.

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