The Art of Fiction by David Lodge

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The Art of Fiction by David Lodge

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Category: Anthologies
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Chris Bradshaw
Reviewed by Chris Bradshaw
Summary: Want to know what makes great fiction? Let David Lodge be your guide in this accessible, informative and entertaining guide to the written word.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 254 Date: April 2011
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099554240

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Some academics produce streams of fantastic concepts and ideas but their attempts at articulating them to a wider reading public stumble into jargon and complexity. Thankfully David Lodge has no such troubles. As a mighty fine novelist (Nice Work, Thinks..., Deaf Sentence and many more) who also has a day job as a professor of English, Lodge is perfectly qualified to deliver a book on the craft of writing an in The Art of Fiction he has delivered one that is informative and enlightening as well as highly entertaining.

The Art of Fiction is a collection of Lodge's weekly columns for The Independent newspaper in which he takes one aspect of the writing process and gives us an insider's eye view of the writer's thinking and what considerations they would make while putting a passage together. Each topic is illustrated by a short snippet (or snippets) from a noted literary figure, classic or modern.

A huge variety of themes and concepts are covered in the 230 or so pages ranging from narrative structures and stream of consciousness through to the seemingly prosaic but crucial thinking that goes into the naming of characters. Creative writing night school students may be pleased to find that the old favourite 'show and tell' is also amply covered.

The themes are coloured with a wide selection of examples ranging from Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen and Henry James through to James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Virginia Woolf. There are a smattering of contemporary authors featured too including the likes of Paul Auster and Martin Amis.

Though the quality is high throughout, The Art of Fiction is probably something best dipped into rather than ploughing through in a single sitting and with 50 topics covered some chapters understandably are hit the spot more than others. Readers could easily miss out on the one on aporia for example but then again they’d miss out on learning that it is a a Greek word meaning 'difficulty, being at a loss, literally a pathless path' .

There's plenty packed into each mini-essay making it an ideal primer for English literature students wishing to learn about the mechanics and processes involved in writing successfully. Budding novelists and short story writers will pick up plenty of tricks of the trade as well as learning from great works of literature. Don't think that this is just a book for specialists though. The Art of Fiction has plenty to offer the general reader offering an accessible yet meaty taster to many great writers you probably should have read already but never quite got round to.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: Nice Work by David Lodge or The Fiction Class by Susan Breen although we were not entirely convinced about the latter.

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