Total Pageviews

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/24 - Thinks

I'd never heard of David Lodge before someone donated one of his novels to the floating book shop. Born in the UK in 1935, he has had 17 novels published since 1960, and also 13 works of non-fiction and an autobio. He has also written plays, and for TV. I just finished his 15th novel, Thinks, and was impressed by his flair and craft. Set in the late '90's, it is the story of the soon to be 50 head of a small college's science department - a married womanizer, and a recently widowed, 44-year-old writer, critically not commercially successful, who is hired to lead a seminar for aspiring authors. She lives on campus during the term, renting her London home to tourists. The man, fascinated by consciousness, particularly the unconscious, is a strict scientist, the woman a humanist who has lived conventionally, and who believes humans are more than sophisticated machines. He dictates his thoughts to recorders, she keeps a written journal. Their conversations are stimulating, only occasionally dense, sprinkled with references to science and literature. Will they become lovers? There isn't much more to the story than that. It's about the human condition as seen through these interesting characters. Its point of view shifts back and forth between each and a narrator. I'm always impressed by men who write convincingly from the female perspective. I read eagerly. Here are snippets: the woman on writing books: "When you think of the billions of people who have lived on this earth... it seems extraordinary, even perverse, that we should bother to invent all these additional pretend-lives." Yes! I can't believe that never occurred to me. The woman on the isolation she feels when everyone around her seems to be adulterous: "Why be good? Why deny myself pleasure?" I've asked myself that so many times. In an email to the scientist, she says: "We all have bad, ignoble, shameful thoughts. It is human nature, what used to be called Original Sin. The fact that we can suppress them, conceal them, keep them to ourselves, is essential to maintain our self respect. It's essential to civilization." Clearly, I identified more with her than the male, although my desires weren't much different than his. At one point the woman makes the brilliant observation that a computer seems like a savant autistic person. There are three twists along the way. I loved the first, was lukewarm about the second, and wonder if the third was inspired by revenge against a despised academic colleague of Lodge's. The narrative essentially ends at the finish of the semester, although there are a few paragraphs synopsizing the future of the major players. It is geared to those who prefer the literary rather than the popular. Although it by no means should be classified as erotica, anyone squeamish about frank sexual content should pass. 44 readers at Amazon have rated Thinks, forging to a consensus of 3.6 of five, too low in my estimation. The title refers to the cloud-like image of thought seen in comic books, as illustrated below:  

Speaking of how fascinating consciousness is - what song was playing repeatedly in my head during my morning walk? Jingle Bell Rock! In late April! I have no idea what triggered it.

From the Weird But True column in today's NY Post, in my own words: A man in Anchorage, Alaska has robbed two liquor stores and a gas station - wearing a cardboard box on his head, two eye-holes punched out. Life never ceases to fascinate.

The rain held off, allowing the floating book shop to operate. My thanks to Monsey, who brought me four beautiful, pristine hardcover children's books she found earlier. A young mom bought them five minutes later. Monsey later returned and insisted on paying for a CD set of Beethoven sonatas. I'd let her have a book on the struggles of Christianity and a CD of Chopin's work to pay her back for her generosity, and would have gladly parted with the Ludwig Van's for nothing. Thanks, my dear. I had a nice chuckle late in the session when a man approached, a pair of drumsticks protruding from an inside pocket of his jeans jacket. He noted the classical CD's and asked if I knew Beethoven's favorite fruit: "Ban-nan-nan-nah." He may have been imbibing a fifth.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

No comments:

Post a Comment