Monday, 11 April 2011
Lodge is a novelist fascinated by novel-writing. Nevermind the fictional biographies he's started writing about his heroes (Henry James and HG Wells, so far); nevermind the essays on the components of fiction that he should be more famous for; the real proof of his fascianation lies in his novels themselves.
Therapy sees a successful scriptwriter experimenting with form. Druing his journey of self-discovery, he writes a journal, a narrative memoir, and quasi-fictional accounts of himself through the eyes of his friends. He experiments with elements of voice, deconstructs the amount of truth in fiction (or the other way around), talks us through the production and revision of the text we are currently reading, and even even finds time to analyse some Kierkergaard.
This game-playing is entertaining, and paradoxically genuine. This is a trademark of Lodge; he makes the writing so much a part of the book that it can never seem contrived; it is so openly a written thing that any moments of writerly feeling work to include you rather than distance you from the subject. It's the same trick he pulls in Deaf Sentence, but here it is central to the arc of the novel (like in Thinks...)
That arc is not a new one. Tubby Passmore has Internal Derangement of the Knee (medical speak for I Don't Know) and Internal Derangement of everything else, too. He begins searching, doesn't find what he is looking for, but finds a more acceptable version of himself along the way.
So far, so what. Lodge has a huge amount of fun on the way, and it's impossible not to enjoy his comic expertise, but it's nothing out of the ordinary. What makes Therapy such a treat, especially for anybody who writes or is intrigued by writing, is the parrallel. Passmore's journey is exactly as eye-opening, accidental and self-finding as is his experiments with telling it.
It's not just the old divide of the story vs. the telling; it's the complete blurring of that division. If you take away the experiments in the telling, you change the story crucially. They're at least completely co-dependant; more likely, they're one and the same thing.