Book info

Small World (1995)

Small World (1995)
Author
Rating
3.91 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0140244867 (ISBN13: 9780140244861)
languge
English
genre
publisher
penguin books
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Small World (1995)
Small World (1995)

About book: Oh yes and...On fear of flying.One of the things I love about this series is he captures ordinary sensible fears of flying so well.I've just got off a plane, yet again without it falling down in a non-prescribed manner. But still, it's made me think about this situation.Have you ever been in a plane, sitting in it, expecting to take off, when the pilot says 'Attention, attention, attennnnshhunnn. Passengers, in order to fly safely we need to take off 100 kgs. I'm asking for two volunteers and their luggage to leave now and wait for the next plane.'This is true, it really happened. And, of course, nobody believes it. If the pilot says 100 kgs or we fall out of the sky, then the passengers want at least double that. What if somebody's done their arithmetic wrong. How can they know 100 kg is the right figure???And you know what happens? Everybody looks at the biggest, fattest people. Looks at them like, come on, this is your moment. This is the only time in your life where there is any purpose to your wantonly deep fried life-style. Yes, and you will have the heaviest luggage, we all know that. You can save this entire jet of passengers from certain death by doing no more than simply hanging out in the Qantas lounge and feasting on free lunch until the next plane comes. This is win-win for everybody. Nobody actually says a word but it is patently clear what they are all thinking.People like me get completely ignored, which is funny because although I don't make the cut on my own, my luggage always weighs more than I do, so I'd do the job. But instead I can just sit there knowing this is some weird form of Big Brother where my seat is safe. Nobody's voting me off this trip.On fear of trollies.Adelaide is such a sweet town. You know that because it has the only airport left in the whole world where you don't have to put a down payment on your trolley. The last time I used a trolley was in Los Angeles many years ago. I put in my two bucks, got a trolley, used it for hours and then, when finally we were able to check in our luggage I simply left the trolley. Walked off only to turn around because honest to God, two large grown up men zoomed in on the trolley and were fighting for it. I mean fighting. At least one of these men was going to die. I stood, horrified. I'd just spent several weeks in the US largely trying to get out of the place and now...now. For sure I was going to be charged with some sort of affray leading to the death of at least one person. Far from escaping the place, I'd be put in gaol, death row, if I was lucky and the jury understood it was an innocent mistake on my part, not understanding the significance of the situation.It had never been properly documented before until I next went to my therapist. Trolleyphobia. I expect academic papers have been written....conferences attended.------------------------------------------I see there is something of a dispute on goodreads as to whether this is the best of the trilogy. Better? Worse? Slightly different? I'm not going with the argument that you have to go to conferences to get why this one's so special. Like the idea of a conference isn't out there in the ether.How about this instead. Hands up if you've written a book of literary criticism. I put my hand up. Look around, count hands. Oh. Just the one then. So, you know. You all wouldn't really understand then. Not like I would. I mean, we are reading about the lives of literary critics, after all.We have here the very special point of view of someone who hasn't been to a conference, but who has written a book of literary analysis. Lucky, lucky you.The thing is, I have to begin by saying, I hate analysing literature. I can't think of a more effective way of spoiling the stuff. At school I was the relentless objector to everything non-literal. But why are sharp pointy things in Tess of the D'Urbervilles phallic? Why can't they just be sharp pointy things, doing sharp, pointy sort of things?Having said that, I did sort of analyse Changing Places.Here I will merely add that there is more padding to this book but that it made me laugh uncontrollably a couple of times.So I’m at the Italian Consulate a few days ago waiting, waiting, waiting. I knew it would be like that, after all, a micro model of the Italian government at work. I’ve brought various things with me including this book, of which I read maybe fifty pages. Suddenly it makes me laugh, I mean really laugh out loud, LOUD, out loud. I swear to God the man at the desk looked at me and moved me right to the bottom of the queue. And the two dozen people around me, dull, braindead looking specimens if ever I’ve seen any, looked like they fully approved the desk man’s decision.Swallow is in Turkey to present a paper at a conference and he's brought blank A4 paper with him to use as toilet paper. He's wiping his bottom in a blackout when the lights suddenly come back on. He's up to page five of his paper! Later on I'm in bed with somebody who is asleep and I'm reading(don't get excited, not the least possibility of sex). Persse is on a plane which is going to have trouble landing, maybe even crash. One of the airhostesses is desperately trying to come up with a prayer to address to the passengers - it's an Irish plane - and suddenly it comes to her 'Oh Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly grateful'. Hilarious. I silently shook with laughter for a while and then went back to my own bed....where I could laugh noisily.Have you ever been on a plane that can't land? I have, and actually, it wasn't all panic the way Lodge tells it...I was on my way to Adelaide (as usual) and preparing to land was announced. The plane got very close to the ground when the pilot chickened out and took us up again. The weather was lousy and he was nervous. As this happened a couple more times, it was interesting to observe the effect on the passengers.I would have expected a diverse reaction. Self-important businessmen complaining about being late. Hysterics here and there. Somebody asking why couldn't they have a second lunch?Whereas in fact the passengers pulled together as one and were on the pilot's side. If he didn't think it was right to land, we were with him. Not a murmur of dissent.In due course the inevitable happened. The plane ran out of fuel. It was now or never. Might one define clarity as lack of choice? However impossible the pilot had thought landing to be, suddenly it was simple routine. It was a plane in the air that had to come down. Yea verily. We all cheered.--------------------------------I really do have to make random observations as I go along, reading this book, or I shan’t write anything at all.'No country for old men.' Coen brothers movie....and okay, title of book by Cormac McCarthy. But here it is in a book written in the mid-eighties. Does this mean it has some other, even earlier origin which I should know and don’t, that is commonly borrowed? Has McCarthy taken it from Lodge? Come up with it independently? I’m dying to know the answer to this question. Somebody please enlighten me!

I can't believe how few of my GR friends have Small World on their shelves. Of course, we all know what's wrong with the genre, and many people instinctively shy away from reading yet another novel by a lecturer at an English department, describing what it's like to be an English lecturer who's writing a novel. The first time you see someone try to crawl up their own ass, it's kind of interesting. The tenth time, you know in advance that they'll get stuck somewhere in their lower intestine, and come slithering out after a while, having learned the hard way that the sun doesn't shine out of that part of their anatomy. Enough already.So, now that I've convinced you that I know exactly what you don't want to read, I will give you my word of honor that Small World isn't like that: what we have here is the exception that proves the rule! Instead of running the same tired old recursive formula, David Lodge had a better idea. As he tells you in the introduction, academics are today's clerics, and conferences are their pilgrimages. So, what would be more natural than an updated version of the Canterbury Tales? That, pretty much, is what the book is, and he's done a fine job. If Chaucer's read it, I'm sure he felt flattered.The arrangement isn't quite the same; since it's a novel, or, to be exact, a Romance, all the stories are mixed up to some extent. None the less, you recognize the stock figures as they make their entrances. Among others, we meet the Graduate Student, the Plagiarist, the Publisher, the Publisher's Secretary, the Structuralist, the Wealthy Marxist, the Blocked Writer, the Professor Who Sleeps With His Students, and, last but not least, the Maiden Aunt. (Watch Sybil Maiden carefully. There's more to her than meets the eye). When I finally got around to reading Chaucer, I was quite surprised to discover how modern he is, and Lodge has no trouble at all in adapting him to the late 20th century. Just as with Chaucer, one of the first things you notice is that there's a lot of comic sex. Lodge's sex scenes really are very funny. My favorite was the bit where Fulvia attempts, not completely successfully, to show Morris how much fun bondage can be; in terms of low comedy, I thought this stood comparison with, for example, the ass-kissing scene from the Miller's Tale. I only have two criticisms to make concerning the sex. First, I didn't think he was quite as good as Chaucer at portraying strong women who are confident about their sexuality. I know almost nothing about the private life of either writer, but I get the impression that Chaucer was more of a ladies' man than Lodge, and that this may have something to do with it. Second, Lodge is, oddly enough, rather less filthy than his august predecessor. If you're concerned with accuracy in homage, or just like filth, this might bother you, but I was quite happy with his mildly sanitized version. Of course, Chaucer is one of the all-time greats at both strong, sexy women and amusing filth, so I'm not being very hard on Lodge when I say he isn't as good.Again following Chaucer, the other main theme is social satire. Chaucer is displeased with the complacent, corrupt Church, and can be quite vicious; the Pardoner, in particular, gets a very rough ride. Lodge satirizes the world of academic literary theory, and this is the part of the book that I enjoyed most. He can also take people apart, as in his treatment of the Plagiarist. But most of the time, even though he enjoys showing us how ridiculous the academics are, he describes them and their bizarre society in loving detail, with a sympathy that leaves you amused rather than disgusted. They're bitchy, dishonest, vain, obsessed with smut, and generally far more interested in creating an impression than in actually understanding the books they keep talking about. None the less, you can't help loving them. I wish I could hang out with people like that! If you feel the same way, you're going to like Small World.
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Reviews
Erica Stori
Il professore va al congresso è una satira del mondo accademico internazionale. Compaiono professori di nazionalità italiana, francese, americana, inglese, irlandese; tutti insieme formano una “casta” di personaggi dediti alle teorie della critica letteraria e a strani “giochi” nei momenti di ritrovo: i congressi.Lodge dipinge un mondo pieno di falsità, egoismo, inganni dove si discute di strutturalismo, post-strutturalismo, Shakespeare, Yeats, ma soprattutto si vive una vita lontana dagli schemi, con professori alla continua ricerca di avventure, coinvolti in rapimenti, sesso a tre e altri bei “passatempi” di questo genere.Il giovane irlandese Persse McGarrigle diventa professore per caso, prendendo il posto di un omonimo. Durante un congresso s’innamora perdutamente di Angelica che inseguirà da un convegno all’altro in giro per il mondo. Dagli Stati Uniti, a Tokio, passando per la Svizzera e altri Paesi. Ad Amsterdam crede di vederla in una vetrina come prostituta e poi in un gioco erotico dal vivo in un night. Si scoprirà poi che si tratta invece di Bianca, la sua gemella. Angelica si materializzerà alla fine del libro, fidanzata con quel Peter McGarrigle al quale Persse aveva soffiato il posto di professore. Accanto a questa storia Lodge narra le peripezie di tantissimi altri professori che se ne vanno in giro per il mondo a spese delle università.I colpi di scena sconfinano nel grottesco e ripropongono il tema del romanzo epico d’avventura.Umberto Eco scrive nella nota introduttiva: “Se ignoravate quanto possa essere romanzesco l’universo dei congressi universitari leggete Lodge. Avrete conquistato un mondo… Così questo è un libro ‘realistico’ sull’universo degli studiosi itineranti da congresso a congresso che mette in scena negli umbratili ritiri dei campus universitari, colpi di scena, agnizioni, incroci di destini, peripezie a cui ci avevano abituato solo i più sfacciati romanzi d’appendice. Ed è un libro ‘vero’ perché, come ormai ognun sa, la realtà sorpassa la finzione.”E se lo dice Eco, c’è da crederci.
Vicky
At first I was slightly confused, because there were so many names it took me a while to figure out the who is who in David Lodge's academic jet set world of the 70s. I am so glad I had to read the novel for university, otherwise I probably would have lived on without ever reading it, judging by the fact that none of my goodreads friends has it listed on their shelves (I'm looking at you). Anyways, this was a really delightful read full of intertextual references from The Canterbury Tales to the Arthurian and Percival legends. I simply loved how the characters (once you're familiar with who they are) cross each other's paths ever so often and how all of their stories are intertwined. Morris Zapp's speech comparing the pleasure of literature to striptease is something you "can't unhear". I'll definitely check out "Changing Places" and "Nice Work" sometime soon.
John Pappas
Gleefully contrived, Lodge's follow-up to Changing Places spoofs the international conference circuit and the "small world" of academia. Zapp and Swallow, here, more fully realized than in Lodge's precious novel, cavort with a vast assortment of characters as they, along with many others, compete for the (fictional) UNESCO chair of English Literature and Criticism. Modeled after a traditional Romance (a la the Grail stories), the novel is rife with allusions and references to many other works and genres of literature that will contribute to the comedy for the well-read reader. Fun. 3.5 stars.
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