In this witty novel, Lodge engineers a confrontation between Robyn, a young, left-wing female literary theorist, and Vic, an older, conservative, senior manager type. It's amusing to see each character's life through the other's eyes, and I particularly liked the ironic presentation of Robyn's feminist views on sex and relationships. Robyn is explaining it to Vic, and she quotes the following line from Tennyson's Locksley Hall:Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.As she says, the line brilliantly exploits the novel image provided by railways, which had just been invented. But Vic asks whether Tennyson might not have been thinking of trams, which do run in grooves? I thought of this discussion the other day when we watched Despicable Me. My favourite scene was the one where Gru, the supervillain with the well-hidden heart of gold, has been persuaded to read Sleepy Kittens to the three little orphan girls. Gru starts reading:Three little kittens loved to play They had fun in the sun all day"This is GARBAGE!" growls the supervillain.
In Nice Work David Lodge introduces the campus novel to the 19th century industrial novel. The excuse for this unnatural pairing is a work exchange scheme and true to the late 1980s setting the basic assumption is the Lecturer from a thinly disguised Birmingham University English department has plenty to learn from industry, while the opposite, not not never, could be so.
I've now read a few novels which would fall into a category I recently discovered -- a "novel of ideas." My sense of these novels is that plot, and certainly characterization, unfortunately tend to be secondary to setting up debates between characters representing particular viewpoints and having the two sides hash it out. I enjoy debates and ideas as much as the next person and probably more than some, but they're not what I read a novel for.
Robyn is an idealist: a feminist professor of literature, in a non-relationship with her long-time partner, Charles. Vic is a man's man: a managing director of a factory, macho, hard-working, a laborer who has money because he's in management. Robyn's University signs her up for a shadow program - once a week she travels to the factory as Vic's shadow. Vic is married, Robyn is with Charles in an 'open' relationship that isn't so open since they're both only seeing each other. I really like how Lodge treated his characters, making them stubborn and vulnerable.
What is less often said is that it follows in the tradition of many a great title - Mrs Gaskell's Mary Barton and North and South, , Forster's Howards End, Charlotte Bronte's Shirley and Dicken's Hard Times to name a few - as a "Condition of England Novel" (you can read more on that here: http://www.victorianweb.org/genre/din...). The titles I mention are studied by Robyn Penrose in novel, herself an expert in the Condition of England genre. I read this book as part of my studies on the Condition of England Novel, and if I'd seen it in a bookshop I doubt I'd have picked it up.
The shadow in question is a self-opinionated, elitist snob called Robyn Penrose who specializes in English literature but especially women studies. It made me stop mid sigh or eyebrow raise at something one or other of them was saying when you suddenly start hearing them thinking or questioning themselves and then I found myself thinking oh actually you have a point or I found I began to warm to them as Lodge has created two really attractive personalities.
Kuigi Robyn on spetsialiseerunud industriaalromaanile, okeerib tehasekeskond teda ning naine üritab sekkuda, põhjustades tööliste streigi. Esiteks, jäid kaugeks käsitletud teemad ning teiseks, ei meeldinud mulle tegelased ega tegevusliin. Minu jaoks jäi küll enamik käsitletud teemasid kaugeteks ning raske oli süveneda, kuid silmaringi laiendamise mõttes oli igati vahva lugemine ja mõnest naljast sain ikka aru ka.
The two lead characters are sympathetic in their own separate ways and are justifiably drawn together, and Lodge foreshadows their conclusions without being obnoxious about it.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, was Chairman of the Judges for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989, and is the author of numerous works of literary criticism, mainly about the English and American novel, and literary theory.