Small World

David Lodge

Read January 2006

Lodge's book is one of the great send-ups of the academic life. Lodge is actually trying to do something much cleverer: write a complex novel with cleverly constructed characters, full of literary allusions. The last of these he pulls off easily; part of the fun of reading this book is trying to catch all of them. But the first two parts don't quite work out, keeping this from being a great novel, too.

But enough of all this lit-crit stuff. What you really want to know is, is it true? Too much of it, unfortunately. Academia is indeed full of junk conferences and ego trips that starkly resemble what Lodge describes. Not all of it, thank goodness; but us computer scientists also rarely get into the kinds of racy stuff the lit-crit scholars seem to revel in, more's the pity. Lodge obviously exaggerates for effect, but some bits are just a little too true: you sort of wonder if he couldn't keep his voice down.