UEA literary festival 2016 kicked off with ardent literary humourist, interpreter of the academy and longtime friend of the festival, David Lodge. Now in his 80th decade, Lodge showed no physical signs of deterioration as he graced the stage to discuss the release of a trilogy of books spanning his career in more respects than one: a collection of short stories (The Man Who Wouldn’t Get Up) a collection of essays on renowned literary figures such as Graham Greene, Kingsley Amis and Muriel Spark (Lives in Writing) and a memoir detailing the first forty years of his life (Quite a Good Time to Be Alive).
Dr Christopher Bigsby opens his questions by paying tribute to another figure Lodge discusses in his essay collection, his friend and UEA creative writing co-founder Malcolm Bradbury. Lodge fondly recalls how Bradbury recommended Changing Places: A Tale of Two Campuses (1975) to his agent, after the novel had been turned down by five publishing houses. The novel was nominated for the Booker Prize and cemented Lodge’s status as a master of collegiate British farce.
Lodge’s work has often attempted to bridge the gap between stream of conscious modernism and hearty British farce-forms, anticipating the style of two of his important influences, James Joyce and Kingsley Amis. When asked about how he first encountered Joyce, he spoke of an “encouraging English teacher” in his Grammar School who recommended he read Joyce’s A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man, a novel which he felt reflected the experiences of a dreary Catholic upbringing.
When asked to read, Lodge chose a story that emerged from a depressing time in the author’s life, but one he managed to extract humour out of, a motif he feels anecdotal of his overall body of work. A damp, fall apart Victorian house is the setting for The Man Who Wouldn’t Get Up first published fifty years ago, a feat that Lodge announced he found curious as a “a lot of the people in this room’s parents may not have been born at its time of publication.” An engaging and self-deprecating reader, Lodge eased the interview out with an interpretation eliciting wit, self-irony and panache.