Home Truths

David Lodge, Author Penguin Books $12 (128p) ISBN 978-0-14-029180-3

Bearing traces of its first incarnation as a stage play, this lighthearted and timely farce from veteran British writer Lodge (Therapy) skewers the media's voracious relationship with celebrity culture at the same time it examines a writer's responsibility to his talent. Decades ago, at university, Adrian Ludow and Sam Sharp were golden boys and best friends, certain that their careers would carry them to literary heights. Adrian published one highly praised novel, but when successive books met less acclaim, he elected to drop out of what he calls ""the fame game."" Now he and his wife, Eleanor, rusticate in a village under the Gatwick flight path, and Adrian is reduced to compiling anthologies. Sam, on the other hand, sold out early and now writes commercial tripe much sought after by Hollywood. When Sam is eviscerated in print by ruthless columnist Fanny Tarrant, he conspires with Adrian to get back at her. The plot they concoct--to have Fanny interview Adrian, who will secretly be gathering material for his own hatchet job on Fanny--backfires after Adrian reveals to Fanny that both he and Sam slept with Eleanor during their college days. An outraged Eleanor then takes her own revenge on Adrian. Lean and fast moving, the novella boasts spirited dialogue, titillating surprises (though a scene in a sauna takes place offstage), secrets spilled at just the right intervals, and visual tricks (Sam speculates aloud about what Fanny looks like in the nude, unaware that she has entered the room). Though the occasion for Fanny's epiphany about her mean-spirited reputation is a little slick, this is an entertaining read from a deft and clever writer. (June)
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