David Lodge, Author . Viking $24.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-670-03349-2

Lodge's (Thinks ) meticulously researched but disappointingly tepid "docu-novel" opens in 1915, with Henry James on his death bed, and quickly establishes the context of this take on the great Anglo-American writer's life: James's conflicted jealousy about his friend George Du Maurier's success with the now virtually forgotten novel Trilby , his chaste relationship with the American novelist Constance Fenimore Woolsey, and the fateful evening of January 5, 1895, when his play Guy Domville premiered in London and James was humiliated by the booing from the cheap seats. Why does a man who believes that the theater was noteworthy for "its vulgarity and aesthetic crudity" aspire to be a playwright? For the banal reason that "it was for an author the shortest road to fame and fortune." It may be Lodge's point that James sublimated his desires for love or sex into a longing for acclaim and wealth, but the James of this novel—the second this year to deal with his theatrical career, after Colm Tóibín's The Master —is petty, priggish and egocentric in the extreme (his reaction to the apparent suicide of Woolsey: "what he really dreaded was finding some evidence that she had done it on account of him"). Even if this portrayal is accurate—and given the author's scholarly credentials, there's no reason to doubt it—it makes for a singularly undramatic story. Agent, Emilie Jacobson at Curtis Brown. 4-city author tour. (Oct. 11)

Reviewed on: 08/30/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-14-101822-5
Paperback - 388 pages - 978-0-14-303609-8
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-436-20527-9
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