cover image The Practice of Writing

The Practice of Writing

David Lodge. Viking Books, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-7139-9173-4

Lodge, a wry and stylish British novelist (Changing Places) and former university professor, has collected a fair sample of his literary criticism and re-formed it into an insightful and surprisingly unified look at the craft of writing. He says flat out that this is not a book of literary theory but an examination of the way writers go about their work. His aim, he writes, is ""to demystify and shed light on the creative process, to explain how literary and dramatic works are made, and to describe the many different factors, not always under the control of the writer, that came into play in the process."" The result is a book that should be required reading in any creative writing class not bogged down in dogma. Lodge reviews the work of a number of writers--Graham Greene, D.H. Lawrence, Henry Green, Kingsley Amis, Anthony Burgess, Joyce, Nabokov--but the heart of the book is a series of essays on adapting his own work, as well as Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, for television, and on staging a sketch by Harold Pinter; and the diary Lodge kept while his play The Writing Class was in production. Although his nonfiction writing style is not as free of its academic roots as he would like to think and his outlook is not as satiric as readers of his novels might expect, here is a collection that is both engaging and useful. (Jan.)