Poor David Lodge! He did not realise until after he'd finished his Author, Author that Colm Toibin had also written a novel about Henry James, the highly acclaimed, The Master.
Lodge must have felt pretty gutted as he saw more critical praise heaped on his rival's novel than on his, along with nominations for the top awards. (And of course, The Master won the IMPAC Prize.)
Lodge has now written The Year of Henry James, in which he looks back on the experience. But he still hasn't managed to bring himself to pick up Toibin's book, he says.
Was there something in the air or in the water in 2004, that made the world suddenly go mad for Henry James? As this piece in the Telegraph points out:
There were no features in Vanity Fair, no editorial columns, and no heated discussions in pubs. But among writers, everything went a bit James. ... Four Jamesian novels came out within months of each other: biographical works by Colm Tóibín and David Lodge, and more tangential novels from Alan Hollinghurst and Toby Litt (The Line of Beauty and Ghost Story). How should one respond to this synchronicity, other than to accept it as proof that novelists are not only cut off from the wider world, but that they are cut off in the same kind of way?James has always been a writer's writer and I think the apparent synchronicity reflects a desire for a return to a kind of elegant craftsmanship that seems to have fallen by the wayside in modern fiction writing.
Time to reread the master himself!