Monday, July 03, 2006

An Evening's Lodging

Realised after writing the last post I had never posted here my account of talking to David Lodge by video link at the British Council back in March 2004. I slip it in now!
The interview with David Lodge went fine. Why am I so much of a worrier? It took place in the small conferencing room off the library. There were supposed to be about twenty-five people but quite a number didn't show up which was a shame. Of course, I had rent-an-audience - a large group of my own friends whom I'd coerced and persuaded because I knew that they could be relied on to read a book or two and ask questions.

There was one guy in the audience I could see had lots of opinions so I got talking to him before the thing started, while everyone was tucking into the sandwiches and coffee. I asked him what he thought of David Lodge's books. "It's just pornography, isn't it?" (A good start, hey?) "Of course he's not as good as that woman who wrote Harry Potter."

On the screen we could see into a room in the British Council's office in London (how strange is that?) and after a little bit of confusion at both ends ("Are you ready for us yet?"). There he was, David Lodge, on screen. Looked like his publicity picture on the back of his book but a bit more grizzled. Every inch the academic. Serious. Listening very intently to catch the questions because he's a little hard of hearing. (Sometimes his publicist had to help him out.)

He began by reading extracts from his latest novel "Thinks ..." which gave the flavour of the book and the characters. I kicked off with a question about why had he decided on these particular points of view to tell the story, and I asked about the extemely funny send-ups of different writing styles that had had me convulsed with laughter. Then I did my bit and invited questions from the audience. Jean asked a good question about would "Thinks ... " be filmable (No, he said.), Vino (my ex-student and now a lecturer) asked him if he's be writing an autobiography (No, he said - and he comes across as a very private sort of person who doesn't at all like the idea of his private life being in the spotlight). The strange guy asked a question that no-one could understand about Lodge's loss of belief in Catholicism. (Think he was trying to say how Westerners lack values because they are not religious.) And Lodge talked at length about that. Said that although, like most British catholics, he is no longer able to believe in many of the central teachings of the church in a literal sense, he felt the church was still important to him in a cultural sense. Kate asked if he had any advice for young writers (as there were some teenagers on British council creative writing course present) and he said read, read and read. Practice writing. Experiment and don't be afraid to make mistakes.

The forty minutes was over all too quickly. I still have a pile of questions I'd love to ask him ... But I have so enjoyed having the excuse to sit down and read his books one after another, and I've learned so much - especially from his essays in "Consciousness and The Novel."
Somewhere along the way he did mention that he was writing a novel about Henry James!


Lydia Teh said...

Hi Sharon, I hope you're getting better.

Looks like the advice is always the same: Read, read, read and write, write, write.

sympozium said...

And live, live live!

bibliobibuli said...

that about sums it up!

Lydia Teh said...

This is getting poetic.

Writing advice :
Read, read, read
Write, write, write
Live, live, live
That about sums it up!

sympozium said...

And dream dream dream!