01 October 2009
David Lodge: THE BRITISH MUSEUM IS FALLING DOWN
There are certain books, certain very Catholic books, about which I've often wondered: "Do non-Catholics get this? Would I be enjoying myself quite as much had I been raised in a different faith?" I'm less sure than ever after having read David Lodge's send-up of Catholicism and academe in 1960s Britain, The British Museum is Falling Down. Laughing at the book's Catholicism was, in a way, laughing at myself and my...heritage, if you will. I can't say that I'd've enjoyed a send-up of, say, Methodism quite as much--but then, I can't say that I wouldn't have, either. I just don't know. At any rate, I found The British Museum is Falling Down to be quite, quite entertaining. It's the second book of Lodge's I've checked out from the library recently, but the first proved to be no-go: it was quite long, and called for more of a commitment than I was willing to make without having sampled some Lodge, first. Now that I have, though, I can assuredly say that I will be reading more David Lodge in the future. He reminds me--particularly in the way he mocks the academic establishment--of a young Kingsley Amis, whom Lodge acknowledges as a strong shaping influence on his work (Amis even comes up in this book, which seems to me to draw fairly deeply from Lodge's own life). This book's plot takes its impetus from the Catholic position on birth control, and the concern that position elicits in its main character, Catholic graduate student Adam Appleby. Already the father of three, Appleby fears that his wife may be pregnant yet again, and this concern drives the rest of the book's action, all of which takes place during a single exciting day. I like this A-grade book--but then I'm a Catholic who's not afraid to laugh at Catholicism. Whether or not that's the only reason I like it remains to be seen, but I probably won't find out until I've read more Lodge.