Review: David Lodge talks to Stephanie Merritt

Lodge began with a lengthy reading from ‘A Man of Parts’ his new biographical novel about HG Wells, before Stephanie Merritt asked him why he had chosen to write a novel rather than a biography.

Novelists of advancing years start to run out of life experiences on which to draw, so someone else’s life can provide a source, said Lodge. The use of fictional form allows for more dialogue and more narrative although Lodge made it clear that everything of consequence in the book is founded in fact.

Lodge feels that though Wells was flawed in many respects he was very aware of, and honest about his own weaknesses. “His ability to foresee things that would happen to society was quite uncanny.” Although he was a Fabian he wasn’t really a socialist, more of an idealist with an impractical vision based on an optimistic world view. Though this diminished in later life.

Wells was a contradictory character in many respects; a womaniser and a feminist, confident and insecure, comic and serious. Lodge is also disinclined to be categorised as a comic novelist “this isn’t a comic novel, though it does have humour in it”.

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