[lit-ideas] Re: Thinks

  • From: Stephen Straker <straker@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 01 Jun 2004 06:57:57 -0700

> At St. Custards there are:

Wot fun, swotting up the dialects. I didn't realize that
"fuzz" had crossed the pond. "Cheese it, da Fuzz!" was
common radio/movie talk when I was a kid in the NYC area
(and, for all I know, actual gangster talk). I guess the
movies themselves are enough to widen its circulation. OTOH,
its use in *this* novel might well be the professor (or the
author) showing off his transatlantic connections. 

Of all David Lodge's novels I have *only* read *Thinks*. I
was disappointed and irritated, a reaction only sharpened by
my awareness of Lodge's considerable reputation. The
characters are cardboard and the plot is boilerplate. At one
level, the novel reads as if Lodge wanted a ready-made
scaffold on which to hang a distance-ed course on
consciousness and artificial (machine) intelligence. A
conversation in which one party is giving a lecture and
showing off his learning is not much of a conversation.
Worse, the presentations themselves are plainly
pre-rehearsed, like Coles Notes, and too fond of themselves
to be critically engaged. 

According to the scheme, the role of critic is played by a
recently widowed georgeousleggy english prof whose oddly
swooning scepticism is too true to type to be interesting.
The two cultures: can't we just get along? 

These people are very happy with themselves and the whole
business comes across as a mode of foreplay. One must hope
so, since as intellectual life it needs a massive dose of
spam, er, I mean v**gr*. That this glib fellow is, too boot,
a rising academic star places perhaps the final strain on
the reader's good will. 

Which is to say, I didn't care for this novel at all:
People's magazine pays a visit to the Pepsi Cola Centre for
Consciousness Studies at the University of the Sea and Sky. 

Sorry to be so negative ... 

To make up for this, allow me to recommend the indescribably
wonderful *Austerlitz* by the recently departed WG Sebald.
(Among other possibilities, you could count it as a serious
study of consciousness.) 

best wishes, 

Stephen Straker 

Vancouver, B.C.

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