doesn't scale the heights of comedy the way some of Lodge's earlier novels did. This may be because Lodge is most in his element in comic writing about being an academic and being a Catholic. Indeed, Lodge's first comic novel, The British Museum Is Falling Down, was about a Catholic academic. Thinking about how easy sexual life must be for non-Catholics, Adam Appleby, who is a poor graduate student with three children already, marvels,
How different from his own married state, which Adam symbolised as a small, over-populated, low-lying island ringed by a crumbling dyke which he and his wife struggled hopelessly to repair as they kept anxious watch on the surging sea of fertility that surrounded them.
His wife keeps getting pregnant, despite the couple's best efforts at Catholicism's version of birth control.
They had embarked on marriage with vague notions about the Safe Period and a hopeful trust in Providence that Adam now found difficult to credit. Clare had been born nine months after the wedding. Barbara had then consulted a Catholic doctor who gave her a simple mathematical formula for calculating the Safe Period--so simple that Dominic was born one year after Clare.
When a fellow graduate student accuses Adam of suffering from a special form of scholarly neurosis, the inability to distinguish between life and literature, Adam retorts, "Oh yes I can. Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children. Life is the other way round." The British Museum Is Falling Down lacks the weight and formal neatness of Lodge's later novels, but it demonstrates his droll humor and his ability to make us simultaneously laugh at and feel for his characters.
THERE'S no question that in Therapy, superficially a conventional entertainment, Lodge is up to his old playful gamesmanship, at the same time baring and concealing the devices that make his fiction work. Consider even his choice of title. Who exactly is this therapy for? That is, what is the title referring to? All the therapy that Tubby ("On Mondays I see Roland for Physiotherapy, on Tuesdays I see Alexandra for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and on Fridays I have either aromatherapy or acupuncture. Wednesdays and Thursdays I'm usually in London, but then I see Amy, which is a sort of therapy too, I suppose") and the other characters in the novel receive? No doubt. But is Lodge also offering therapy to us? Probably that, too. After all, the novel's somewhat sad ending is clearly intended to make us feel better about what Tubby, in talking about the therapeutic social effect he presumes his sitcom to have on viewers, calls our "negative equity." Finally, maybe, just maybe, is this novel therapy for Lodge? Though it is extremely unfashionable, now that authors are not supposed even to exist, to look in novels for autobiographical clues, I find it distinctly possible that the novel represents a kind of extemporized writing therapy or journal writing, meant to assuage his own midlife angst. (Lodge recently told an interviewer, "In middle age, I've found myself prone to more depression and anxiety than I can give a rational explanation for.") Consider the novel's epigram, from Graham Greene: "Writing is a form of therapy." Consider also the extract from the journal of Søren Kierkegaard that Tubby quotes approvingly: "Only when I write do I feel well." Still more suggestive, however, is the first line of the novel. It comes before Tubby's entry dated February 15, 1993, and it reads "Right, here goes." Is this Tubby getting ready to write his diary? Or is it Lodge getting ready to improvise Tubby's diary? Now combine all this with the way that Tubby describes the pigeons outside his window in his first diary entry: "Pure play--no question. They were just larking about, exercising their agility for the sheer fun of it." Right away, on page one, Lodge has us wondering, Is this what he is going to do? Is this novel just writing for the sake of writing, writing for the sake of therapy? How else would you begin such an exercise but by saying to yourself, "Right, here goes"?