Author, Author

Overview

Framed by a dramatic and moving account of Henry James's last illness, Author, Author begins in the early 1880s, describing James's friendship with the genial Punch artist, George Du Maurier, and his intimate but problematic relationship with fellow American novelist Constance Fenimore Woolson. At the end of the decade Henry, worried by the failure of his books to sell, resolves to achieve fame and fortune as a playwright while Du Maurier diversifies into writing novels. The consequences that ensue mingle comedy,...
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Overview

Framed by a dramatic and moving account of Henry James's last illness, Author, Author begins in the early 1880s, describing James's friendship with the genial Punch artist, George Du Maurier, and his intimate but problematic relationship with fellow American novelist Constance Fenimore Woolson. At the end of the decade Henry, worried by the failure of his books to sell, resolves to achieve fame and fortune as a playwright while Du Maurier diversifies into writing novels. The consequences that ensue mingle comedy, irony, pathos, and suspense. As Du Maurier's novel Trilby becomes the bestseller of the century, Henry anxiously awaits the opening night of his make-or-break play, Guy Domville. This event, on January 5, 1895, and its complex sequel form the climax to Lodge's absorbing novel.

Thronged with vividly drawn characters, some of them with famous names, Author, Author presents a fascinating panorama of literary and theatrical life in late Victorian England. But at its heart is a portrait, rendered with remarkable empathy, of a writer who never achieved popular success in his lifetime or resolved his sexual identity, yet wrote some of the greatest novels about love in the English language.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lodge's (Thinks) meticulously researched but disappointingly tepid "docu-novel" opens in 1915, with Henry James on his death bed, and quickly establishes the context of this take on the great Anglo-American writer's life: James's conflicted jealousy about his friend George Du Maurier's success with the now virtually forgotten novel Trilby, his chaste relationship with the American novelist Constance Fenimore Woolsey, and the fateful evening of January 5, 1895, when his play Guy Domville premiered in London and James was humiliated by the booing from the cheap seats. Why does a man who believes that the theater was noteworthy for "its vulgarity and aesthetic crudity" aspire to be a playwright? For the banal reason that "it was for an author the shortest road to fame and fortune." It may be Lodge's point that James sublimated his desires for love or sex into a longing for acclaim and wealth, but the James of this novel-the second this year to deal with his theatrical career, after Colm Toibin's The Master-is petty, priggish and egocentric in the extreme (his reaction to the apparent suicide of Woolsey: "what he really dreaded was finding some evidence that she had done it on account of him"). Even if this portrayal is accurate-and given the author's scholarly credentials, there's no reason to doubt it-it makes for a singularly undramatic story. Agent, Emilie Jacobson at Curtis Brown. 4-city author tour. (Oct. 11) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
So who's the author of the title? The immortal Henry James, here about to fail as a playwright, or his pal, Punch artist George Du Maurier, who has just become a best-selling author with Trilby? With a four-city author tour; note that Colm Toibin's The Master (LJ 5/1/04) covers similar ground. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hot on the heels of Colm T-ib'n's The Master (p. 297), another novel about Henry James's later years. Though Lodge (Thinks..., 2001, etc.) is best known for his satirical fiction, his tone here is generally serious, opening with James's deathbed scene in 1915. Then a shift to the early 1880s finds the writer walking in London with his close friend, Punch illustrator George Du Maurier, while James is at his midcareer peak. Daisy Miller, Washington Square, and Portrait of a Lady have made him "the coming man of the literary novel. . . [while] his elegant, cosmopolitan essays appeared in the most prestigious reviews. Hostesses competed for his presence." But as the narrative moves through the late '80s and '90s, sticking close to the facts but with convincing forays into the writer's thoughts, we see more elaborate novels like The Princess Casamassina slightly diminishing James' reputation, while an ill-advised five-year excursion into playwriting climaxes with the disastrous 1895 premiere of Guy Domville. James struggles not to feel jealous of Du Maurier's huge success with the novel Trilby, but that's hard for a man who has consciously dedicated his entire life to his art. The 1894 suicide of James's other close friend, American popular novelist Constance Fenimore Woolson, who may have been in love with him, leads James to fear that his obsession with the perfectly crafted sentence has dried up his heart. On the contrary, Lodge's warmly sympathetic portrait quietly asserts, James's grappling with envy and despair in this very human manner led to his final masterpieces, The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and The Golden Bowl. Though the pace here is almost as stately as in those latenovels, the effect is powerfully emotional as the book closes with the writer's last moments and an authorial interpolation by Lodge expressing his love for James the artist-and the man. A must for Jamesians, with a storyline sturdy enough to draw in the unconverted as well.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143036098
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/29/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,450,237
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.78 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lodge is the author of twelve novels and a novella, including the Booker Prize finalists Small World and Nice Work. He is also the author of many works of literary criticism, including The Art of Fiction and Consciousness and the Novel.

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