Sunday, November 20, 2011
Laurence "Tubby" Passmore has a sexually active, but otherwise stalled, marriage, a platonic mistress, and a bum knee. He is the creator and writer of a popular British sitcom, but his career is heading for a cliff unless he can rewrite the season finale. All this has driven Tubby to therapy – psycho, cognitive, physical, and aroma – as well as a self-guided study of the 19th century Danish existential philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard.
David Lodge is clever and perceptive and writes the kind of books I can't resist – intelligent stories of charming, bumbling, middle aged men behaving badly. In Therapy, Lodge uses the workable device of Tubby writing a journal at the request of his practical-minded psychiatrist, broken up with chapters in the voices of other characters and a longish "memoir" by Tubby of his teenage romance with a Catholic schoolgirl.
Lodge uses Kierkegaard's own romantic history and the religious philosophy he developed from it to organize some of the plot and ideas of this novel. He also revisits the Catholic themes he plumbed so deeply in How Far Can You Go? (winner of the Costa BOTY award; on Anthony Burgess's list of favorites; reviewed here).
He has a light touch with the philosophy and religious bits, and the book remains funny and entertaining throughout, with an ending that made me laugh out loud in pleased surprise.