Pillow talking with aliens – David Lodge’s A Man of Parts

Cover of A Man of Parts

Cover of A Man of Parts

I’ve been reading David Lodge’s A Man of Parts, a mixture of biography and fiction.

Set at the end of Wells’s life, the story is told in a series of parts and internal conversations. As he lies dying, he begins conversing with himself as both question and answer session but segues into various dialogues which create a running argument and exploration of his affairs and lack of marital sex life.

What Lodge hints on, but without going into too much detail, is that Wells was well into the autumn of his career. His most famous books were behind him and, apart from the occasional best seller, his career in decline. He saw himself as watching the failure of the Enlightenment, echoed by China MiƩville in his comments on The Island of Doctor Moreau for the Guardian SF review.

After joining the Fabian society (and before falling out with them), Wells joined in with the idea of free love. Lodge appears to suggest that Wells was surprised when he found that his second wife may have had a lover, suggesting that this Wells had not really thought of the full ramifications of the idea. Instead, he gleefully bounces through various beds to varying degrees of scandal. His priapic success grows as his books decline.

Lodge puts the Fabians into a fairly dull light next to Wells, actors rather than actions. Although the book goes into prurience rather than interest, it does show the inequalities of the beliefs and genders, the desire to see action but the inability to act. Unfortunately this fades into the rumpled bed clothes.

Lodge uses the mixture of biography and fiction to tell an interesting story which perhaps questions the limits of both forms. This is not Lodge’s finest work but it is interesting.

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