Scholar – Fictionist – Memoirist: David Lodge’s Documentary (Self-)Biography in Quite a Good Time to be Born: 1935–1975

Open access


Over the last decade or so, David Lodge has become not only a reader but also an avid practitioner of “fact-based writing” - be it the biographical novel (The Master of 2004 and A Man of Parts 2011), the autobiographical novel (Deaf Sentence of 2008), the biographical essay (Lives in Writing of 2014) and - finally - a proper autobiography (Quite a Good Time to Be Born of 2015). The aim of this paper is to analyse Lodge’s recent turn to life narratives and, in particular, his autobiographical story of 2015; and, consequently, to address the following questions: Does Lodge’s memoir offer “an experiment in autobiography” (to quote H.G. Wells, one of Lodge’s favourites), or remain a conventional life story immune to the tenets of contemporary life writing? Is it the work of a (self- )historian, or a novelist? Does it belong to the “regime of truth,” or is it the product of memory? Finally, is it, indeed, a memoir (as its subtitle claims), or a specimen of self-biography? The paper will show special interest in the work’s generic characteristics and will offer an attempt to locate Quite a Good Time to Be Born on the map of contemporary life writing practices.

Lodge, David. 1977. The modes of modern writing. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Lodge, David. 2004. Author, author. London: Secker and Warburg.

Lodge, David. 2007. The year of Henry James: The story of a novel. London: Penguin Book.

Lodge, David. 2015a. Quite a good time to be born. A memoir: 1935-1975. London: Harvill Secker.

Lodge, David. 2015b. Lives in writing. London: Vintage Books

Amis, Martin. 2001. Experience. A memoir. New York: Vintage International.

Anderson, Linda. 2011. Autobiography. London & New York: Routledge.

Athill, Diana. 2009. Somewhere towards the end. A memoir. New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company.

Barthes, Roland. 2003. The death of the author. Trans. Stephen Heath. In Seán Burke (ed.), Authorship: from Plato to the postmodern. A reader, 125-130. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Bergonzi, Bernard. 1995. David Lodge. Tavistock: Northcote House.

Coetzee, J.M. 2007. Diary of a Bad Year. London: Harvill Secker.

Collini, Stefan. 2015. Whiskey out of teacups. London Review of Books 37(4). 13-15.

Couser, G. Thomas. 2012. Memoir. An introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Derrida, Jacques. 1980. The law of genre. Trans. A. Ronell. Glyph 7. 202-229.

Genette, Gérard. Paratexts: Thresholds of interpretation. Trans. Jane E. Lewin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gusdorf, Georges. Conditions and limits of autobiography. Trans. James Olney. In James Olney (ed.), Autobiography. Essays theoretical and critical, 28-48. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Kusek, Robert. 2013. Biographical fiction vs. fictionalised biography in D. Lodge’s A man of parts. In Alicja Witalisz (ed.), Papers on language, culture and literature 4, 45-54. Krosno: PWSZ.

Larson, Thomas. 2007. The memoir and the memoirist: Reading and writing personal narrative. Athens, Ohio: University of Ohio Press.

Lee, Hermione. 2009. Biography: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lejeune, Philippe. 2010. L’autobiographie en France. Paris: Armand Colin.

Lessing, Doris. 1995. Under my skin: volume one of my autobiography, to 1949. New York: HarperPerennial.

Marasco, Gabriele (ed.). 2011. Political autobiographies and memoirs in antiquity. Leiden: Brill.

Martin, Bruce K. 1999. David Lodge. Woodbridge, CT: Twayne.

Miller, Nancy K. 1996. Bequest and betrayal: Memoirs of a parent’s death. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Morace, Robert A. 1989. The dialogic novels of Malcolm Bradbury and David Lodge. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Perkin, J. Russel. 2014. David Lodge and the tradition of the modern novel. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s Press.

Rak, Julia. 2004. Are memoirs autobiography? A consideration of genre and public identity. Genre 36. 305-326.

Said, Edward. 2007. On late style. Music and literature against the grain. New York: Vintage Books.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1968. Search for a method. Trans. H.E. Barnes. New York: Vintage Books.

Smith, Sidonie and Julia Watson. 2010. Reading autobiography. A guide for interpreting life narratives. Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press.

Taylor, D.J. 2008. I beg your pardon? The Guardian 3 May. (accessed on 21 August 2015).

Tomaševskij, Boris. 2003. Literature and biography. Trans. Herbert Eagle. In Seán Burke (ed.), Authorship: from Plato to the postmodern. A reader, 81-89. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Vice, Sue. 2014. Textual deceptions: False memoirs and literary hoaxes in the contemporary era. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Vidal, Gore. 1995. Palimpsest: A memoir. London: Deutsch.

Wells, H.G. 1934. Experiment in autobiography: Discoveries and conclusions of a very ordinary brain (since 1866). New York: The Macmillan Company.

White, Hayden. 2008. The historical event. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 19(2). 9-34.

Wilde, Oscar. 2008. Plays, prose writings and poems. Hebden Bridge: Pomona Press.

Yagoda, Ben. 2010. Memoir. A history. New York: Riverhead Books

Studia Anglica Posnaniensia

The Journal of Adam Mickiewicz University

Journal Information

Cite Score 2017: 0.14

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.131
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.448


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 165 152 8
PDF Downloads 74 73 4