Thinks… by David Lodge

Synopsis (which may or may not be representative):

Ralph Messenger is an international academic star in the highly trendy field of language and thought research. Novelist Helen Reed arrives at the university to teach creative writing and to recover from the unexpected death of her husband. Despite huge differences in belief and temperament, they begin a secret affair – with complicated consequences, comic and tragic, for those around them. Witty, elegant and timely, THINKS is a dazzling exploration of love and deception, the enigmas of consciousness and the intricacies of the human heart.

Synopsis taken from Blackwells website.

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  1. moirabbc

     /  May 5, 2010

    Hi Maddi

    I quite enjoyed Deaf Sentence but in Thinks, he sets out to wind up the feminists – he certainly succeeded with me. Surely men are insulted by this insight into the male ‘thinks ‘? I feel Lodge’s view is rooted in the 60s where men don’t respect women and are drunk on the possibilities of sexual liberation. For a writer who likes women and also amuses – Jonathan Coe is your man!

  2. madeleinebbc

     /  May 5, 2010

    …and I thought it was just another of David Lodge’s amusing tales of a bumble-ing academic with some literary appreciation thrown in… I hope you don’t hate me, Moira, for having introduced you to such an odious man, and please don’t let him put you off trying another DL book (she says evangelically)…

  3. michelebbc

     /  April 30, 2010

    I agree Ralph was an unpleaseant character, but Helen only saw the surface and I thought David Lodge used this as a device to show how little we can ever really know about another person and their thought processes. This was demonstrated by the different interpretations of the same events in the story on a few occasions. Also I didn’t see Helen as an entirely innocent party, she makes a concious decision to pursue an affair with Ralph once she discovers Carrie’s own affair and feels justified in going ahead. I’m not trying to defend Ralph as a character but found him interesting and believable in the context of the story.

  4. moirabbc

     /  April 29, 2010

    I felt Ralph was so much more than a reprobate; he was hateful. Lodge’s relationship with his character is a grudging admiration for a lovable rogue and although the book ends with Helen getting some kind of revenge, we don’t have the pleasure of knowing the impact of his disgrace. That this man records the sound of his sex with a woman without her knowledge is bad enough, but to replay it to enhance his wank after the woman has died (presumably prematurely and sadly) was obscenely shocking. As someone who has counselled survivors of rape and child sexual abuse, I thought I was immune to shock about the ruthlessness and depravity of the id.
    This character seemed to be in a state of continual tumescence and the graphic grotesque erections became very tiresome. If a significant proportion of men are like him, there is a pressing need for mass chemical castration. It was not credible that an intelligent, accomplished woman like Helen, however demented by grief, would find anything attractive about this man. I hated the way Lodge constructed the cat and mouse seduction of a vulnerable woman, almost as if deriving enjoyment by proxy.
    All of this distracted me from any possible merit of the book. The discussions about evolutionary psychology, consciousness and philosophy could have been more interesting had they been developed rather than being mere foreplay to the main theme.

  5. michelebbc

     /  April 23, 2010

    I loved the book. It really did make me think about different ways of reading and how our perceptions of people alter depending on viewpoint.

    The setting was very interesting to me as I work at a university where the Arts and Sciences are at oppostie ends of the campus in exactly the same way as in the book and the scientific and artistic viewpoints of conciousness is a theme that runs through the story.

    I thought it was very clever, loved the ideas about artificial intelligence and the set pieces that Helen’s students had to do, what its like to be a Bat was great, very funny!

    I was disappointed that Helen ended up sleeping with Ralph as he was such a reprobate! But I could see how that could have happened because of the intellectual connection and her loneliness.

    On a first reading I was worried that it was all going to be like the first chapter but then you carry on the different viewpoints are a good surprise. I learnt something too, I had never even realised there was such a thing as a third person view with no narrator – once it was mentioned it made me much more aware of myself as a reader. The way the actual writing styles in the book were woven into the discussions of consciousness in the story was really well done.


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