Wednesday, March 13, 2013


The Picturegoers, David Lodge, MacGibbon and Kee, 1960, 238 pp

The Picturegoers is David Lodge's first novel and it read very much like one. He has continued to release novels for over 40 years, was short-listed twice in the 1980s for the Booker Prize, and always gets respect from British book reviewers. Therefore he is included in My Big Fat Reading Project. Therefore I read his first novel.

The charming aspect of The Picturegoers is its portrayal of the end of an era when everyone went to the movies because there was not yet any television. The movie theater of the novel works, somewhat awkwardly, as a micro-environment for several disparate characters and their stories.

The key character, Mark Underwood, is a self-centered literature student who comes to board with a Catholic family. Mark falls in lust with the family's eldest daughter (a convent-raised 19 year old recently rejected in her desire to become a nun) and pretends to return to the church from which he had lapsed. As the daughter falls in love with Mark and becomes a modern woman, Mark falls back into Catholicism and decides he may become a priest.

I think this rather TV sitcom type plot was meant to be tongue in cheek, but it made me queasy. David Lodge admits as much in his introduction to the 1993 Penguin reissue. So I will continue to read his novels as I move through the decades and see where he went from here.

(The Picturegoers is out of print but the Penguin paperback is available from used book sellers.)

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