Tonight I got to meet David Lodge and get him to sign my battered, much beloved copy of Therapy (a book on my Desert Island list).
I also got to tell him “thank you for your work” and tell him about how I first read Therapy as a 12-year-old girl growing up in South America. “How extraordinary!” he exclaimed. His eyes got bigger and bigger as I told him that relating with the main character (someone I had absolutely NOTHING in common with) in a profoundly personal way was a big influence on me, because it helped me realize what fiction is capable of. On a subconscious level, reading that book made me think, If I can read a book about a middle-aged balding English screenwriter having a midlife crisis and see myself, then fiction can truly do ANYTHING.
While rehearsing my Elevator Speech in my head for meeting Lodge, I kept trying to figure out why I am so sentimentally attached to Therapy. I think I like it in the same way that I like Return of the Jedi: it appeared in my life when I was very young and at a very formative and meaningful point in my life, so even if it’s not GREAT and GENIUS, I am still hopelessly, fuzzily attached to its Ewoks.
I first picked Therapy randomly off the shelf when I was hobbling around the house with a knee injury from middle-school basketball. It felt like an eerie, terrifying twist of fate that a book I chose at RANDOM from my parents’ bookshelves featured a main character who not only suffered from knee problems (!!) but also from EXISTENTIAL ANGST (and didn’t we all have that when we were twelve?)
(Actually now that I think about it I must have been more like 14, which means that the inscription in the book is off by two years, but OH WELL).
I like David Lodge for the same reasons that I like Philip K. Dick and Anne Tyler, Tori Amos and Bruce Springsteen: I like their work ethic, and I like how their books/albums make me feel. Reading these authors, I feel… inspired. Safe. Comforted. And also like, I can do this. Don’t get me wrong, I have mad respect and love for the Junot Diazes of the world, the Harper Lees and Ralph Ellisons, the Marilynne Robinsons. But I don’t know if I can (…or if I want to…?) do what those aforementioned GREAT authors have done. I don’t know what I’m saying. I guess I just really like the long list of books that Lodge, Dick and Tyler (and Bolaño, and Onetti, and Aira) have in the bibliographies. I find it reassuring and hopeful. It makes me think, That is something I can do. I can do that.
Life, my friends, is very very good.