Therapy, by David Lodge

Laurence "Tubby" Passmore is the writer of a successful sitcom in his late 50's who's unhappy with his life, despite all the outward appearances of success. The book is written in the form of a journal, which he starts to keep as a kind of therapy, in addition to all the other types that he's indulging himself with - psychoanalysis, CBT, aromatherapy, acupuncture... The book is very funny, as he describes with a kind of bemused exasperation his feelings of "why do I feel so bad?" - the "angst" as he later comes to call it - of late-middle age.

As well as writing about their illness, a characteristic of depressives can be an obsessive tendency, which first shows up when Tubby comes across reference to Kierkegaard: he feels an identification with the philosopher after finding that he's written books with titles including "Fear and Trembling" and "The Concept of Dread", so we get a fair bit about the Kierkegaard's ideas, but not too much. After this, Passmore remembers his first girlfriend (there's a very convincing memoir of their affair when they were both teenagers), and becomes convinced that he needs to find her again.

As Passmore himself notes, the thing that distinguishes a journal from a novel is that the author doesn't know where it's going to end up, and the book does have a bit of a rambling feel to it, with different sections written in different styles, including playing tricks on the reader (although I was expecting it this time, after having been caught out completely the last time I read the book).

The book is extremely good, and very funny but I can't help contrast with David Nobbs, and I think that the main difference between the two (apart from Lodge's predilection for stretching the novelistic form a bit) is that it doesn't seem that Lodge sympathises with his characters. There are sad parts in this story, but while with Nobbs you would really feel for the protagonist, with Lodge it seems that you are being invited to regard him with a kind of detached amusement. Both authors can make you laugh out loud, but Nobbs can make you cry too.

I've read this a couple of times before but this was the first time on audiobook; it worked really well.

Re-read this in July 2012 (I hadn't realised it was 9 years since the last time) and really enjoyed it. Only criticism was the ending, which seemed a bit sudden to me, as if he'd had to hurry in time to meet a deadline.
Re-read it again in Jan 2016. I'd bought a copy of the book in a charity shop with the idea of lending it to Roger at work, but thought I'd just read the first bit to make sure it was suitable. Then ended up reading all of it.

Really enjoyed it again. I am not certain whether Roger would like it. It feels like it's about a mid-life crisis and I don't know if he's old enough to identify with it. But then, I suppose I must have first read this when I was about his age so maybe it'll be OK.

A quote I noted this time (not sure why actually):

An unhappy man is always either hoping or remembering. Either he thinks things were better in the past or he hopes they'll be better in the future, but they're always bad now.

Anyway, I liked it so much I've got Thinks... out of the bookcase to re-read.

Completed : 27-Nov-2003 (audiobook, read by Stephen Thorne)

Completed : 24-Jul-2012

Completed : 18-Jan-2016

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