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Nice Work by David Lodge
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Jul 06, 10

bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in July, 2010

Lodge, David. NICE WORK. (1988). ****. By this time, I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Lodge’s work. In this novel, we meet Vic Wilcox, the managing director of an engineering firm that makes cast iron parts for large engines and other industrial equipment. He has been with this firm for about a year, hired on by its parent corporation to turn it around. Vic views himself as a self-made man, and has little time or regard for academic, and even less for feminists. Robyn Penrose is an instructor on a temporary basis for the local university in Rummidge (Lodge’s pseudonym for Birmingham), where she teaches courses on the history of the nineteenth century industrial novels, and womens’ fiction. She is a specialist in deconstruction. She is against capitalism and has never been on the inside of a factory. To their dismay, the two are thrown together as a result of a government initiative called “Industry Year,” in which an academic is assigned to become the “shadow” of an industrialist for one day a week for the equivalent of one academic term. The program is supposed to benefit academia’s understanding of how the other half lives, or as it is worded in the mandate, between “town and gown.” The resultant collision of their life-styles and ideologies, motives and methods, seems unlikely to contribute to the betterment of society – or to either one’s peace of mind. But during the course of a bumpy year, both parties make some surprising discoveries about each other’s worlds – and about themselves. This is a story told with wit and keen observation. It is elegantly plotted and vastly entertaining. Recommended.
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