Changing Places MOBI ¼ Paperback

Anyone intrigued by differences between American and British academic institutions will find this an amusing and accurate send up David Lodge portraying two American and British professors who replace one another at their respective institutions gives greed pettiness and pretense full rein


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    Changing Places is the first of David Lodge's Campus series this one being set in 1969 and published in 1975 The sexual revolution Vietnam student sit ins and smoking pot are all highly topical themes the novel is pure psychedelic '60's The style is redolent of Lodge's dry sardonic humour so it is very entertaining to read The setting he has created affords plenty of his waspish observations so perhaps this is why he is doffing his cap to the Inimitable with his subtitle A Tale of Two CampusesDavid Lodge has invented two academic campuses one located in Rummidge which is clearly intended to be city of Birmingham in the Midlands and the other is Plotinus in the state of Euphoria apparently modelled on Berkeley in California The story deals with a six month academic exchange programme between these fictional universities The participants are Philip Swallow a very dull conventional British academic and an American Morris Zapp a dynamic and talented American professor Whereas Philip Swallow cannot believe his luck with the comparative luxury of the US University Zapp is at best amused and at worst appalled by what appears to him to be a slipshod system of academia in Britain peopled by amateurs and with extremely backward living conditions Hence these two academics both aged 40 have little in common either in their personalities or the differing academic systems of their native countries Most of the humour comes from the observations and contrasts resulting from thisIt has to be said though that many of the discrepancies are no longer so pertinent as in the intervening period British Universities have become similar to their American counterparts so this novel has inevitably lost a little of its edge Or possibly each succeeding generation of academics worldwide have felt that their barbed wisecracks sank harmlessly into the protective padding of the new gentle inarticulacy which had become so fashionable that even the brightest graduate students ruthless professionals at heart felt obliged to conform to itMaybe it is not after all a clash of cultures which speaks to us now from this novel but the vague feelings of dissatisfaction each successive generation has that educational standards are somehow droppingAlthough it is an entertaining read and gives the reader a slice of life at the tail end of the sixties it is not a classic of the period The author gets a little bogged down in the sexual revolution aspect which feels rather dated There are no great insights here and when Lodge could get down to the nitty gritty and make observations pointing up the differences between perceptions and cultures he seems to veer off from doing so Disappointingly there is no analysis of the differences between the two educational systems which was the initial starting point of the novel Neither is it consistently witty it seems to lose impetus in the middle and descend into farcical bed hopping between the academics their ex academic wives here would have been a ripe topic for satire a daughter Melanie an ex student DJ Charles Boon and so on There are a few memorable laugh out loud scenes though One is an hilarious description of local radio from the American professor Morris Zapp's point of view At the time these regional radio stations were brand new in the UK but have proliferated since so that Lodge's witty detailed descriptions are still very astute and funny Another highlight is a very humorous description of the new prefabricated structure of part of Rummidge university The subtitle of the novel is A Tale of Two Campuses In this way both the title and subtitle are literary allusions to A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens Apart from some of the characters' names further similarities to Dickens would be hard to find in the content of the novel however Ultimately the reader is left with a sense that fun read though it is this novel is a lost opportunity