Laurence "Tubby" Passmore is a successful scriptwriter for a television sitcom, in his mid-fifties, married and the father of two grown children. He is indecisive and inexplicably depressed, unhappy with himself, his fat body, bald head, wonky knee, and impending impotence. At least, he is confident in his marriage to Sally, an attractive, self-made academic who enjoys sex; on weekly jaunts to London, he maintains a supportive but platonic relationship with the earthy Amy.

Seeking to alleviate his woes, he dabbles in acupuncture and aromatherapy and regularly attends a blind physiotherapist and a woman psychiatrist; the latter counsels him to write a journal. His wife suddenly announces her wish for a divorce and the television network invokes a contractual obligation to make unwelcome demands on his skills. These events shatter his unappreciated but complacent "angst" and deepen his identity crisis.

Laurence scrambles to rediscover himself. He reads the gloomy, Kierkegaard--because he identified with the titles--and he travels to the existentialist's Copenhagen. He pushes the boundaries of his relationship with Amy in a maudlin trip to Tenerife. He befriends a philosophic squatter, called "Grahame" (with an "e" no doubt to distinguish him from Graham Green whose "writing is a form of therapy" is an epigraph to this book). He flies wildly off to Los Angeles hoping to rekindle a one-night stand "manqué." Finally he recalls and tracks the Irish Catholic, Maureen, his first girlfriend from forty years before. Maureen has suffered too--the death of her son and breast cancer; he finds her on the Road to Compostella.


A former English professor, Lodge is a brilliant satirist whose trilogy spoofing academic life won prestigious awards and two nominations for the Booker Prize. In this deliciously readable comic novel, told through the pages of Laurence's psychotherapy journal, Lodge once again addresses the subject of midlife crisis with great credibility. The painful loss of identity and direction at age fifty generates the "sit" for a personal "sitcom" unfettered by the narrow dimensions of a studio set.

Briefly, the voice changes to engaging monologues about the same events by Amy, Sally, and other women in the protagonist's life--but the reader soon discovers these chapters too were "written" by Laurence as therapeutic exercises suggested by his psychiatrist. Insightful as well as playful, Laurence's odyssey into his past and his future is an adventure in self-healing.

A skeptic, he eventually concedes that religion, like psychotherapy, study, and writing, is a form of healing and of coping with impossible decisions. His search for himself through his lost girlfriend assumes the aura of a life-long quest for the grail--a pilgrimage in which the journey is part of the prayer.



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