Therapy (1995)

by David Lodge

Fifty-eight-year-old British sitcom writer Laurence "Tubby" Passmore appears to have an enviable life (in spite of the suitableness of his nickname): He's well-off from the success of the television series he writes, his marriage seems stable, he has a large home in the country and a flat (as well as a "platonic mistress") in London, and his two kids are successfully launched into adult life. 

But as Tubby takes stock, his shorter bad list ("Feel unhappy most of the time") outweighs the longer good list. He doesn't hesitate to seek therapy for what ails him — from "Internal Derangement of the Knee" to a vague malaise. He has regular appointments for physiotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, aromatherapy, and acupuncture. His psychotherapist advises Tubby to write about himself. Introspecting in long form feels strange to him at first — he's used to writing sitcom dialogue — but he ends up spilling his guts at length.

Therapy is Tubby's first-person journal. A middle section of chapters was ostensibly contributed by others but, we later find out, also written by Tubby as he imagines what his associates would say about him. Besides the family, friends, and colleagues about whom one would expect Tubby to write, two other characters figure prominently in his journal: One is the long-dead philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, whose existentialism Tubby finds relevant to his modern-day angst, and Tubby's first girlfriend, Maureen, whom he becomes drawn to finding again.

A genuinely nice guy with a wry British sense of humor, Tubby is both amusing and touching. He does in fact emerge exultant — but not predictably. As he has done in other novels, David Lodge proves again that a novel can be both comic and serious, entertaining and intelligent.


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