Natural Painkillers: Exercise or a David Lodge Novel?

A brilliant novel to read when you’re sick!

I got the message early in life that strong women don’t cry. At the dentist’s? Absolutely not. At most, say “Ouch.” At the doctor’s? Well, I did cry when an intern stuck an IV painfully into my wrist because he claimed he couldn’t find other veins (a phlebotomist revealed that I have veins).

Strong women don’t show weakness. That was my mother’s opinion. You cry fountains of tears only in private …  it’s “the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

Yesterday, I woke up in pain, with a very sore shoulder and neck. Ouch! It really hurt. Did I sleep at an odd angle? I don’t know. Anyway, I did stretches for the shoulder and neck and then cautiously lifted three-pound weights. I felt somewhat better.

A nice day for biking–if not for the strained muscle!

I woke up today and felt much worse, so I decided bicycling might help.  I was about three miles into the ride when I wondered if I shouldn’t turn around. The pain wasn’t exactly getting worse, but it wasn’t getting better. Well, I soldiered on. I had to go to the store.

In the store, I immediately felt better. But while I stood on the social distance marks in line, the pain came back twice as strong. One advantage of the mask: no one can see you grimace.

And so I went outdoors with my purchases and called my husband.  He sent a message: ON MY WAY! I just sat there and waited, thrilled.

At home, I took Advil, drank tea, and applied a microwaved heat pack to my neck. The latter did nothing.

So I lay there and read my book. And my conclusion? A good, humorous book helps more with the pain than home remedies.  I loved David Lodge’s The British Museum Is Falling Down.

I am a fan of David Lodge’s academic satires, and his third novel, The British Museum Is Falling Down, published in 1965, has a slightly different tone from the later novels. Although the hero, Adam Appleby, is an academic, the novel focuses on the subject of birth control during the 1960s. The hero, Adam Appleby, and his wife, Barbara, are Catholics, and the Church forbids them to use contraception, with the exception of the dreaded rhythm method.  (Those of you who are infertile will also be familiar with taking your temperature and charting your ovulation,)

And so the couple, who must start the day by taking Barbara’s temperature to see if she’s ovulating, feel decidedly unsexy. They already have three children, and are terrified that Barbara is pregnant again.

Lodge interweaves the analysis of serious ’60’s Catholic birth control issues with academic adventures. We follow Adam through a day in his life, which centers around research at the British Museum. In the morning, he is stuck in traffic on his scooter (it turns out to be the Beatles); can’t seem to concentrate while he waits for the library assistant to deliver books  to his desk (in fact, he does no work); attempts to obtain an obscure writer’s unpublished papers from an eccentric old woman; is misunderstood when his phone call is crossed with someone else’s as saying the British Museum is on fire.  And much, much more!

Lodge’s intellectualism is lightened by satire that reminds us happily of Lucky Jim. This is a deftly-written social and historical novel about the issue of birth control in the ’60s, and it is also funny. Wasn’t the Pill on every magazine cover?  Alas, the Church still forbids birth control, though  Catholics I know ignore such unpleasant tenets.

I hope you have an enjoyable weekend and I do recommend that you read David Lodge.  He manages to be brilliant and light all at once!

4 thoughts on “Natural Painkillers: Exercise or a David Lodge Novel?”

  1. I love David Lodge’s campus novels, not the least because I know most of the people his characters are based on! He was, by the way, a brilliant teacher. Everything I know about holding a seminar I learnt from him.

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  2. David Lodge wrote an excellent novel about Henry James, Author, Author. Among other things the title refers ironically to his stage-writing: no-one ever clamoured for James to emerge from the wings once the curtain came down. It’s very good too on his friendship/rivalry with Gerald du Maurier. In a literary twist which James would have appreciated Lodge’s book was (unfairly) eclipsed by Colm Toibin’s The Master which came out at the same time.

    Philip Gooden

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    1. I love James, and this sounds like my kind of thing. What are the odds of two novels about James in the same year? A pity. I also admired Lodge’s novel about H. G. Wells., A Man of Parts .

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