Why are academic satires so deeply satisfying? Perhaps it's the inherent irony of those supposedly dedicated to the life of the mind engaging in vicious political infighting and petty rule-mongering. Or maybe it's the fantasy element of seeing pompous people cut off at the knees--something that rarely happens in real life. -Joanne Wilkinson and Bill Ott, Booklist
So if you'd rather laugh than cry about the frustrations and absurdities of life on a college campus, then these books are for you. From the 1950's through 1997, from authors who make gentle fun to those whose humor is acidic, from cannibalism to post-modernism, there should be something here to satisfy. Take your pick and enjoy! (The date the book was first published is listed just after the author's name.)
Book: A Novel / Robert Grudin / 1992 / PS3557. R787 B66 1992 Stacks, Level Two. Mr. Grundin, who teaches English at the University of Oregon.has a field day not only with the idea of text, but also with the various chic disciplines that generated it. He has, in essence, taken the genre of the academic satire.and run it through the post-structuralist dicer. -Sven Birkets, New York Times.
Changing Places: A Tale of Two Campuses / David Lodge / 1975 / PR6062 .O36 C5 1983 Stacks, Level Two. A university exchange program provides the premise for Changing Places. Aggressive, flamboyant Morris Zapp leaves his post at the State University of Euphoria (a thinly-disguised Berkeley) to trade places with timid, unambitious Philip Swallow from the dreary University of Rummidge in the English Midlands. Eventually they exchange cars, homes, and wives as well. -Contemporary Authors.
Small World: An Academic Romance /1984 / PR6062 .O36 S64 1991 Stacks, Level Two. Zapp and Swallow appear again in Small World..They are only two of the many characters who jet around the globe from one academic conference to another in search of glory, romantic trysts, and the UNESCO chair of literary criticism--a job with virtually no responsibilities and a $100,000 tax-free salary. -Contemporary Authors.
Nice Work / PR6062 .O36 N5 1989 Stacks, Level Two. Half of Nice Work, inside the redbrick University of Rummidge, is the sort of college novel likely to remind readers less of [Kingsly] Amis than of Mary McCarthy's The Groves of Academe or Randall Jarrell's Pictures From an Institution. It's about the knowledge factory gone berserk. But the other half of Nice Work is about another sort of factory, producing car parts instead of knowledge, motors instead of meaning. When these two modes of production meet, there's a very messy dialectic. -John Leonard, The Nation.
Eating People is Wrong / Malcolm Bradbury / 1959 / PR6052. R246 E2 1984 Stacks, Level Two. A novel.about how weary academic life is in the English Midlands of the '50s-but this is not a weary novel. Often truly comic, its satire has many barbs and they often draw blood.. -Herbert Burke, Contemporary Authors.
Stepping Westward / 1965 / PR6003 .R118 S7 1979 Stacks, Level Two. The author's exaggerated versions of university life work by lending a British ear and eye to the oddities of the American scene. -Bernard McCabe, Contemporary Authors.
The History Man / Malcolm Bradbury/ 1975 / PR6052.R246 H5 2000 Stacks, Level Two. The History Man is set on a 1970's campus heavy on parking lots, poured concrete, endless hallways, student radicals, bored professors, and pompous officials. Everyone falls victim to Bradbury's acid tongue, but no one more so than his main character, Howard Kirk, who teaches a famous course on Revolutions..A master of faculty infighting, seducer of all women in sight, wearer of a Zapata mustache, and preacher of equality whose wife does most of the child care, Kirk maneuvers to get a racist geneticist invited to speak on campus so that he can lead the protest. -Adam Hochschild, Mother Jones.
Rates of exchange 119831 /PR6052.R246 R3 1983 Stacks, Level 2 .he [Bradbury] is up to something other than the usual picaresque of an academic innocent abroad. The book is, in fact, an intricately witty gloss on linguistics and structuralism, if not on the novel-writing process itself. -Christopher Porterfield, Time.
Foolscap / Michael Malone / 1991 / PS3563 .A43244 F66 1991 Stacks, Level Two. Ivy-choked groves of academe and overcultivated fields of creative endeavor are pruned to riotous effect in this rollicking satire. In top comedic form, Malone follows English professor Theo Ryan from North Carolina's Cavendish University across the Atlantic to London on a merry chase after the purloined Foolscap, a play he's penned about Sir Walter Raleigh. -Publishers Weekly.
Four Dreamers and Emily / Stevie Davies / 1997 / PR6054 .A89152 F6 1997 Stacks, Level Two. Literary obsessions, farce and tender explorations of the heart combine in British novelist and literary critic Davies's entertaining U.S. debut, a gently satirical contemporary novel that targets academics and other devotees who worship at Emily Bronte's shrine. -Publishers Weekly.
The Groves of Academe / Mary McCarthy / 1952 / PS3525 .A1435 G76 1952 Stacks, Level Two. With the main character a faculty member who wants it known that he is a former communist-when he isn't-so his liberal college doesn't dare fire him, this story has a definite 50's feel. It is nonetheless a fun read since some of the most lampooned aspects of academic life seem never to change.
Handmaid of Desire / John L'Heureux / 1996 / PS3562 .H4 H36 1996 Stacks, Level Two. John L'Heureux.who teaches creative writing at Stanford University, has created in ''The Handmaid of Desire'' a satirical fantasy in which a motley bunch of Bartheans, deconstructionists and disciples of Foucault are wholly at the mercy of an omnipotent novelist, who rearranges their lives for them according to the requirements of her latest plot. -Evelyn Toynton, The New York Times.
Japanese by Spring / Ishmael Reed / 1993 / PS3568 .E365 J35 1993 Stacks, Level Two. In his funny, explosive.novel, "Japanese by Spring," no one who has ever jockeyed for power in an American university escapes [Ishmael Reed's] ridicule: liberals, conservatives, feminists, male chauvinists, whites, blacks and Asians..Borrowing from vivid African-American slang and turning academic jargon inside out, Mr. Reed constructs brilliant verbal fusillades that reduce his targets to their most ridiculous components. -Edward Hower, New York Times.
Lucky Jim / Kingsley Amis / 1954 / PR6001 .M6 L8 1954 Stacks, Level Two. The most popular [British] anti-hero of our time has been without doubt, Jim Dixon in Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim-an astonishing best-seller of the middle nineteen fifties. Amis caught the public mood of post-war restiveness in a book which though socially significant, was, and still is, extremely funny. -Anthony Burgess, The Novel Now.
Make No Bones / Aaron Elkins / 1991 / PS3555.L48 M35 1993 Stacks, Level Two. Gideon Oliver must excuse himself from the festivities of the biennial anthropological convention, bone bash, and weenie roast in order to investigate the disappearance of the remains of Dr. Albert Jasper, previously housed in an Oregon museum. -Publishers Weekly.
The Masters / C. P. Snow / 1951/ PR6037.N58 M33 1959 Stacks, Level Two. [This book] might be considered the template from which countless imitations have been struck: an election has been called to decide who the new Master will be, and that is quite enough to ensure a stomach-churning academic season. What might strike non-academics as a tempest in a teapot leads inexorably to enormous expenditures of fretful energy and intrigues worthy of Jacobean drama. -Sanford Pinsker, Who cares if Roger Ackroyd gets tenure? Partisan Review 66:3, Summer, 1999. (This article is a fun-to-read critique of American academic satire-I highly recommend it. The call number for the Partisan Review is AP2 .P267.)
Moo / Jane Smiley / 1995 / PS3569 .M39 M66 1995 Stacks, Level Two. Incorporating the arc of a Shakespearean comedy, Smiley skewers any number of easily recognizable campus fixtures: the grant-seeking egomaniac, bewildered freshmen, the obsessive researcher. Smiley's satire also takes dead aim at the venal motives of college fund-raisers and scores a direct hit. -Booklist.
Murder in the Museum of Man / Alfred Alcorn / 1997 / PS3551 .L29 M87 1997 Stacks, Level Two. "What possible motive could someone have for killing and eating the dean?'' This simple-sounding question is the pivot of Alfred Alcorn's stylish, occasionally fiendish detective story, ''Murder in the Museum of Man.'' Mr. Alcorn's heroic victim is not the devoured dean, nor is it any subsequent murderee; it is the Museum of Man itself, a modest-looking archeological and anthropological treasure-trove about to be gobbled up from without by adjacent Wainscott University, avid to turn the museum's dusty collection rooms into administrators' offices, and by self-promoting researchers within, who fawn on reporters but despise the humanity whose history they pretend to chronicle.
A New Life / Bernard Malamud / 1961 / PS3563 .A4 N4 1961 Stacks, Level Two. Political correctness didn't exist when Malamud wrote this delightful saga of New Yorker Sy Levin's new life teaching English at tiny Cascadia College in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, but there was plenty of absurdity on campus even without it. The story of Levin's existential coming-to-terms with life and love mirrors themes apparent throughout Malamud's work, but here the academic foolishness, along with the comic possibilities of a New York Jew encountering the small-town Northwest (Malamud actually taught at Oregon State University), makes for more laughs than one finds in, say, The Fixer or The Assistant. -Booklist.
Pictures from an Institution / Randall Jarrell / 1968 / PS3519 .A86 P5 1986 Stacks, Level Two. Jarrell's one novel, Pictures from an Institution . is an extremely clever work of satire as well as a humanely intelligent book. It is set in a progressive women's college not altogether unlike Sarah Lawrence College and its pictures of the academic and personal life of all concerned remain amusing. -M. L. Rosenthal, Randall Jarrell.
Publish and Perish: Three Tales of Tenure and Terror / James Hynes / 1997 / PS3558 .Y55 P8 1997 Stacks, Level Two. With "Publish and Perish," Hynes' greatest feat is that he has done something wholly original, taking the best of satire, literary fiction and the suspense genre and splicing it into a collection of stories that is, above all else, intensely fun. -Dean Bakopoulos, The Capital Times.
The Secret History / Donna Tartt / 1992 / PS3570.A657 S4 1992 Stacks, Level Two. "It was a strange, still, oppressive day. The campus seemed deserted ...and the green lawn, the gaudy tulips, were hushed and expectant beneath the overcast sky. Somewhere a shutter creaked. Above my head, in the wicked black claws of an elm, a marooned kite rattled convulsive then was still. This is Kansas, I thought. This is Kansas before the cyclone hits. The library was like a tomb, illumined from within by a chill fluorescent light that, by contrast, made the afternoon seem colder and grayer than it was. The windows of the reading room were bright and blank; bookshelves, empty carrels, not a soul." This quotation from The Secret History tells you where this novel is going-to the "graves" of academe (as Publishers Weekly puts it). Not so much an academic satire, but the only book on this list told from the students' point of view-and it's a creepy one!
Straight Man / Richard Russo / 1997 / PS3568 .U812 S77 1997 Stacks, Level Two. Easily the funniest novel you'll read this year , Straight Man stars perpetual wise-guy Hank Devereaux waging comic war on both the contentious English faculty and the bean-counting administrative bureaucrats. No other serious novelist can blend heartache and high jinks quite like Russo. -Booklist.
Textermination / Christine Brooke-Rose / 1992 / PR6003 .R412 T48 1992 Stacks, Level Two. The setting is a literary conference, where academics have gathered to hear papers and debate about which works merit inclusion in the world's cannon of literature. Brooke-Rose [a British novelist and critic] has produced a wildly funny fictional entry in the ongoing debate about deconstruction, multiculturalism and the respective merits of "fine" and "pop" art. -Publishers Weekly.
The War Between the Tates / Alison Lurie / 1974 / PS3562 .U7 W3 Stacks, Level Two. A comic novel [not truly a satire] about the marital difficulties of a professor and his wife in an era of campus unrest. -Contemporary Authors.