A witty romp through New Zealand academe—with metafiction and mystery joining hands in the picaresque adventures of Professor Harry Butler, obsessed with the Mind/Body problem in more ways than one. Stead (Sister Hollywood, 1990) sets his latest mainly in Auckland—a place of great natural beauty but subject to all the contemporary concerns of the wider world. Harry, head of the philosophy department, is dogged by the department's Women's Collective (``like nuns in the old days they always come in pairs''). Plus: his wife has found a guru, who now preaches Sufism; the police are using his house to watch a drug-smuggling neighbor; and Harry's mistress, graduate student Louise, wants commitment. The story is told, or rather assembled, by an anonymous writer who could be Harry but may be simply a friend who writes in European cafes, where he drinks black coffee, chats with the proprietors, and, once he's met Danish Uta, acquires an instant critic and adviser. When Harry sees old friend Jason visiting the alleged drug-dealers next door, he warns Jason and also tips off Mandy, who's the mistress of one of the dealers and with whom Harry once had an affair. Harry is soon in more trouble: Louise is unhappy; the police are angry; and his wife is meditating. Finally, when Harry and journalist friend Phil find Jason, a man of mystery, murdered, the drug connection is cleared up—but, meanwhile, a letter of Harry's to Louise has fallen into the hands of the Women's Collective. Damning excerpts appear all over before Harry is miraculously rescued from disgrace. And the writer leaves Europe and Uta behind. An amusing, clever, and agreeably literate portrait of a hapless Lucky Jim sort.
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