Freewheeling satire of academic life and sex in the 90's by the author of Straight Through the Night (1990, not reviewed). As a gambler with a repertoire of good-luck rituals, Packard Schmidt believes the slightest actions have unpredictable consequences; as a tenured English professor, he thinks nothing he does really matters. He's afraid to teach—the best books are already banned or too potentially controversial to fool with—so he puts girls who have cute handwriting in the advanced class and gives out undeserved good grades rather than argue with students or actually try to teach them. Divorced, bemused, all too aware of his own inadequacies, Pack describes the world—in tones that range from poignant to hilarious—through his politically incorrect eyes: serious English majors have dull hair; ugly women get Ph.D.'s; sorority girls are good to look at; and the only women he's comfortable with are the topless dancers across the state line who let him put five-dollar bills in their panties; the morality police have banned alcohol and faculty-student sex, but a connoisseur of porn sits on the Supreme court; and Sally—the former student he tracks down (on behalf of her father, an English Department colleague) during a gambling trip to Las Vegas—is blithely earning tuition money working as a prostitute. Beautiful, mindless Sally (author of the term paper ``Things Happen in Pairs of Threes'') brings Pack disgrace, downfall, and joy. Fast-paced, observant, funny—a fine antidote to earnestness- -though it ultimately falls apart a bit straining for climax and closure.
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