Goofy academic struggles for those who need a break in the faculty lounge.

COW COUNTRY

A comical novel about life at a zany community college, from debut author Pearson.

When Charlie gets the job of special projects coordinator at Cow Eye Community College, he’s not quite sure what to expect, especially after his bizarre phone interview: “Several questions concerned my relevant experience in highly divisive work environments and how I might resolve a series of hypothetical conflicts—for example, what I would do if one of my colleagues tried to sever the head of a key administrator.” Nevertheless, after a long bus ride to the town of Cow Eye Junction, Charlie is met by the man in charge, Dr. Felch. Charlie, he’s told, is replacing the last special projects coordinator, who had “countless awards and commendations. References from the Queen of England and Archduke of Canterbury” (though she turned out to be an “unmitigated disaster”). His goals seem relatively simple: ensure that the school maintains accreditation and plan the annual Christmas party. Unfortunately, those directives are anything but. The constantly feuding, eccentric faculty doesn’t help. Sam Middleton, a medieval poetry expert, is a “card-carrying institutional anarchist,” while Alan Long River, the public speaking teacher, “hadn’t spoken a word to anybody at the college—his students included—for more than twelve years.” Bureaucracy rules the school, and opportunities for conflict and adventure are many, including a team-building exercise in which new hires must castrate a calf and heated focus groups; one of the institutional researchers has “been very adamant that no educational endeavor should be attempted without first conducting a focus group or a survey of some kind.” Whether or not this mix proves humorous depends on the reader’s patience for tongue-in-cheek jokes about backwardness (“the unfamiliar voice belonged to the college’s tenured negroid’”) and adjunct professors (“We’re not allowed to refer to them by name”). Ambitious in its creation of this kooky world, the book will certainly strike a chord with readers lost in their own wacky arenas of academic bickering. Others may be bored by lengthy orientation sessions and party planning, as with the seating arrangement for the Christmas party: “We’ve also made sure to bring them together politically, economically, and ethnically. In each group there will be at least one laissez-faire capitalist and one left-leaning socialist. One centrist and one anarchist. One tenured faculty member and one who is non-tenured. One white, one Asian. A lumper and a splitter. A Catholic and a Protestant. Sikh and Hindu. Jew and jihadist. Social scientist and actual scientist. Vegetarian and anti-vegetarian.”

Goofy academic struggles for those who need a break in the faculty lounge.   

Pub Date: April 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0990915027

Page Count: 540

Publisher: Cow Eye Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2015

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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