THE BIG DAY by Barry Unsworth


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Yes, a big day for the Regional College of Further Studies, where ""the truly promising student is the one who has paid his fees,"" where eager foreigners and a few addled Englishmen come to pick up a B.A. in twelve weeks. Today is Degree Day (there's one every twelve weeks, of course), but it's also the day that College Principal Donald Cuthbertson goes slightly starkers, having found out that Professor Mafferty is a fake (even by Regional College standards), that black student Said is passing dirty, illiterate notes (""I want to put diamonds exactly in the centre of your both teats very much""), and that his daffodil memories of wife Lavinia are wilted indeed. And it's a big day for Lavinia, being her 40th birthday, which she plans to celebrate in 36 positions with any ""randy, soldierly person"" she can find and with a fancy-dress ball. Among the invitees: Mrs. Mercer from the old-folks' home, where she battles her roommate with gusto; Messrs. Baines and Honeyball, who plan to launch an anti-black, anti-Semitic crusade from the College grounds; and odd Dean Bishop, who comes dressed as a lady tennis player. And throughout, heavyhandedly, background radio reports of bombings, battles, and starvation. Minor Unsworth indeed, not be confused with the richness of Mooncranker's Gift (1974), but there's a buffa-bravura sequence involving simultaneous, overlapping classes in Blake and current events, and occasional sparks that transcend the general mood of Waugh manquÉ, Amis amiss, and Wodehouse gone raunchy.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1977
ISBN: 0393321495
Publisher: Mason/Charter