A biting satire peppered with harsh truths about university politics and academic shenanigans.

BECOMING SNAF-U

When a fictional university falls out of the Top 25 in a national magazine ranking, hysteria erupts on campus.

In this debut novel, Jones constructs Ty McTavish as a measured voice of reason in a sea of egomaniacs, sycophants and blowhards. McTavish, an African-American biophysics professor recently hired as the dean of arts and sciences at SNAF-U (“Small but National, Aspiring to be Famous University”), is welcomed by several colleagues who awkwardly assure him that race was not a factor in his selection. Just as he begins to adjust to his new surroundings, SNAF-U’s banishment from the elite grouping occurs, a calamity that spurs Robert Sligh, the unctuous university president, to rally the troops in hopes of overcoming this latest challenge: “We have endured the Great Depression, two World Wars, and the loss of Division I football.” Language is often stretched to its limits in academia, and here, the author is at his best, as the parodic text bursts with linguistic wordplay, from names (Olan Azkizur) and acronyms (NONSENSE) to departments (Statistical Theology) and ranking criteria (Tuitional Aggrandizement Originality). One character becomes so caught up in academic jargon that she makes no sense, sanctimoniously invoking “this epoch of interdisciplanaritiness and multiculturalment.” Despite this gleeful element, however, readers may notice rough patches in the narrative structure and pacing. For instance, Jones introduces the voracious, irresistible Jamais Dimanche quite late in the book, though she plays an integral role in the plan to return SNAF-U to its place in the Top 25 via distortion and subterfuge. The book also relies a bit too heavily on the epilogue to tie up loose narrative threads. While Jones focuses on questionable ethics within the administration, he also addresses many other issues plaguing postsecondary education, including institutionalized racism, grade inflation, and fraternization between faculty members and students. For inspiration, perhaps the author drew upon firsthand observations from his long career in university education, research and administration.

A biting satire peppered with harsh truths about university politics and academic shenanigans.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1483619552

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2014

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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