MANY PRETTY TOYS by Hazard Adams


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A debut novel set in the late “60s, describing the turmoil that overtakes a group of faculty and students at an American university. Academics, as a rule, don—t make the most vivid characters. But when they find themselves thrust into situations of real drama, how do they react? This question was put to the test on a mass scale during the riots and protests of the Vietnam era, when normally deliberative souls were suddenly thrown into political action. Adams (The Academic Tribes, etc.) here focuses on a half- dozen colleagues at State University during the academic year 1969—70. There’s Edward Williams, vice president of the university, and his boyhood friend Jack Emory, chairman of the English department: Emory has just decided against tenure for the popular but unorthodox young Norman Silver, and Williams has backed his decision. On a campus recently politicized by the invasion of Cambodia, this turns out to be a bigger problem than anyone had had reason to expect. Olivia Scott, a student of both Silver and Emory, joins the protests that demand Silver’s reinstatement, and she also takes part in an occupation of the English department’s library, vowing to remain there until the demands of the Strike Committee are met. Emory is no Allan Bloom, but he takes his position in the university and society at large seriously enough to feel disturbed by the whole spectacle. “One of the best arguments for closing down the university, but not one that has been made,” he claims, “is that we are all unfit in these times to think.” His gloom only deepens when the occupation turns into an explosion—and, to his horror, he learns who’s claimed as its victim. An intelligent account of intelligent people trapped within their own intelligence: Adams writes sharply and without favor about a period of history that is almost always considered in strictly partisan terms.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-7914-4085-0
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999