A CLOWN IN THE MOONLIGHT by James Howard Kunstler


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Narrator-hero Richie Schuster--grungy Harvard Ph.D. and ""thirty-year-old middle-class Gringo fuckhead""--is thrilled to get a teaching job in the academic crunch-year of 1973. Moreover, the job is at exclusive Reddington (a.k.a. Bennington), a ""fine arts college for rich bitches"" in Vermont--just the sort of country milieu that Richie and wife Sally have always yearned for. But things at Reddington turn out to be far from pastoral. The English Department chairman is an alcoholic with a suicidal wife (both are soon dead). The department's superstar is crude ""Mac"" MacWhorter, who stole or faked all his academic work and cultivates his lit-world position by videotaping (and endlessly replaying) interviews with trendy poets. And then, most crucially, edgy wife Sally reveals that she's been faking her orgasms for the past five years. . . and begins divorce proceedings. So Richie, already troubled over his attempts at a first novel, starts flailing about--with physical-fitness mania, group therapy (a crazy shrink), and a raunchy affair with undergrad Dudley (she of the ""unquenchable organ""). And when Richie discovers two in flagrante delictos in one night--Dudley with Mac, Sally with flaky poet Rob Krock (Richie's best on-campus friend)--he runs amok, from a semi-rape of Rob's wife Annie to the burning of Mac's precious poets-on-tape collection. Mighty thin stuff, then: unconvincing when slightly serious, over-familiar when playing for laughs (reminiscent of dozens of similar angst-and-adultery-in-academia satires). And Richie's jivey memoir--chattily padded with college history, a three-page description of Sally's body, etc.--too often turns sophomoric in its quest for cute hip-ness. But some of the dialogue and more relaxed narration is engagingly ironic and well-observed, with far more evidence of comic talent here than in Kunstler's first novel, the puerile Wampanaki Tales (1979).

Pub Date: June 12th, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's