BLAIR by John A. Scott


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Australian poet Scott's fictional debut is a comic farce--an academic satire with the usual assortment of dumb-wits, pretentious nincompoops, and literary chat, all gathered around a shambling klutz suffering from unrequited love. The story can wear very thin, but mostly it's antic fun. Eric Blair, an English professor with food stains on his lapel--whose wife Felicity Greenwood married him and then ""simply disappeared from view""--confides in best-friend Hymen Proctor (""who had reached the conclusion that his best chance of having sex with his friend was to do so by proxy"") that ""despite having denounced the priesthood most of my life I now find I've got all the necessary attributes: a well-developed confessional manner, a life of utter celibacy, and a strong suspicion of God."" Eric has been teaching since 1976 at the Centre for Human Development (akin to the polytechs endlessly satirized in Commonwealth novels), and between bits of literary satire (notably, one professor, a self-styled expert on Blake, plagiarizes a student's paper that itself was lifted from Northrop Frye) courts Julia Brouwer. He falls in love over a discussion of John Donne and prepares for a night of sex with her (""half his life had been spent in anticipation of an event that promised much and then delivered nothing""), but all attempts are thwarted because he ""lived most of all in horror of presuming."" When he finally declares his love, it's too late: she's in love with someone else, and--after a conclusive (and convulsive) gathering where some plot strings are neatly tied--he goes alone to bed, where his ""genitals turned over in their slumbers, faithful and benign."" Put it on the shelf somewhere between Kingsley Amis and Tom Sharpe. Without being the equal of either, it's eminently quotable and full of winning slapstick.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1989
ISBN: 0811211169
Publisher: New Directions