THE DEAN'S LIST by Jon Hassler


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 A sequel to the delightful Rookery Blues (1995), from the popular Minnesota author. The story is once again set in the academic hinterland of Rookery State College. It's 25 years later (1994), and the focus is now on the professional and personal crises stoically endured by Leland Edwards, who at 58 still lives with his octogenarian mother ``Lolly'' (the host of a popular call-in radio show) and still remembers with more than affection his ex-wife Sally and the son they lost in childhood many years earlier. This all sounds depressing, and there's no doubt that the novel exhibits too many characters burdened by what one of them calls his ``overload of worries.'' But Hassler's trademark affectionate humor is manifest throughout, as Leland deals with neurotic students and eccentric relatives, a Machiavellian hockey coach, a dim-witted college president (who thinks the legendary Paul Bunyan is a Rookery graduate), a sexual harassment charge brought against him by a disturbed woman, and, centrally, the campus visit of a real Rookery alumnus, celebrated poet Richard Falcon--who is himself besieged by the IRS, a publisher's lawsuit, and assorted other demons. Hassler weaves these complicated materials (and others) together beautifully. After a hundred pages or so, we realize we've become acquainted with an amazing number of characters, most of whose personalities are rendered in distinctive detail, even when they're only walk-ons. Flashbacks to Leland's marriage and bereavement, and to his days as a jazz pianist with the cheerfully embattled Icejam Quintet (whose other members all eventually reappear here), are expertly blended with present action. And Hassler's creation of the poems of Richard Falcon--who's a kind of amalgam of Robert Frost and Edwin Arlington Robinson--is remarkably skillful. Enormously readable, as sentimental as one might wish it to be: another dependable charmer from one of our most likable and entertaining novelists. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 28th, 1997
ISBN: 0-345-41637-6
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1997


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