Things have gone from bad to worse for Nick Hoffman (Little Miss Evil, 1999, etc.), assistant professor in that bastion of obscurity, the State University of Michigan. Not only is his tenure committee in disarray; his entire department seems on the eve of self-destruction, with relative newcomer Juno Dromgoole, professor of Canadian lit, enmeshed in a long-term catfight with acting chair Serena Fisch over the dubious distinction of running the teetering Department of English, American Studies, and Rhetoric (EAR). His own prospects of being granted the privilege of continuing his career in this den of vipers is further imperiled by his running battles with Rusty Dominguez-St. John, who takes exception to Nick’s sexual orientation; with Avis Kinderhoek, the would-be head of SUM’s new Whiteness Studies program, who thinks Holocaust survivors are a bunch of whiners; and with department secretary Dulcie Harrigan, who’s miffed by his refusal to contribute to EAR’s Diversity Tree. A stalker bent on ridding the world of Juno seems to have Nick in his sights as well, but when he gets beaten up in the washroom of EAR’s headquarters, decrepit Parker Hall, the campus cops, led by belligerent Detective Valley, suspect Nick of complicity. Worse yet, his longstanding domestic partnership with Stefan Borowski, EAR’s writer-in-residence, is threatened by the inexplicable sexual obsession he’s developed with voluptuous Juno, who misses no opportunity to waft her leopard-skin-clad treasures beneath his tempted nose.
All complication and scant resolution: Raphael’s latest is really just the first installment in an overlong, paranoid conspiracy theory.