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 Poet Blumenthal, former director of Creative Writing at Harvard, lampoons that university's hallowed halls and the oddballs who roam them in his fictional debut--a lascivious and witty but all-too-entre-nous and familiar tale of academic life. Martin Weinstock is a thirtysomething Jewish poet who receives the call to teach at Harvard, a proof of his having arrived in the literary world that he greets with profound ambivalence. Convinced after a short time in residence that the institution and his colleagues are far more interested in celebrating the dead than in supporting the living, Martin finds his childhood fears of death and betrayal resurfacing with a vengeance. Born to poor Israeli parents who decided to stay on in America, he was traded as an infant to his childless aunt and uncle in exchange for a chicken farm in New Jersey, then raised as his foster parents' son without being told of the switch until his ``mother'' died, to be replaced by a bitter widow who made life intolerable. Unsure of love and his identity as a youth, he shuns commitment like the plague in Cambridge--although he never fails to rise to temptations offered by his students and eligible others. Martin's willful descent into existential quagmires and indecisiveness ends finally on a junket to Ecuador, where he meets the sensitive, artistic Beatrice, who guides him back to the living by bearing his son and who gives him the courage to confront the accumulated miseries of Harvard and his past. With nods to Dante, Philip Roth, and a host of others, this is cultured and pleasantly satirical--but for all its psychological insight, it still lacks consistency, proving an unstable mix of deep family traumas and hip Harvard-bashing.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-944072-34-8
Page count: 318pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993