Barney Stone arrived at Castleton University in 1932 as a young English instructor, hired on the basis of an article he published as a graduate student, though he didn't know this. His very beginnings at Castleton then were a fraud for the article (on some obscure Elizabethan poet) was one in which Barney had little real interest and wrote only out of deference to his own professor. Stone is an intelligent but ineffectual young man, perversely gifted in doing the wrong thing. No match for the elaborate machinations which prevail at Castleton, he becomes hopelessly entangled in the academic scramble for tenure. He is well-meaning and wants to get ahead but of course can't do so unless he continues to publish. So constantly intimidated, never really in command of all the facts about anything, he makes a slow, but steady, rise in his department, irrevocably wedded to his Elizabethan poet, until he is about to become Dean. And at this point his decorous but uninspiring career crumbles. His rival of 18 years involves Stone with an ex-dancer, supposedly a student, in an effort to demolish his respectability. Even when the plot is exposed (in one of the most humorous parts of the book) Stone is far too embarrassed by the prospect to properly thrash his opponent. His hopes for the Deanship are dashed but he emerges from his ordeal with at least the beginnings of an unfamiliar recklessness. The publishers compare A Lament for Barney Stone with Lucky Jim. But Barney Stone is a man who lags behind events: he is so devoted to thought that by the time he's taken a position it is no longer relevant. Kelly's satire is certainly amusing and intelligent but Barney lacks the exuberance of Kingsley Amis' hero.