A series of satirical vignettes from novelist Foley (These Little Poems of Death and after Life, 2010) about the hijinks and school politics among the faculty at a suburban high school.
At fictional Lingor High School, the faculty will stop at nothing to get ahead—or at least avoid being stabbed in the back. The assorted vignettes, which span four decades, focus on different characters, often resurrecting characters who were of peripheral importance in other sections. They range from the obsolete master teacher ousted by younger administrators to students whose talents are smothered by overzealous parents or abusive coaches. Foley focuses especially on Timothy Barbieri, who attended Lingor High School as a student and returned immediately after college to begin his teaching career. Poor Timothy is disheartened to discover that being on the faculty at LHS is all about finding the right allies, not about the art of teaching. During Timothy’s time at Lingor, his personal rivalry with the enigmatic principal, Mlle. Ameline, ebbs and flows in a hilarious fashion. The tongue-and-cheek narration and astute observations about human behavior are drawn from Foley’s personal background as a former teacher. Not only does he address what’s really inside the unmarked bottle always found in the employee refrigerator, but he also gets to the heart of unjust advancement and premature termination in bureaucratic work environments. The narrative voice varies widely among the vignettes, ranging from the pompously erudite—i.e., poetic phrasing about “Tennyson’s jutting proboscis”—to the shockingly base: The principal “would market the breath of her crotch if she thought it would bring in money.” Though the book is a bit longer than necessary and would greatly benefit from aggressive editing, the punchy storyline keeps the pages turning.
An amusingly offbeat parody that will appeal to quirky academics.