FALL QUARTER by Weldon Kees


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An occasionally amusing academic farce, written in the 1930's, that's of interest only because Kees went on to distinguish himself as a poet and art critic before disappearing in 1955. After a scholarly introduction provides some intriguing publishing history--the novel, mostly light and frothy, had the misfortune to reach publishers at the beginning of WW II--we meet William Clay, a 25-year-old English teacher who arrives in a small midwestern town for his first teaching assignment. Clay quickly meets a series of predictable characters, puts forth a series of predictable attitudes, and ends up losing a girl as well as his idealism. Meanwhile, he must teach three sections of bonehead English (""It was absurd that a person with his gifts had to be wasted on such students as those in 101g"") and also meet the usual academic types (boorish administrators, ""well-established eccentrics,"" a prof ""opiating his classes,"" and, of course, a drinking buddy) before coming upon Dorothy Bruce, a radio singer who is as close to glamour as Clay is going to get in this midwestern college town. Unfortunately, Bruce is a tough number with tons of friends (the tone fails Kees here, since it seems we're meant to take her as a sort of madcap screwball comic) who, though eventually bedded by Clay, is not meant for him. Kees, in the meantime, pads out his youthful manuscript with instances of paper-grading, literary trivia, and chance encounters. This is no Lucky Jim--there's no obvious inventiveness here--but it might please readers interested in Kees for reasons other than fictive ones.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1990
Publisher: Story Line (Three Oaks Farm, Brownsville, OR 97327)