A Weekend of Firsts

Annie Em’s first…

  • Half marathon: 2 hours, 8 minutes, 15 seconds (on a forest trail, with many, many rocks, and a few mud puddles).
  • Pure Romance party. And no, I didn’t buy anything.
  • Graduation ceremony in which the number of graduating students from her once a year online class outnumbered those in all of her 11 live classes combined (and yes, I’m still grading those online final essays).
  • E-mail from NPR asking me to develop the Three Books posting into an essay.
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Three Books: Academic Fiction

straightmanThe Chronicle of Higher Ed’s Ms. Mentor has asked readers to recommend new academic novel titles and Erin O’Connor responded.

NPR invites listeners to recommend three books on a single theme. 

I’ve decided to combine the two requests and beg you, dear readers, to submit OTHER titles to me since my towering pile of summer reading just needs to grow a bit more before it hits the ceiling. Below is my recent submission to NPR in response to their call for Three Titles:

I teach at a community college, a setting rarely seen in the academic fiction genre (at least until I write my own!), yet the usually humorous foibles of professors and students depicted in the typical college novel crosses institutional boundaries.

Each June, after (ok, sometimes even before) submitting final grades, I dig up my what I (and many others) consider to be The. Best. Academic. Novel. Ever. Richard Russo’s Straight Man.  It’s laugh out loud funny, and it never goes out of style: the chair of the English department (a required character in these novels) threatens to kill a duck a day if his budget is not approved (as he holds up a goose).

A.S. Byatt’s Possession is another favorite, more mystery than riotous, but dripping in those insider literary references that remind us literature professors how much we love our novels.

Finally, although I could cite many more than three, I must mention one of the first college novels I read: Mary McCarthy’s The Groves of Academe.  McCarthy’s novel, while still being quite snarky, is an early attack on political correctness. It’s more focused, as is McCarthy’s style, on ideas and ethics rather than the amusing tale, like Russo’s novel, or the romance of literary mystery, as Byatt’s, but it was my first academic novel, the one that made me want so desperately to join the, albeit dysfunctional, club of the professoriate.