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Moo by Jane Smiley

Moo (1995)

by Jane Smiley

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1,977433,424 (3.53)90
  1. 20
    Straight Man by Richard Russo (wademlee)
    wademlee: Academic satire, humorous & outrageous. Those in Academe will recognize themselves or their colleagues.
  2. 01
    Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (allenmichie)

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Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Moo U. is a land-grant university in one of the mid-Western states. The author presents us with a huge cast of characters: students, academics and bureaucrats. In this farcical send up of academia- albeit agricultural academia rather than the ivory tower sort- everyone is avid for something, be it sex, tenure, grades, money, power, food, or a way out of the life they have. The living metaphor of this greed sits at the very center of the campus, physically and symbolically: a huge hog named Earl Butz (this is set in the Reagan era, btw). He is an experiment, the focus of a study to see how large a pig can get if his needs are constantly met. His sole job is to eat, and he does it well. His existence is a secret from all but a few; no one suspects that inside the concrete walls of an old, unused building is an avid consumer, any more than the longings of the people are visible to their peers.

Smiley takes on racism, sexism, and classism as well as the academic life. This is a gentle satire. Pretty much all of her myriad characters are treated as flawed humans rather than evil doers or other caricatures. It’s like these people are friends and family of the author and she looks on them with smiling indulgence. While not uproarious as the blurb on the cover said, it was amusing and engaging. ( )
  dark_phoenix54 | Feb 21, 2015 |
Enjoyable. A comic novel ending in some marriages. Many characters - thirty or so by the first 100 pages. Many story-lines, all related if only by place. Everything happens over an academic year at Moo U, a midwestern state college, in the early 1990s.
-Jane Smiley, Moo, 1995, 414 pages ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 16, 2014 |
Read during: Winter 2006/2007

I enjoyed this, which is a nice change for me. I seem to have read a bunch of books lately that were not very satisfying. It reminded me a bit of 'Kissing in Manhattan' in terms of having a ton of characters interacting in a wide variety of ways but there is actually coherent plot line and the characters are well developed and interesting. Not all likeable but still interesting and fun to dislike the unpleasant ones! The only complaint was that it was working up to a big finish and then kinda meandered to the end. I found the last few pages just lost steam. The two chapters that were letters and press stories also didn't help, it seems like she just didn't want to bother writing those parts. However, I would read more of her, it was quite engaging and fun to read.

2013 read

This turned into something of a tearing reread to finish up before book club (hour and half to spare, woo hoo) but I have some of the same feelings as before. It's great fun to read, a wickedly pointed sendup of academia and research but it builds up for a big finish and then kinda peters out before it really gets there.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
Academic satire is admittedly one of my favorite genres, so it's easy to call this book well-plotted with occasional feats of humor brilliance. Smiley has a stand-up comic's feel for repetition, leaning on a few phrases that become funnier and funnier every time they appear (only, of course, by permission of the CIA, the FBI and the big ag companies). She also has fun with character names, including Bartle the secretary and the three roommates Keri, Sherri and Mary.

Moo has more of an edge on portraying the weird and circular feeling of racial/cultural isolation than other academic satires. Mary's journey through the last half of the book portrays perfectly both the poison of cruelty and indifference and a teenaged inability to get past current events and focus on long-term goals. Smiley's subject is The University, however, so each character demands only short-story-sized attention from the reader. Straight Man is much more personal, and therefore much more powerful. ( )
  bkohl | Jun 24, 2014 |
Moo is about the goings-on at an agricultural college in Iowa.

It took me about 6 months to get through this. There were way too many characters to remember, and most of the time, I just wasn't interested. With all the different characters, it was constantly switching focus from character to character. There were glimmers of interest, but as soon as something got interesting, we switched to follow a different character. I did like the hog, though. We did get Earl the hog's viewpoint a few times, which I enjoyed. Overall, though, not good. When I set it down, I had no interest in picking it up again. I finally told myself I just wanted to somehow fit it in before the end of this calendar year and finally get it done! ( )
  LibraryCin | Nov 1, 2013 |
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Book description
Moo is a 1995 novel by Jane Smiley. It is set in the American Midwest on the fictional campus of Moo University during the 1989-1990 academic year. The novel is a comedy that uses a sprawling narrative style, encompassing the lives of dozens of characters.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679420231, Hardcover)

The hallowed halls of Moo University, a midwestern agricultural institution (aka "cow college"), are rife with devious plots, mischievous intrigue, lusty liaisons, and academic one-upsmanship. In this wonderfully written and masterfully plotted novel, Jane Smiley, the prizewinning author of A Thousand Acres, offers a wickedly funny, darkly poignant comedy. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:56 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A satire on university life, describing the rackets and the intellectual dishonesty that goes on. The setting is the U of Moo where research into the destruction of rain forests is tailored to suit the corporation funding the project. By the author of A Thousand Acres.… (more)

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