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The Lecturer's Tale: A Novel by James…
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The Lecturer's Tale: A Novel by James Hynes (February 09,2002) (2001)

by James Hynes (Author)

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452637,020 (3.51)4
The author of Publish and Perish returns with a Faustian tale of the horrors of academe Nelson Humbolt is a visiting adjunct English lecturer at prestigious Midwest University, until he is unceremoniously fired one autumn morning. Minutes after the axe falls, his right index finger is severed in a freak accident. Doctors manage to reattach the finger, but when the bandages come off, Nelson realizes that he has acquired a strange power - he can force his will onto others with a touch of his finger. And so he obtains an extension on the lease of his university-owned townhouse andpicks up two sections of freshman composition, saving his career from utter ruin. But soon these victories seem inconsequential, and Nelson's finger burns for even greater glory. Now the Midas of academia wonders if he can attain what every struggling assistant professor and visiting lecturer covets - tenure.A pitch-perfect blend of satire and horror, The Lecturer's Tale paints a gruesomely clever portrait of life in academia.… (more)
Member:amandafrench
Title:The Lecturer's Tale: A Novel by James Hynes (February 09,2002)
Authors:James Hynes (Author)
Info:Picador (February 09,2002) (no date)
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The Lecturer's Tale: A Novel by James Hynes (2001)

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Faantastic, original, fabulous writing, many references to literature,great characters. ( )
  PaulRx04 | Apr 15, 2016 |
Essentially, this is a horror story, but it is sometimes difficult to tell what the source of the horror is. Is it the strange, sometimes otherwordly characters and the extraordinary powers some possess, such as the main character – a lowly, untenured lecturer on the fast track to career oblivion who, after a horrible accident in which his finger is severed and then reattached, suddenly gains the power to bend others to his will just by touching them? Or is it the sorry state of academia – particularly literature departments – run rampant with faddish theorists and a love affair with popular culture, having forsaken the classics of the canon? Here, it’s both. Because while this novel functions nicely as a juicy little horror story, it is also a piercing satire of modern university life, and it must be read as such to be thoroughly enjoyed. But a warning: This book may be just the thing to convince you not to pursue that Ph.D. after all. ( )
  sturlington | Oct 20, 2011 |
This very readable satire concerns the plight of Nelson Humbolt, a failed English professor. Hanging on as a lecturer teaching composition classes at a major research institution, he can barely support his family—and then is fired from even that menial job. That same day, his finger is severed in a freak accident involving a mysterious individual with a blank silver oval for a face. Soon, he realizes that he can make people do whatever he wants just by touching them, an ability that does wonders for him professionally but his unintended consequences at home. Since he can touch only one person at a time, and since his power seems only to force them to do things they are capable of, his power is hardly omnipotence as he navigates the minefield of a modern English department, complete with superstar caricatures.

The novel takes a turn for bewildering surrealism during its climax in the library clock tower. The sudden intense focus on gender seemed out of place with Nelson’s story. The final resolution, however, was satisfying and more in keeping. Expertise in literary theory is not necessary to read the novel, although a little familiarity is helpful. As someone who dropped out of graduate school in literature because it sucked all the fun out of reading, I appreciated Nelson’s dilemma—he went into literature because he loved it, only to find it completely devalued by literary theory. ( )
  jholcomb | Oct 13, 2008 |
Nelson Humboldt is a lecturer at a small rural school down on his luck when his finger gets severed in a freak accident. The doctors can reattach it, but strangely now he can control anyone by touching them. And who, in Nelson's situation, wouldn't use that to their advantage?

The book is a dark comedy about the politics and power struggles in academia. There are a lot of clever references which English students and professors will get the most out of - the entire English department has divided into factions of theory versus "truth and beauty;" to settle a tiff at one point two characters have a quote-off of Shakespeare's works; and there are ridiculous declarations like this one (during a duel):

"Or shall I release you from the politico-institutional frame of narrative, shall I release your text from its margins, what I call your text, your corpus, shall I cause your corpus to overflow its margins"

And so on. See? Ridiculous. I laughed out loud a few times at spots like these; it's obvious that James Hynes has a lot of experience with academia.

The book takes a dark turn in the last 70 or so pages, however, and I found myself wishing that the "magical realism" element weren't so prevalent as it becomes in the climax. But Hynes does a lot with what seems like a very high-concept premise, and throws in a few good plot twists (and plenty of humor) that kept me engrossed throughout. ( )
  the_awesome_opossum | Apr 13, 2008 |
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