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Beet Hardcover – January 29, 2008

2.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The politically correct, rigorless American university is by now an easy comic target, one that cultural critic Rosenblatt (Lapham Rising), longtime contributor to Time and PBS's NewsHour, hits amusingly. Rosenblatt's Beet College is an old money New England university where students can major in such disciplines as Postcolonial Women's Sports and Little People of Color. But dear ol' Beet is going bust. The endowment's vanished and the chairman of the board of trustees, Joel Bollovate, is a paragon of anti-intellectualism. He's also a real estate developer with his greedy eye on the choice campus land. Peace Porterfield, professor of English, is charged with coming up with a new curriculum—one that will attract more students, more grants and more alumni gifts—or else Beet is beat. Arrayed against Professor Porterfield's honest efforts are the inept faculty on his committee as well as foulmouthed undergrad poet Matha Polite and her confused band of radicals. With plenty of chuckles along the way, Rosenblatt elucidates the grim shift universities have made toward the business model, where the president is CEO, the professors dunderheaded grant grubbers and the students mindless consumers. (Feb.)
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“This is Mr. Rosenblatt’s first novel. I hope it’s not his last.” (New York Sun)

“[An] uproarious debut…. Rosenblatt wields his satiric saber with skill and compassion. A-.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Great stuff.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (January 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061344273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061344275
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,890,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

ROGER ROSENBLATT is the winner of a Robert F. Kennedy Book Prize, a Peabody Award, an Emmy, and two George Polk awards. He writes essays for Time magazine and for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He lives in Manhattan and Quogue, Long Island.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In Beet, Roger Rosenblatt, bestselling author of the hilarious novel Lapham Rising (2006), has written another comic gem--a satirical send-up of the college campus.

A liberal arts college north of Boston, Beet has mysteriously lost its endowment and may have to close its doors.

The villainous Joel Bollovate (think "bloviate"), a shady real-estate dealer, has envious eyes on Beet's 210 prime acres.

Idealistic Peace Porterfield, a professor of literature and a decent humanist, is trying to save the college.

Wannabe terrorist "Akim ben Laden" (Arthur Horowitz), the only student enrolled in Homeland Security, wants to blow up the school, but has trouble learning how to make a bomb.

When not engaged in "fraternizing" with Bollovate, radical feminist poet Matha Polite (rhymes with "elite") hatches various schemes, such as "The Trojan Pig," to disrupt campus life.

Beet is a laugh-out-loud yarn, the funniest novel I've read in many moons; but it transcends mere slapstick comedy. In addition to the devilishly funny wit of this uproarious satire, Rosenblatt has crafted a serious story woven through with intelligence and sensitivity.

Mark Twain is often quoted as saying, "The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." Actually, he really said, "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." And, as in Twain's analogy, Rosenblatt has the uncanny ability to select precisely the right word, the lightning rather than the lightning bug.

On reading Beet, one senses the ghosts of Jane Austen and Mark Twain hovering near. Do yourself a favor, and ready this book!
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Format: Hardcover
This novel joins some other fine skewerings of campus life: Doonesbury's Walden and Jane Smiley's Moo U. The hero, Peace Porterfield, seems to be the only sane and honest character at Beet College (1800 students, 141 faculty, plus administrators and staff). Beet has made an effort to be more relevant to students, with majors in Wiccan History, Little People of Color, Serial Killers of the Northwest, and the like. The college faces a financial crisis, and Portfield is assigned to chair a committee to come up with a new exciting curriculum.

There is quite a mix of characters--faculty members (which perhaps should be in quotes), students (I use the term loosely), administrators (very loosely), and others. Campus life is not, shall we say, disciplined. Groups and clubs abound: Christians for Jesus, Up with Goats, Baptists for Fornication, etc. It's an exaggeration of what you'll find on most campuses, in much the same way that Delta House in Animal House was an exaggeration of fraternity life--although I did hear students watching the movie say "Boy! If they had Delta at UT I'd join in an instant!" It's all very madcap. The surrounding town--completely dependent on the college so there is no town-and-gown conflict--must condescend to the college. "Slow Children" street signs have been replaced in an atmosphere of PC-ness by "Please Be Careful As Younger People May Be Entering the Roadway" notices. Beet's President Bollovate is given to lechery and greed--rather like some recent presidents of my own university. There is a plotline, but it really takes a back seat to the descriptions of a totally dysfunctional college.

The book does go a bit over the edge.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Roger Rosenblatt has taken on Higher Education in this satiric novel. Whereas I found Rosenblatt to be incredibly witty and his bleak view of current day academia to be insightful, I also found the plot to be highly predictable and character development to be incomplete and lacking.

First, let me discuss the strengths of the novel. I found that Rosenblatt is highly entertaining at the witty phrase. Names of businesses, clubs, academic courses, etc were indeed funny and did help me stay engaged in the novel. They helped wake me up as I was reading. However, it is the primary themes of the novel that are its strengths. Academia, under pressure from multiple forces, has taken on a business model. Thus the students are the primary customer and courses are taught to entertain and grades are inflated to the point of being meaningless. Rosenblatt points out that the University in its attempts to be universal has become inclusive and post-modern to the point of irrelevance. The university has always had to balance diversity with utility, two forces that can be complimentary or oppositional depending on the strategic insights of the academic leadership. In the case of Beet College, diversity has won but parents are less than amused at courses that are not related to real world experiences and increased opportunity. We all know that esoteric courses may have little 'face' utility but are actually exercises in expansive thought, deliberation with opposing forces, and development of strategic direction. In other words a course on Polynesian poetry and its impact on Irish chapel architecture would have very little immediate utility but in the end it should help teach young people not 'what' to think but 'how' to think.
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