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Publish and Perish: Three Tales of Tenure and Terror Paperback – April 15, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

A typical line from Publish and Perish is the final thought of a character who's about to die in an oh-so-dreadful fashion: "This can't be happening to me. I've got tenure." Horror and humor together are always delightful, but rarely is the combination executed with such gleeful panache as in the three novellas that make up Publish and Perish. The humor is at the expense of American academics, from struggling postdocs to crusty full professors. The characters spout silly jargon, wrestle with their writing problems, preen their tender egos, and skewer their colleagues. Most are likeable: their vanity is so human, it's almost touching. But the horror isn't played for laughs; it's ruthless and chilling, in the tradition of Edgar A. Poe and M. R. James. As one New York Times reviewer writes, "Publish and Perish is an odd and exhilarating experience--the playfulness of post-modernism at its best somehow celebrating the urgent, earnest suspense of old-fashioned, cliff-hanging narrative." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Three satirical novellas of academe serve up justice with a supernatural twist. In "Queen of the Jungle," a graduate student whose tenure-track wife commutes to Iowa from Chicago finds that their cat reacts badly to his affair with another student, exacting a fitting revenge. In "99," a disgraced anthropologist gets involved in a deadly druidic ceremony in England and wonders how such things could happen to "someone with tenure." "Casting the Runes" describes a young assistant professor in history who successfully fights a demonic senior professor only to find herself attracted to the occult. Hynes, a TV critic, novelist (Wild Colonial Boy, LJ 3/15/90), and professor himself, has a keen eye and ear for the absurd. Like Jane Smiley, he delights in skewering pomposity. He also deftly pokes fun at those who know little of the dangers in and beyond the ivory tower. Great entertainment.?Roland C. Person, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (April 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312186967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312186968
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,103,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jason Mierek on October 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
Publish and Perish comprises three creepy novellas, all involving professional academics with roots in the University of the Midwest in Hamilton Groves, MN. Each tale is a spooky satire on the cut-throat intrigues that characterize contemporary academe. "Queen of the Jungle" deals with the unusual fallout from a career-driven commuter marriage, including marital infidelity, feline incontinence, and gypsy mysteries, but it does so without providing one likable character. "99" (which begins on page 99---talk about good typesetting!) relates the misadventures of one Gregory Eyck, an arrogant and downwarly mobile cultural anthropologist (with tenure!) who inadvertantly ends up doing fieldwork on neo-pagan sacrifice---from the inside. Though the story was fun, it was definitely derivative of the classic novel and film "The Wicker Man." The last, longest, and arguably best story, "Casting the Runes," is based upon names and ideas in the M.R. James ghost story of the same name. In it a young postmodern historian fights not only for tenure, but for her very life, against an eldritch elder professor who will stop at nothing to maintain his career. All in all a fun, spooky, intelligent, but disposable read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By potameid on October 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
I found this title on a list of recommended academic satire, and the premise sounded too promising to pass up. In similar books I've read recently (Moo, Straight Man, Small World), the level of writing skill is deliciously high - perhaps because the authors themselves teach the craft.

The influence of HP Lovecraft on the author is obvious, even before he drops a reference to Miskatonic University. The plots and execution of the tales, however, are disappointingly and distractingly clumsy, compared to those of Lovecraft and other writers of academe.

All three stories are told from the third person in roughly the same voice, they are predictable, and there are strange inconsistencies that an editor should have caught. In the first story there is a "teaching assistant" who is later referred to as a "postdoc." Which is he?

Overall, I'd have to recommend giving this book a pass, unless you are tolerant of thin plots, clumsy foreshadowing, and cardboard characters. Go re-read The Dunwich Horror, instead.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Lore on October 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
If Edgar Allen Poe were a junior faculty member in a highly political department, this might be the kind of collection he'd write. James Hynes takes the old adage "publish or perish" to its most extreme and literal conclusion in these three novellas. In all three stories, a character's quest for academic credibility puts him or her in peril. Also in all three stories, the postmodern juts up against traditional academia, sometimes with gruesome results.
This is a fast read, perfect for the chilly nights of late fall when the wind howls `round the window frames and your motivation to grade those midterm finals is waning. And unless someone at work is actively planning your death, it'll make you feel better about your own department politics, whatever they may be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on March 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
This collection of three novellas gets points for creativity and occasional moments of disconcerting humor, but the stories aren't really that scary and tend toward the predictable. Hynes' unusual milieu is the strangely stressful world of academia, in which aspiring professors think in fatuous postmodern gibberish about the deconstruction of texts or gender as performance, and your career is over if you can't get your dry paper published in a crusty journal that is only read by other professors. I have been in graduate school so I've been exposed to this useless angst, and quickly decided that it was not the life for me. Hynes writes about the darker impulses of those who have few goals except gaining academic tenure and cruelly crushing their competitors, in pursuit of meager professional rewards. There can't be that many fiction writers working within this subject matter, though the first two stories here don't really do anything interesting with it. "Queen of the Jungle" is little more than a cranky mid-life crisis yarn, while "99" is predictable and contrived, with nonsensical character development and a climax that you can see coming from a mile away. "Casting the Runes" is the most successful story here, dealing with witchcraft and professorial politics, and Hynes deserves credit for the hilarious scene in which riot grrrls storm a moribund academic conference. These stories are hardly pinnacles of the terror genre, but Hynes does creatively examine this world whose inhabitants are under a great deal of stress and angst, which no one out in the real world could possibly care about. [~doomsdayer520~]
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
When I went to see my doctor about stress-related problems I was having after the head of my graduate committee tried to have me expelled for writing a paper she disagreed with, the doctor prescribed this book. It ranks with the best medical advice I've ever got.
I've recommended this book to dozens of people - one of whom seems to have borrowed my copy and taken it with him to a post-doc position... I don't have the heart to ask for it back, as I think he'll need it, so I'm ordering a new one for myself. And I can't wait until "The Lecturer's Tale" comes out in paperback.
Other reviewers have mentioned that Hyne's work isn't very realistic; that's true, and I see this as a strength. This is fiction of the absurd. In each novella, unscrupulous wielders of some measure of academic power meet very strange, and strangely apt, retribution. If you've ever suffered at the hands of academia, these oddly appropriate, dark fantasias of justice may be as appealing (and healing) to you as they are to me.
I do think that the "terror" of the tales may be dependent on the reader having academic experience; maybe even, more specifically, academic experience in the era of postmodernism and in a field that takes postmodernism seriously. Chemists at land-grant universities, for instance, may not find them as chillingly germane as literature theorists in the Ivy league, although I'd guess that all of the above and more will enjoy them.
I'd have to agree with other reviewers that the plots are fairly transparent. The middle story, in particular, is predictable. But I think the appeal here is not that you can't guess what's going to happen, but rather that you *can*, and that you just can't wait.
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