Splicing a demonic strain into the usual elements of academic comedy, Hynes's novel, following his acclaimed Publish or Perish, reads like David Lodge rewritten by Mikhail Bulgakov. After Nelson Humboldt (the lecturer in question) is dismissed from his lowly position as a composition teacher at a Midwestern university, he suffers an accident that severs his right index finger. When the finger is surgically reattached, Nelson discovers he can magically control a person's behavior by touching them with his mysteriously burning digit. His first act is to get reappointed to his post by the woman who fired him--Victoria Victorinix. This is only the warmup. Someone is sending scurrilous anonymous letters to members of the department, and the department chairperson, Anthony Pescacane, has fingered the poet-in-residence, Timothy Coogan, as the man. Nelson "persuades" Coogan to resign, thus opening up a tenure-track position. This job, Nelson decides, should go to his office mate, Vita Deonne, a skittish woman working on "Dorian Gray's Lesbian Phallus." Nelson's new seat on the hiring committee puts him in a key spot to broker the ideological fracture in the department, which pits Morton Weissman's Arnoldian humanism against Pescacane's contingent of cultural theorists, who include a woman who shows porn films to her class and a bizarre Serb with a costume fetish. As Nelson, like some usurping Prospero, begins strategically to instill fear into his colleagues by changing their reality, he attracts the attention of Pescacane's departmental paramour, the luscious Mirando DeLa Tour. Nelson's support for Vita fades as he makes a self-interested pact with Victoria. He also, unforgivably, uses his finger to control his wife, Bridget. In Hynes's ferocious parable, partial power corrupts absolutely. Author tour. (Jan.)Forecast: As Jane Smiley's spoof of academia, Moo, and David Lodge's novels have shown, satires of academic manners can reflect the foibles of society at large. Hynes's witheringly literate dark comedy should be a campus hit this spring, and word of mouth potential could lead to mainstream sales.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This macabre, sort of magic realist satire takes dead aim at some of the pretensions of the academic world, notably among English professors. The protagonist is Nelson Humboldt, a once bright star in the English department at Midwest University but now reduced to teaching composition classes. Never one to publish much, Nelson's academic career is on the verge of perishing. That is until he realizes he has accidentally (in the literal sense) acquired a magic power over people that allows him to bend them to his will. Hynes paints a good picture of the paranoia of the junior faculty as well as the pomposity of New Critics, postmodernists, deconstructionists, and various types of gender benders. The book spins a little out of control by the conclusion, but by then he's achieved his goal of turning a likable character into a megalomaniac while still maintaining the reader's sympathy. Frank Caso
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The Lecturer's Tale is both a good novel and a bad novel. Its strength lies in the fact that it is one of the best and most complete ethnographic descriptions in the past 20-years... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Hector
This is a hard book to rate. The first half is so good! Spot-on parody. Perhaps funnier for people who've worked in higher education, or at least were students recently. Read morePublished on July 11, 2013 by booklover
"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for" says Robert Browning and that is how James Hynes" The Lecturer's Tale begins. Read morePublished on March 24, 2012 by booknblueslady
Hynes' books are seductive - I can't help but read them, even though the whole time I'm irritated by his false modesty. Read morePublished on January 15, 2012 by Teadrinker
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I am definately a new fan of James Hynes. As an English Lit major, I enjoyed insight into the catty cut throat world of a prestigious... Read morePublished on August 6, 2011 by Lorna Reutner
I added James Hynes name to my list of authors-to-read after seeing a positive review of his latest novel in the NYTimes Book Review. Read morePublished on December 6, 2010 by Beth Quinn Barnard
This is one of the best books I've ever read. It offered satire, excellent writing, magic, was thought provoking, -- it had everything.Published on November 20, 2009 by Elisabeth Lehrer
This is a very entertaining book, and you need not be an English major or academic to enjoy it. Some of the reviews here are perhaps a bit stuffier than the book warrants (showing... Read morePublished on October 11, 2007 by Always Reading
If you work in academia you'll be bowled over by Hynes' utterly hilarious and deadly accurate rendering of recognizable faculty personality types. Read morePublished on April 16, 2007 by B. Schemer