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The Professor: A Sentimental Education Paperback – January 4, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061670928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061670923
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,304,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Cultural scholar and essayist Castle (The Literature of Lesbianism) puts her keen analytical powers and droll wit to fine use in her latest collection of autobiographical essays. Written between 2002 and 2009, Castle's seven pieces are wildly diverse in subject matter, including a rumination on controversial jazz virtuoso Art Pepper and an obituary of late leftist icon Susan Sontag. Castle's voice shines as she repeatedly peels back layers of assumptions to reveal thought-provoking, often funny and sometimes moving observations: an essay about Castle's obsessive interest in WWI becomes a thoughtful meditation on feminine courage, both horrifying and amusing (often in a single paragraph); a seemingly-banal piece about home interior magazines becomes an astute examination of the personal struggle for security in the post-9/11 world. Obscure references and a predictably academic approach never let readers forget they're dealing with a professional scholar, but Castle's fierce wit and self-deprecating style keep her text from becoming stilted, proving that "entertaining" and "high-minded" needn't be mutually exclusive. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“[A] hilarious and smart collection of personal essays. . . . The subjects are fascinating, the prose packed full of gems. Castle approaches everything with a blend of curiosity, humor and careful scrutiny. . . . This is a delightful book, to be read and reread.” (New York Times Book Review)

“…every page hums with a kind of cathartic glee -- a testimony to Castle’s ability to transform even the grimmest scenarios into savage comic prose…The Professor and Other Writings documents a brilliant mind discovering a deeper, more intimate mode of expression.” (Salon.com)

“In this questing, deeply funny and joltingly wonderful book...the life of the author’s abundant mind and heart are explored in an altogether scintillating way. Readers...are in for a major find. . . . Castle is at once penetratingly keen and unfailingly good company.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Terry Castle is an irreverent, witty feminist – words one does not often associate. Her tale of her love affair as a student with an older professor is touching and wicked; she is a brilliant stylist, and everything she writes is gripping.” (Edmund White)

“This is the book we Terry Castle fans have been waiting for, and those new to her work are in for a revelation – a brain-goosing, entertaining blast.” (James Wolcott, contributing writer to Vanity Fair)

“Critic and cultural commentator Castle delivers a vibrant series of essays on art, travel and the personal relationships in her life. . . . She deftly uses her personal experience to illuminate an array of other subjects. . . . A sharply written, deeply personal collection.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“This new collection’s savage wit and honesty should only bolster her popularity and garner her a whole slew of new readers. . . . A worthy read for anyone who enjoys a good think. . . . It will attract even those who usually steer away from “literary” essays.” (Library Journal)

“Terrific...a blast of hilarity, candor, trenchance and literary grace… There is a voice here that is wildly entertaining, totally compelling and not really quite like any other you’re likely to have read.” (Editor’s Choice) (Buffalo News)

“Castle is a master stylist—hilarious, insightful and digressive in the best way. The end of 2009 saw quite a stir over the lack of women writers on year-end best-of lists. So a note to fellow editors: File this one away for December.” (Time Out Chicago)

“Her story of woe is leavened by great humor. For all of her success in academia, Castle’s writing here is the very opposite of academic: lively, confessional, personal.” (Bay Area Reporter)

“[An] irresistible new collection of personal essays. . . . The Professor goes places no book ever written about professors has ever gone. . . . Superb.” (New Republic)

“A collection of six recent essays from this Stanford professor and Lambda Literary Award winner, The Professor is a hybrid of memoir and criticism containing equal measures of good humor, snark and self deprecation.” (Curve magazine)

“Her new essay collection, The Professor and Other Writings is filled with her trademark wit and honest, smart writing. Taken together, these six essays read like an engrossing and entertaining memoir.” (Largehearted Boy Blog)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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If one happens to be a woman, read it!
catherine fitzpatrick
This was the only book I took with me on a Christmas holiday, and I kept laughing out loud in the airport and in the plane.
Vivien
Castle is funny, perceptive, self-aware and a superb story teller.
A Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on June 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a terrific book. Castle is funny, perceptive, self-aware and a superb story teller. Her honesty is bracing in the way that the candor of all the great self-examiners--Montaigne through Proust and beyond--is bracing. She has guts. (I don't think it's about masochism, as some fellow reviewers seem to suggest. It's about honesty.)
The long concluding piece on the professor / lover is impossible to put down. And there are three essays here that may last as long as smart, literate essays are read (however long that will be): the piece on the jazz great Art Pepper, the one on Castle and Sontag, and (perhaps) best of them all, the one about TC and her mother off rambling, shopping, squabbling, and connecting in Santa Fe. This isn't just a book for profs--it's a book for people who value excellent prose and remarkable narrative powers.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By jessbcuz VINE VOICE on July 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I finished this book is a flurry, reading it for hours at a time during a short beach vacation with my family. Now, this wouldn't have been my obvious choice for a beach read (even for me, a wanna-be academic), but it was engrossing, addictive, and titillating in all the ways a good beach read should be.

As others have pointed out, Castle is honest and she doesn't soften the edges much on anyone (even herself or her current partner), but she is also gracious. In her essay on Sontag, although she spends much of the time sketching a character you're not sure you'd want to meet, she ends with a sincere appreciation for Sontag's contribution to 20th century feminism.

I have to admit, though, that I enjoyed the first re-published essays more than the longer one on the Professor. In the shorter pieces, I was thrilled by her ability to weave separate threads into one coherent piece, showing connections where you thought there couldn't be one. Her piece on the Professor worked with the same idea, but meandered here and there, trying to scoop up all of her early academia and sexual exploration/experience in to one cohesive narrative anchored by her experience with the Professor. For me, this was too much; I felt bogged down with too much detail, and almost lost interest half way through this piece (although I was glad I pushed on as it found its momentum again quite soon). I appreciated the succinctness of her other pieces, and that, I think, was lost in this piece.

Yes, this is written by an academic, and there is no way around this. It infiltrates every page because that is who she is, and she is writing honestly and openly. It won't be everyone's idea of a good beach read, but, I have to say, I kind of like this kind of academic and can't wait to find more written by her. I'm still shaking my head wondering how I hadn't heard of her before finding this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By peripatetic reader on October 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I agree with some of the reviewers who have preferred the shorter pieces here to the long title memoir, though not one of Castle's essays is without interest. But "Desperately Seeking Susan" is a small masterpiece -- Sontag as "a great comic character," i.e., a comic monster, comes alive as she never does in the more reverential treatments of her by other writers. Castle doesn't spare herself, either; her deadpan descriptions of her humiliation at an art-world dinner party, and of her abject longing for Sontag's approval and friendship, are rich in humor and full of rueful insight. Likewise her descriptions of her crazy stepbrother. Much of this book stands up well to rereading, which always seems like the truest test of a book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a time factor in my review - I'm not fast reader, but reading terry Castle is not a hard task - if one likes to consider and think things over then this is the book that meets those requirements.If one happens to be a woman, read it!
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Format: Paperback
Interesting fact: when it was first published in hardcover, Terry Castle’s The Professor: A Sentimental Education was called The Professor and Other Writings.

The paperback title alludes obviously to Flaubert’s novel, but it also suggests Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey, which Castle mentions, and Lynn Barber’s An Education, which was made into an Academy Award-nominated film. And much like An Education, the title essay of The Professor recounts Castle’s own coming-of-age as she falls for an older woman.
But if all this sounds terribly academic, fear not: Castle’s essays straddle the genre between academic and personal—which makes sense, since Castle’s academic work (The Apparitional Lesbian, The Literature of Lesbianism) has always been rooted in the personal.

On the personal side, Castle explores her relationships—not only to The Professor, but also her exes, her mother and stepfather, and her stalwart partner, Blakely. She plumbs these depths with a painful honesty, never pulling her punches when it comes to the uglier aspects of these connections. In “My Heroin Christmas,” for instance, she examines the damage her sullen and brutal step-brother had on her already-fragile family.

On the academic side, Castle questions and draws connections. Never content to accept pat explanations or psychologizing, Castle surveys her own obsessions, from home-décor magazines to Art Pepper’s jazz. Her interest in historical sites of the First World War (“Courage, Mon Amie”) becomes an opportunity to examine the literature of that era.

But in hybridizing the genre, she fuses these traditions together.
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