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Book: A Novel Hardcover – August 25, 1992

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this avant-garde comedy, first novelist Grudin ( Time and the Art of Living ) takes up a plot about a nasty tempest in a college English department, but his real preoccupation is with language and the reflexive nature of literary forms; his novel is a burlesque of itself and of all bookishness. When English professor Adam Snell vanishes from the University of Washagon, his stuffy, jealous colleagues judge him in absentia, trashing his writing, chiefly his novel, Sovrana Sostrata. Spite also motivates Snell's would-be murderer, literary theorist Frank Underwood, also known as Libricide. Snell, however, survives. His editor will be his adoring bride, while his lascivious mistress--in time-honored tradition--is his book. The story emerges in an array of subgenres (e.g., memo, epigraph, marginal gloss, college guide). Interlarded passages from the magisterial 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica serve as a straight text that bespeaks an innocent, premodern trust in the permanence of words. Grudin's satire targets book people from poets to publishers to nouvelle critique freaks, and if his work is too much of an in-joke to appeal to every reader, its playful elegance, wit and authority make it a gem of its type.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This skillful satire, set at the University of Washagon, pits "evil" literary theorists against classical scholars: someone is trying to kill English professor Adam Snell and his novel. Grudin's concern about the lack of support for creativity in an academic setting, previously explored in the nonfiction work Grace of Great Things ( LJ 5/15/90), here gets a fairy-tale resolution, with fame, wealth, and love coming to Snell as a result of his truth-telling novel Sovrana Sostrata. Funny and perceptive, Book parodies literary forms (there's a revolt among the footnotes) and the power struggles within university life. This unique, well-constructed blend of truth, humor, and suspense is essential for academics: fun to read, but with real sustenance.
- Rebecca S. Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ., Highland Heights
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 251 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (August 25, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679411852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679411857
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,940,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
One of the best books I've ever read. Brilliant. Funny. Ironic. Both serious and funny, genre and parody, surreal and genuine. I just finished reading it for the second time.
(Gotta love those rebellious footnotes!)
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Format: Paperback
It will be a sad day when this novel goes out of print. (Read Book and you'll understand.) The satire is specific to English departments, but anyone who hates pretension or who has dealt with the inside politics of higher education will really savor it. The writing is clever and inventive, a pleasure to read from the very first page.
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Format: Paperback
If you have sullied your shoes in the quagmire of academic politics, you will find this book amusing. (If you haven't, it's still pretty darned funny, although it does require an appreciation for in-jokes of the academic kind.)
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Format: Hardcover
Presents on the surface as a murder mystery/thriller, but that is so not the point. The point is the most wonderful satire of literary theory since The Pooh Perplex, and of academic politics since, well, forever. Grudin has great fun playing around with language, couching different chapters in different voices (first, second, third), genres (narrative, nonfiction, drama, Q & A, etc.), marginal notes and footnotes (the footnotes attempt a takeover in Chapter 9, but are brutally suppressed--the marginalia tried to give warning!). I was going to ding Grudin a point for giving the novel Sovrana Sostrata a PR classification instead of a PS, but I take it back for the all-too-plausible postal abbrev for his fictional state of Washagon.
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Format: Hardcover
I have taught a number of courses on satire and am writing an essay on imaginary books. I have to say that this "novel" is among the most brilliant I've read, fit to shelve with Rabelais and his imaginary library as well as with Swift and his satire of pseudo-intellectuals. I cannot praise it highly enough and once embarrassed the author by babbling my admiration to him. He was gracious about it, though. I particularly recommend the footnotes and their uprising.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was given this by my old English teacher and had to search for years to find it again to gift to others. This book and its somewhat meta-style narrative is for anyone who loves the idea of books and reading. Especially appreciative would be literature teachers and folks who dig Jasper Fford and Robertson Davies. I can never find this one in stores so if it's available get it for the book lover in your life.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the great books of academic humor. I don't know why it didn't get broader popularity. It deserves a renaissance. Brilliant.
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Format: Paperback
Came across this book in a review of another book on Amazon. Thanks to whoever mentioned it. Read continuously for several days, whenever there was time. What fun. And informative too. Coincidentally I also am trying to read a book of Literary Theory, written by an English professor I took a class from many years ago. Cannot understand a word of that book, and now I think I understand why!
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