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Moo Paperback – February 24, 2009
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The hallowed halls of Moo University, a midwestern agricultural institution (aka "cow college"), are rife with devious plots, mischievous intrigue, lusty liaisons, and academic one-upsmanship. In this wonderfully written and masterfully plotted novel, Jane Smiley, the prizewinning author of A Thousand Acres, offers a wickedly funny, darkly poignant comedy. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Effortlessly switching gears after the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Thousand Acres, Smiley delivers a surprising tour de force, a satire of university life that leaves no aspect of contemporary academia unscathed. The setting is a large midwestern agricultural college known as Moo U., whose faculty and students Smiley depicts with sophisticated humor, turning a gimlet eye on the hypocrisy, egomania, prejudice and self-delusion that flourish on campus-and also reflect society at large. Everybody at Moo U. has an agenda: academic, sexual, social, economic, political and philosophical. Among the more egregious types that Smiley portrays are Dr. Lionel Gift, an intellectual whore who calls students "customers" and is willing to skew research to further his name and line his pocketbook; Dr. Bo Jones, who is conducting a secret experiment on an appealing boar named Earl Butz (Earl and the horses on campus are nicer than the humans by a mile); and a superlatively bossy secretary who is a lot smarter than the Ph.Ds she serves. A chapter titled "Who's in Bed With Whom" clears things up in that department-but only temporarily, since musical beds is a continuous game. A quartet of women roommates who all hide secrets from each other, an unscrupulous "little Texan with jug ears" who wants to give the college tainted money, and a stuffy dean who thinks that anything he desires is God's will are some of the large cast of characters that Smiley manipulates with remarkable ease-and though some portrayals verge on caricature, she never goes over the line. Details of midwest topography, weather and culture are rendered with unerring authenticity. The narrative sails along with unflagging vigor and cleverness, and even the ironic denouement has an inevitability that Smiley orchestrates with hilarious wit. 100,000 first printing; BOMC selection; Random House Audio; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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There are too many characters to get to really know them, allowing them all to come off as silly rather than amusing. The plot skips around from one to the other, and given Jane Smiley's long protracted sentences, the whole story is an effort to follow.
The experiment with the captive Landrace boar named "Earl Butz" (whose point of view we also see) is the only misfortune that earned my sympathy.