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

3.7 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Picked this up for a few cents so I thought why not. It's mainly a collection of 3 short stories that detail the friction between unfaithful spouses with teaching positions who work far from home.... and their significant others' cats who pick up on it through their 6th sense. Dark and witty.
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Format: Paperback
The first two novellas are certainly accomplished on a technical level, and the satire on postmodernist academia is often remarkably apt and on target, but the novellas are undercut by the very assumptions they supposedly see through. In all three novellas the characters are not allowed to come to life, rather they are puppets in the service of ultimately dehumanizing plot devices. All this is forgivable in the name of witty entertainment, but in truth the end result is to celebrate the author's superior saavy not the genuine complexities of life. Some have suggested that characters in the third novella are more sympathetic, but Virginia, too, is not really allowed to come to life and the ghost story genre renders everything unreal from the start. Who can doubt that Vic the Impaler will find his quietas on the point of Jim Bowie's knife? In sum, these novellas probably provide psychic relief for grad students, but they are written by a novelist who is still far more a smartass than a wise man.
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I love a good spoof on academia, so I picked this up and starting reading the first story (Queen of the Jungle) late one night and stayed up all night finishing it! It was genuinely suspenseful and intriguing. I must add that I found the final scenes disturbing as they depict animal cruelty. I started the next story and had trouble finishing it- I didn't really care what happened. The final story had completely lost my interest. The problem with unlikeable characters is that after a while you need a reason to care. The first story had the cat to keep our interest and probably that was the most important part of the whole book!
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This is a pretty amazing book. The stories are the perfect length for reading while waiting for a connecting flight, or on lunch break. Each one is well-written and richly textured - life in academia has never seemed so real or so frightening. I purchased this collection for a class in horror lit, and I kept it because I really enjoyed it. If you're a fan of horror do yourself a favor and put this in your cart.
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