The first campus novel?

23 10 2006

Book front cover

The Groves of Academe
Mary McCarthy
2 out of 5 stars

The Groves of Academe – Mary McCarthy

I struggled for ages to track down this book which is, arguably, the first campus novel and was very positively disposed towards it in principle. Liberal arts college in the US, 60s turmoil, lots of politics, undercurrents of sexual intrigue – can’t go wrong, I thought. Unfortunately, whilst it does have some merits, including what feels like an accurate portrayal of a largely second rate faculty torn apart by petty strife, it is really rather dull.

The first part of the book focuses on the main character, Mulcahy, and his attempts through bizarre means to secure an extension to his short term contract whilst he seeks both to create and deny a vaguely mysterious communist background. The second part covers an awful poetry conference at the college and the shenanigans around the poets and their sponsors.

It must all have seemed terribly daring and challenging at the time but, whereas Lodge’s campus novels really do stand the test of time, this one I am afraid does not.

Faddish behaviour

9 10 2006

Book front cover

Management Fads in Higher Education: Where They Come From, What They Do, Why They Fail (Higher Education Series)
Robert Birnbaum
5 out of 5 stars

Management Fads in HE – Birnbaum

This is just an outstanding book. Although the focus is on the USA, the messages are eminently translatable to the UK context. Birnbaum carefully analyses and deconstructs the big management fads to have hit US universities including:

  • Management by objectives
  • Zero-based budgeting
  • Strategic planning
  • Benchmarking
  • TQM
  • Business process re-engineering

The reasons behind the popularity of each and the vulnerability of institutions and managers to their charms are also explored at length.

Despite the fact that he demonstrates their failures on all terms, Birnbaum concludes, surprisingly perhaps, that their introduction in a controlled and measured way can have positive benefits in forcing managers to think differently about the way in which they tackle big challenges. The conclusion of the book includes a strong exhortation to a humane and pragmatic approach to management in universities which, whilst not easily seduced by fads such as these, is capable of positive adaptation to changing environments.

Face cards: approximation of a playlist §25

5 10 2006

Face Cards


God save the Queen – Sex Pistols
Hey Jack Kerouac – 10,000 Maniacs
Jack – The Monochrome Set
The queen is dead – The Smiths
King Of Carrot Flowers Part 1 – Neutral Milk Hotel
Jack-ass – Beck
Karaoke queen – Catatonia
King of the kerb – Echobelly
Tracy Jacks – Blur
King of the road – The Proclaimers
Queen Bitch – David Bowie
King of kings – Echo and the Bunnymen
Queen of the new year – Deacon Blue
The king of rock n’ roll – Prefab Sprout
King Of The Mountain – Kate Bush
You’re My Queen – Mercury Rev
Dancing Queen – ABBA
Fiery Jack – The Fall
For We Are The King Of The Boudoir – The Magnetic Fields

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