A hilarious new academic satire?

13 08 2018

The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher



I’ve bemoaned the wait for a decent new campus novel for some time now as previously observed here.¬†Indeed, it’s been quite a while since I’ve talked positively about anything like this. I’d go so far as to suggest that the distinctive Cow Country is probably the only decent effort in this regard for some years. However, there is a new challenger. Following the success of her previous epistolary outing, Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher has launched a fully-fledged satire on higher education which sounds like it takes on all the expected targets:


The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune keep hitting beleaguered English professor Jason Fitger right between the eyes in this hilarious and eagerly awaited sequel to the cult classic of anhedonic academe, the Thurber Prize-winning¬†Dear Committee Members. Once more into the breach…
Now is the fall of his discontent, as Jason Fitger, newly appointed chair of the English Department of Payne University, takes arms against a sea of troubles, personal and institutional. His ex-wife is sleeping with the dean who must approve whatever modest initiatives he undertakes. The fearsome department secretary Fran clearly runs the show (when not taking in rescue parrots and dogs) and holds plenty of secrets she’s not sharing. The lavishly funded Econ Department keeps siphoning off English’s meager resources and has taken aim at its remaining office space. And Fitger’s attempt to get a mossbacked and antediluvian Shakespeare scholar to retire backfires spectacularly when the press concludes that the Bard is being kicked to the curricular curb.
Lord, what fools these mortals be! Julie Schumacher proves the point and makes the most of it in this delicious romp of satire.
Is it a delicious romp of satire? We’ll have to wait for the paperback (unless someone wants to send me a review copy) and then see what all the fuss is about. Is it as good as Cornford’s Microcosmographia Academica? Who knows, but “fearsome department secretary” doesn’t sound like a major character innovation and arguments about office space are tough to get a giggle out of. However, everyone who has read the book so far seems to like it – you can read all of the exceptionally positive reviews on Amazon.com here. I remain open-minded though and look forward to reading more about the slings and arrows in due course.

I really don’t want to read Kay Burley’s book

7 04 2011

First Ladies by Kay Burley

It isn’t published until May but I think I’ve heard enough already.



According to Steven Fielding “Kay Burley’s book betrays a venerable tradition”. This is probably the kindest thing that is said about it:

Sky News’s Kay Burley probably does not realise it, but her debut novel First Ladies forms part of a once-vibrant tradition within English literature: political women writing about politics.

For the most part writing about politics, as in real life, has been a man’s job. Disraeli and Trollope set the mould. But a few members of what Disraeli would undoubtedly have called “the fairer sex” have made a distinctive overlooked contribution to the canon.

Some will make snide fun of the limitations of Burley’s prose style. Others shall speculate on whom the “suave PM Julian Jenson” and “sexy TV reporter Isla McGovern” might be based. The most culturally and politically significant aspect of Burley’s novel, however, is the sorry place it leaves this once-noble literary tradition.

I like political fiction. I really don’t like the sound of this.

%d bloggers like this: