Bradbury, Malcolm. The History Man. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976.
The Kirks are are an interesting couple. Howard Kirk is a professor of sociology with a “convenient” marriage. Both Howard and his wife, Barbara, take advantage of sexual relationships that further their causes and commitments. Right from the beginning you know they are bound for trouble. “So, sensing the climate, some people called the Kirks, a well-known couple, decide to have a party” (p 1). And this is how it begins. The History Man starts with a party and ends with a party, but a whole lot happens in between. Howard has liaisons with a colleague and a student while trying to seduce a third woman. Barbara spends her weekends running off to London for a “shopping” trip.
Howard Kirk starts a vicious buzz about campus about inviting Professor Mangel to give a lecture at the University of Watermouth. This creates an uproar as Mangel is seen as a racist, a sexist, a geneticist, and a fascist so no one can agree about his invitation.
There is a good dose of philosophy and psychology; a whole lot of explaining how people are and what makes them tick. I couldn’t decide if I really liked the Kirks. They reminded me of the Underwoods in House of Cards. They both seemed a little conniving. In the end I felt the most sorry for Barbara Kirk. She and her husband have an open relationship but, being a mother, she doesn’t have quite the same opportunities as Howard.
Reading History Man was a little tedious. For one, Bradbury likes to describe people’s actions step by step. Howard getting settled into his office. Barbara driving a car. Every movement is sometimes detailed creating pages and pages of one giant paragraph. Yet, at other times large moments in time are skipped all together. Howard could be talking to his wife at home one moment and the in the next moment he’s lying in bed with another woman.
As an aside, the author’s note is hysterical. It sets the tone for the entire story.
Line I liked: “Everywhere else the code is one of possibility, not denial” (p 71).
Reason read: Well, there are really two reasons: Malcolm Bradbury was born in September. History Man is about an academic and most schools start classes in September. My institution is the oddball who start classes the week before. No. I take that back. We have three days of classes, then have a long weekend, then the semester gets rolling.
Author fact: Malcolm Bradbury’s website is really cool. Everyone should check it out, if not for the information, for the photographs. But. The whole thing is great. Another article you should look up is one written by Tom Rosenthal back in 2006.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Academia: the joke” (p 4).
Kirby, David. “Dear Derrida.” The House of Blue Light. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998. pp 16-20.
When I first read “Dear Derrida” I thought of the word childish. Read it out loud and you get the sense of someone who is hopelessly involved with gossipers, someone who is in a group always looking for the next thing to poke fun of and is never really able to escape. For example, the narrator and his classmates make fun of a professor with a stutter. They drop water balloons on an unsuspecting victim. Even when the narrator has “had it” with present company he finds himself in the company of new roommates; individuals with more swagger and bravado.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Kitchen Sink Poetry” (p 138).
Sorry – forgot to post this!
September. As the song goes, “wake me when September ends” (thanks, Green Day). I got married in September just so I would have one happy memory (my wedding was freakin’ awesome). It is the one good thing to look forward to celebrating each year. Except this year. Considering how bad this September has been I am amazed I even remembered I got married in this damned month. Between Indiana being sick dying (on our anniversary no less), the anniversary of my father’s passing (18 years), my grandfather still being in hospice and my other insane family issues I can’t sleep straight. I don’t know when I’ll find mind rest again. But, here are the books that kept me somewhat sane:
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre ~ I feel bad not being able to finish (or even like) this book. For years I’ve wondered about it.
- Moo by Jane Smiley ~ was this ever a movie? I still can’t get over how caustic it was!
- Wild Life by Molly Gloss ~ this should have been a movie, too!
- Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott ~ just told my mom about this book last night. Something I would reread if I had children.
- Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide by Robert Michael Pyle ~ this had me believing…for a minute.
- The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty ~ my biggest head-scratcher this month. Seems like I have read this before somewhere.
- The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler ~ it is interesting the way people have influence over others without wanting (or even trying). I read this in four days time.
- The Heartbreak Hotel by Anne Rivers Siddon ~ a little redundant but I read this in honor of back to school month and because I had it ready on a shelf.
- Report From Ground Zero by Dennis Smith ~ because I haven’t been sad enough
For LibraryThing’s Early Review Program:
- Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann ~ this was intense!
I was supposed to get another book but I haven’t seen it yet. I am not going to even mention the title in case it never arrives. Even if it does comes I won’t be reading it in September.
For fun (started):
- The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver ~ my husband bought this for me as an anniversary present because he knows I love, love, love Ms. Kingsolver’s work. And to think I didn’t get him anything. I did end up making one of this favorite meals for the very first time, chicken pot pie.
Smiley, Jane. Moo. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1996.
Moo had its moments of being incredibly bogged down, sluggish even. I found myself getting bored with the wordiness of some of the chapters, as if there were too many subplots.
Moo is an agriculture university somewhere in the midwest (my guess would be Iowa). Characters range from four in-coming freshmen girls to administrative bigwigs and everyone in between. Moo is a satire that is incredibly silly in places. Superficial relationships collide and somehow become meaningful. What makes the story so interesting is the drama, the scandals, and mischief the campus seems to promote. Everyone has a secret. Everyone has someone they would either like to kill or screw. The word everyone uses to describe Moo is “wicked” and it fits.
Favorite lines: “Diane wondered if Mrs. Johnson had understood that was making her pregnant” (p 12), and Under her own version of Ivar’s signature, Mrs. Walker had, over the years, authorized the library to buy as many available databases as they could. She had actually transferred funds out of the athletic budget into the library from time to time…” (p140). Don’t I wish!
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Academia: the Joke” (p 3) and again in the chapter called, “Growing Writers: (p 107).