Thursday, June 03, 2010

Finger lickin' good

The Lecturer's Tale
James Hynes

Imagine having the power to make your dreams a reality. What would you do? How far would you go?

Nelson Humboldt, a just-fired adjunct lecturer at a middling university, finds himself in exactly this situation after his index fingered is severed in a freak accident. Of course, doctors are able to reattach it, but wait -- his finger now comes with powers!

It isn't long before Nelson realizes he can (to quote from the back of the book because the back is saying it better than I'm thinking it) "force his will on others with a touch of his finger."

Imagine the possibilities! You could create peace, harmony, goodwill among men! Or, a more selfish sort might walk into a bank and emerge a millionaire -- without anyone calling the police. The fate of the free world would be in your hands finger!

Nelson, however, is a simpler sort. He just wants tenure. Securing himself a position in the English department is all the man really wants. And it isn't long before he'll do anything -- anything -- to get it.

Wait -- WHAT???




It's good that Nelson aims straight for the middle, though, because he isn't the smartest guy, or the most moral. What ensues is biting satire of both human desire and academia. There are some madcap scenes, lots of literary hijinks, and some outright hilarity.

Unfortunately, there are some flaws. Some scenes could be condensed a bit (although the prose itself is clear and precise), and the end is just ... weird. While some have found the ending to ruin an otherwise wonderful novel, I was able to take it all in stride. I mean, what do you expect -- the dude's got a dead, electric finger. Shit's gonna get weird.

In a nutshell: Despite its flaws, The Lecturer's Tale is intelligent, comic, and full of literary fun.

Bibliolatry Scale: 4 out of 6 stars

FTCBS: Yet another personal copy; not sure I even know what a library is anymore.


Trisha said...

Okay, I stared at the video of Oprah for like 5 solid minutes. Mesmerizing. To the point of the matter though, this one does sound interesting. Thanks for the review!

Shelley said...

My work is about people with both feet firmly planted in reality, so there's something about this plot that makes me uneasy...reminds me of that scariest of all stories, "The Monkey's Paw"!

Thomas at My Porch said...

I totally agree with your review of this one. I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. I think he also wrote a book called Publish and Perish which consists of 3 longish short stories that combine academia and the preternatural.

Dreamworld Book Reviews said...

Haha! Like your review...I read it last summer and thought it was original, but super weird. I wrote a review on it at my own website. His obsession with tenure WAS pretty crazy!

Emran Huq said...

Hey Jennifer, I came back to your blog after a while; and was pleasantly surprised to find that you had reviewed "A lecturer's tale." I liked the book, and I agree that parts of it could have been condensed. And as a graduate student, I can say that the obsession with tenure is quite normal in the academia; everything that we do (scholarly publication, grant-proposal writing) are done with tenure in mind!