Monday, March 22, 2010

Publish And Perish

A married couple, an incontinent cat and a mistress don't normally make for a riveting story but in Publish and Perish by James Hynes, they most certainly do. This is the cast of characters in the first story - Queen of the Jungle. It involves marital power struggle, tenure track politics in academia, infidelity and the supernatural. Yes, and there is the cat with a bladder problem that holds the plot elements in balance. Hynes is able to take this somewhat improbable mix of ingredients and whip up something that reads really fast and well. I had to finish reading the story before I could do anything else and it's been a while since that has happened to me. The two other novellas are based on the theme of "tenure and terror" as well.

I found it interesting that Haynes was able to take a cast of characters who are not immediately recognizable to readers such as myself who are not in academia, throw some witchcraft into their already unaccessible lives and still be able to get the reader's attention. Oddly, Publish and Perish reminded me of Barbara Pym's Quartet in Autumn - a book that I count among my all time favorites. While there are no obvious similiarties between the two, I might have sensed a connection because both authors (in very different ways) take the ordinary and turn into something strangely unique.

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