Way back when, nearly 3 years ago, one of my first (perhaps even the very first) poll I did as FSP was to find out the favorite academic novels of my readers, who at that time numbered few.
Despite the low voter turn-out, the majority vote-getter was also my personal favorite, Straight Man. I was thinking about Straight Man the other day as I walked across campus with a colleague and I used the phrase "a goose a day", a literary allusion instantly recognizable by other SM fans such as my colleague.
Although not on my original list, another favorite of mine is White Noise (DeLillo), which is only partly an academic novel. I suppose this means I tend toward the absurdist sub-genre of academic novels.
I found this old (2000) list online when searching with the keywords "academic novels". There are 42 novels in the main part of the list. Another long list is here, and it's interesting to examine the differences in the lists (e.g. one contains Bellow, one does not). A recent but shorter list is here, but this includes some novels that I personally would not classify as academic novels.
In my professor-centric world, an academic novel is about faculty ± administrators and not "a chronicle of college sports, fraternities, drinking, coeds, and sex" (I am Charlotte Simmons, T Wolfe; a novel I read and kind of loathed). Those types of novels need another name, e.g. collegiate novel, or something like that.
I was thinking about the general topic of academic novels because I was looking for some books to read and was looking through the lists in the links above. And then I wondered: Why do I want to read an academic novel during the summer? Why do I want to read an academic novel at all? What is it that I like about (some of) them?
I don't know why I like (certain) academic novels so much. In general, my reading preferences tend toward international literary fiction, so in most other respects I am not inclined to 'read about myself' in my leisure reading. There is something very satisfying, however, about reading a really good parody of a faculty meeting or faculty-administrator interactions, even in the summer.
Instead of a poll today, I have a general question related to academic novels:
If you are an academic, do you like this genre of novel or is academia the last thing you want to read about in your leisure reading? Can academic readers be classified according to whether they love a scary-funny parody of a faculty meeting or whether reading about faculty meetings (however fictionalized) is a kind of torture?
10 years ago