Just an absolutely earnest and hilarious campus novel about a temporary English department head of a small central Pennsylvania state college (I am thinking Penn State Hazelton on this one). The novel takes place in the various memory of and primarily in the long weekend of William Henry Devereaux as his wife is off to Philadelphia for a job interview. We find out a lot about this weekend over time as we find out more about Hank. He’s the son of a very well-known English literary critic (ala someone like Leslie Fiedler) and a well known academic editor. He does NOT have a PhD, but an MFA. That he’s written one mildly successful novel in his late 20s when helped to land him his career. That he’s both well-liked and well-despised in his department. That he owns a house and two surrounding lots in a suburb, which has been the cause of a rivalry. And that the new state budget might slash 20% of his staff, a list of which he might be expected to make. We also learn he loves his daughter who lives nearby, but thinks she’s a financial disaster in the making, and that he loves his wife very much, but that doesn’t save him from falling slightly in love with a few other women in his life (though he doesn’t sleep around or pursue these at all).
He’s also clearly spiraling from stress at this exact moment and might have either a gall stone, prostate cancer, both, or neither currently.
It’s a well-wrought and hilarious book. He’s a mess, but he’s fairly likeable and not evil or even slightly evil. And everyone feels pretty real. There’s a few farcical moments, but it’s a wonderful mess of a novel.