Thursday, April 19, 2018

Introducing Campusland, a New Novel

You may have noticed I have been posting less frequently over the past months. The reason is my spare time has been devoted to writing a novel, which I have more or less finished. It's called Campusland, and it's a satire about the modern American university. No one else seemed to be doing it, and someone had to, right? Honestly, the biggest challenge was satirizing a subject that is already so self-satirical.

I also wanted to see if I could do this, write a full novel. I always wondered, how do they do that? Novels are such triumphs of the imagination. It was an itch I wanted to scratch, so half my goal has been accomplished. The other half involves discovering if anyone other than me wants to read it.

Another part of my motivation was to poke merciless fun at campus culture, something that has grown completely out of hand. Political correctness is a menace and a threat to our basic freedoms, particularly speech. Nowhere is this more true than the modern university. Hopefully humor can be a weapon in opposition.

So, the Naked Dollar will take a different turn for a while. I'm going to post excerpts from Campusland. Hopefully you like them, and I always appreciate feedback. I should note the book is not available yet. Soon I plan to go out and look for an agent, a process with which I am completely unfamiliar. If anyone knows one, let me know!

Brief plot summary: The story takes place over a single academic year. Ephraim Russell is Assistant Professor of English at the prestigious Devon University, and he's up for tenure. The problem is, he's a cultural outsider, and there are landmines everywhere. Things get crazy.

In this scene, Eph and his girlfriend D'Arcy are wining and dining Sophia Birdsong, who has just been appointed to Devon's tenure committee. She has brought an interesting date named Darrin.

Double Date

Eph stared across the table at Sophie Birdsong and her - their - date, whose name was Darrin. Having learned his lesson in the past, he was hesitant to make any assumptions about Darrin’s genetic provenance. Not out loud, anyway. The longer he spent in the northeast, the more aware he became of the cultural minefields. In his thought bubbles Darrin was “she.”

Outwardly, Darrin was a beautiful woman, although for Eph her completely shaved head complicated the picture. She was considerably younger than Birdsong and had pale, delicate features. A ring pierced her nose while a series of smaller rings climbed the outer edge of her right ear. A tattoo on her neck read, “Do not resuscitate.” Eph silently speculated where Darrin placed herself among Facebook’s fifty-eight genders but decided the exercise would be a distraction.

For dinner, they'd settled on Calendar, a new restaurant that varied its menu based on the time of year and what could be locally sourced. The amateur critics on Yelp liked it, one reviewer saying it was a “fresh newcomer on the burgeoning Havenport food scene, offering a mélange of seasonally correct cuisine.” It was mid-January, so Eph hoped for something other than root vegetables.

The menus were printed on some kind of particle board. At the bottom they said, “Made from 100% American hemp.” Eph was relieved to see a varied selection of meats, game, and vegetables.

“So, how long have you two been together?” Eph asked, hoping to steer the conversation back to how long he and D’Arcy had been together. He shoved feelings of shamelessness into a deep pit where they could not be retrieved. Tenure was tenure.

“About six months,” Birdsong said.

“How did you meet?”

“At a poetry slam in Brooklyn. Darrin is a poet.”

“That is so awesome,” D’Arcy said, looking for a way into the conversation. “I love poetry. Are you published anywhere?”

Darrin fiddled with one of her many piercings, which appeared to be bothering her. “I don’t write any of it down. I don’t believe in it.”

“Where does it go?” D’Arcy asked.

“I only speak it aloud, and only once. Sometimes in front of others, and sometimes all by myself. I spoke my last work to a small copse of trees.”

“How intriguing. Why don’t you like to write it down? I’m sure people would enjoy it.”

Darrin lowered her apple martini, which was disappearing quickly. Her face betrayed the briefest hint of contempt. “True poetry,” she said, “should be as fleeting as momentary gust of wind, relevant only to the moment, the right now, and then as disposable as our culture. I compose for only the present, not for yesterday or next week.”

“I see,” D’Arcy said, not sure she did at all. “That is so interesting.”

“Is it?” asked Darrin, looking absently into space.