I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Dr. Edith Vane, scholar of English literature, is contentedly ensconced at the University of Inivea. Her dissertation on pioneer housewife memoirist Beulah Crump-Withers is about to be published, and she's on track for tenure, if only she can fill out her AAO properly. She's a little anxious, but a new floral blouse and her therapist's repeated assurance that she is the architect of her own life should fix that. All should be well, really. Except for her broken washing machine, her fickle new girlfriend, her missing friend Coral, her backstabbing fellow professors, a cutthroat new dean—and the fact that the sentient and malevolent Crawley Hall has decided it wants them all out, and the hall and its hellish hares will stop at nothing to get rid of them.
The University of Inivea, huh? Well the author works at the same University that I retired from and they have a lot of parallels. There’s a hall designed in the brutalist style of Crawley Hall and I do remember a sink hole in the parking lot one year. I’ve had coffee in the Jungle (and I remember the coffee in the odd cardboard cups). I’ve dealt with the online ‘portal’ that employees use and filled out the horrible adminospeak forms required. Nineteen of my former coworkers were “refreshed” just last month.
Edith Vane (or is that Vain?) is exactly what conservative provincial politicians think of as an instructor in higher education. She’s a liberal, frumpy, lumpy lesbian who writes inexplicable articles for arcane academic journals and books that no regular person will ever pick up. It turns out that her barista girlfriend can mark essays just as effectively as Edith can. Edith is a frantic neurotic who is desperate to hang onto her university position (or as conservative politicians like to phrase it, “suck from the public teat.”)
Dr. Vane is chronically unprepared and is an uninspiring instructor. Mayr shows us how time crunched academics are, with teaching, researching, writing and dealing with students. In my own experience, the vast majority of my instructors were interesting and organized, so I’m assuming that Edith is a caricature in order to make a point of that.
Very interesting to read a book set in a world that I’m very familiar with.