Lady Macbeth at the Bookstore & Favorite Novels Set in Academe

Note green pedals.

I rode our “city bike” to the bookstore, because my bike is in the shop.   This old clunker has a creaking chain, slipping gears, and black rubber handlebar grips that mysteriously rub off on my hands. Note the green plastic pedals:  the neighborhood shop had no metal replacements. When an optimistic mechanic/RAGBRAI veteran offered to rebuild the bike, I had to say no because it was too expensive.

I arrived at Barnes and Noble with blackened hands. As Lady Macbeth said, “Out, damned spot!”  I scrubbed and scrubbed my hands, and though they were not pristine,  I could at least handle books without smudging the pages.

I would buy almost nothing, I decided.  In the fall I usually reread Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, a retelling of the Tam Lin ballad set at a college in Minnesota, but this year I have made a new list of novels with academic settings. I did find a copy of Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, but not F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Devil and Daniel Webster,or Joyce Carol Oates’s The Accursed.Well, my only hope is that the recently-fired CEO–who has filled Barnes and Noble with toys and novelties and done away with new book sections–will be replaced by  someone who loves books.

I did look at every book in the store, though, and bought just enough to fill my Barnes and Noble book bag.Unlike my mind, the bike pannier could barely expand enough to hold the books.

Do you have a back-to-school reading plan?  Novels set in academe?  Or perhaps that calculus text? 

I am so glad I don’t have to go back to school, though!

14 thoughts on “Lady Macbeth at the Bookstore & Favorite Novels Set in Academe

  1. Looks like a good haul!

    I have to confess that I’m currently writing an academic-themed mystery novel. It probably won’t be put for a while, but in the meantime there is a series of academic mysteries featuring a heroine called, I believe, Lila Maclean. Good fun if you’re into that sort of thing.


  2. I’m sure you know Dorothy L Sayers’ Gaudy Night, still my favourite novel of academia. Have you read David Lodge’s campus novels? I used to work with a lot of the academics who were models for the characters in those.


      • They start with Changing Places, but I think Nice Work is the best. Deaf Sentence through the department into a panic because we had a doctoral student working on something very similar to the one in the novel. We had to assure her that no one had been talking to David about her (he had retired by that point) and it was just sheer coincidence.


        • I have one of the Lodges, not sure which, but I’m sure it will be a good read. Oh, dear, coincidences can be embarrassing. I thought it very funny because, though I’m not “hearing-impaired,” I do have to guess sometimes what people are saying, and my answeres are hilarious. Just looking at their faces shows me what a faux pas I’ve made.


  3. There is new CEO at Barnes and Noble? Wow, maybe there is hope. I certainly pray he will reverse the idiotic way that they now shelve books. It used to be that the newest releases were displayed for a few weeks in sections of their own. At least the hardcovers were. Now everything is only separated by genre and is simply alphabetical. I used to go to my local B&N two even three times a week. I loved the way I could very quickly browse the aisles to find what was new. Now? Forget it. There is one table of New items, both PB and HC and now to find new Literary Fiction you have to look all along the racks that stretch the length of the store! Genre fiction is a little easier as there are fewer shelves. But what used to take a half an hour now takes well over an hour to even two. I used to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars every month or two. Now, I don’t. Amazon is a poor substitute for picking up a new book and riffling the pages and letting it introduce itself to you but at least it does not hide the new releases. OMG imagine if B&N should be, again, a real bookstore. I wonder if he reads his email?


    • I do hope they’ll get someone good, because B&N is our only option here: we have to go out of town to find good indie bookstores. The ex-CEO used to be the CEO of Staples. What were they thinking? The stock doesn’t change much here now, and who could find it if it did? Let’s hope a book guy/gal will run the store for a change!


  4. Among academic novels, I’m surprised no-one has mentioned Mary McCarthy’s The Groves of Academe or Randall Jarrell’s Pictures from an Institution. There’s also Malcolm Bradbury, often confused with David Lodge among British academic novelists. Academic crime writers include Michael Innes. Robertson Davies’s Cornish Trilogy is partly academic – especially the second book, The Rebel Angels. Philip Larkin’s Jill gives an odd – and more convincing – picture of student life.
    And there’s one of the oldest of all, of course, Zuleika Dobson.


  5. i have read some of these. I’m a great fan of McCarthy and Bradbury, and keep meaning to read the Randall Jarrell. I do love Innes–well, Hamlet, Revenge!, the only one I’ve read!


  6. Hi! The best novel I’ve read of late that is based in academia is Stoner by John Williams (no relation 😊). It’s brilliant.


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