James Hynes

The ivy-covered halls of higher learning are neither hallowed nor hushed in The Lecturer’s Tale, Austinite James Hynes’s wicked satire of high and low professorial ambitions at a fictitiously renowned university in Minnesota. Rather this tale of underachiever Nelson Humboldt—newly cashiered from his lecturer’s position—noisily flays the school’s oddball faculty for both their personal oddities (Professor Vita Deonne’s indeterminate gender) and their postmodern posturing (Professor Penelope O writes a paper in which she fantasizes about having sex with authors from the canon). The story takes a turn when Humboldt’s right index finger—accidentally severed and then reattached—begins to compel others to do his bidding. Humboldt is faced with the timeless superhero dilemma: to use his powers for good or evil, for humanity or personal ambition. Hynes takes the long route to provide the answer, thoughtfully dishing up a fable of redemption in a world gone mad with academic pretension and personal hypocrisy. The Lecturer’s Tale is rowdy and brilliant—pointedly literate and scathingly funny all at once.

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