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Book Title: The Groves of Academe|
Date of issue: March 1st 2000
ISBN 13: 9781412812627
The author of the book: Mary McCarthy
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 548 KB
Edition: Taylor & Francis
Read full description of the books The Groves of Academe:Interesting to wonder why Mary McCarthy's 'Groves' is so little read, while 'Stoner' is re-released to great acclaim seemingly every five years I hear my wife calling, she says, "Gee, why could this book by a woman that's just like that book by a man be less highly rated even though it's just as good and about the same tings: English department at a small regional school that's a little bit quirky and prone to infighting and incompetence. Gee, I wonder why? WHATEVER COULD IT BE, MISOGYNIST?.
Leaving aside routine sexism, which could well play a role, and the fact that Williams only admitted to writing 3 novels, whereas McCarthy wrote a lot about a lot: I suspect the reason is that 'Stoner' is the perfect, self-contained novel. It's about a guy, Stoner, and his college, and although it does take jabs at incompetent English faculty and students, it really is self-sufficient. This is what a lot of people want from their novels.
'Groves,' on the other hand, drags in McCarthyism, imitatio Christi, Joyce scholarship, the merits and demerits of modernism, and the tremendous moral complexities involved with all of this. In other words, Groves demands that you think, constantly, in a way that I, at least, found fairly uncomfortable. Just when I thought I had a good handle on the moral framework of the book, McCarthy compares the 'villain' to Christ, in a good way. Nobody's deeds are easily explicable, but they all seem perfectly realistic. That doesn't mean they're impossible to understand, just that there's a lot more going on than we usually want to think. Heroes and villains, in the right setting, swap roles without changing their behavior; the selfless are revealed as the most selfish and and vice versa.
And just when you think the you've got the point--the fathomless difficulty and complexity of morality!--it turns out that the 'moral' is really a very minor, almost unimportant way of thinking about the world. The closest thing we have to a hero is an ex-communist, now anarchist, poet, named Keogh (named by McCarthy, I assume, for a beloved Irish boxer in Ulysses). He's disgusted by the bickering and time-serving of the University faculty, and does the 'right' thing--in this case, helping the villain--but mainly just wants to get the heck out of the place.
Your beloved moral complexity looks very different to a man who's spent his life on the barricades for justice.
Also, McCarthy's syntax is complex and subtle. Not so long ago, that counted as good writing, and hopefully it soon will again.
I should add that my friend JP told me about this book, and he includes pertinent quotes in his review:
Read information about the authorMary McCarthy (1912–1989) was an American literary critic and author of more than two dozen books including the 1963 New York Times bestseller The Group. Born in Seattle, McCarthy studied at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and graduated in 1933. After moving to New York City, McCarthy became known for her incisive writing as a contributor to publications such as the Nation, the New Republic, and the New York Review of Books. Her debut novel, The Company She Keeps (1942), initiated her ascent to become one of the most celebrated writers of her generation, a reputation bolstered by the publication of her autobiography Memories of a Catholic Girlhood in 1957, as well as that of her now-classic novel The Group.
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