Sunday, December 06, 2009

Inside and outside, academia and breast cancer..

I just finished kind of silly little novel that really irritated me... I finished it only because I wanted one of the central characters to stop being a dumb-ass...

The main character has breast cancer and she's an English prof at a local university. The author seems to get neither of the basic bits about this character's background right.

First, on the breast cancer: The character has an irrational reaction to even the suggestion of a mastectomy. She says all kinds of stupid stuff about losing her breast, being left scarred. The concept of radiation and chemo after the mastectomy is so impossible to this stupid twit that she'd rather die -- leaving her husband, 3 kids and 4 grandchildren than endure the horrors of chemo.

Of course -- given the last 18 months, I find this a bit implausible. She claims to love her husband, her children and grandchildren -- but -- not enough to have a pretty decent chance at spending another 30 or so years with them? She also claims to be a feminist, a scholar and a hippie -- yet, she's so wrapped up in her current body image she'd rather let her body be eaten from the inside out by cancer than to have a mastectomy with reconstruction (or, without). She claims not to care much about her appearance (even going so far as to wash out the 'up do' paid for by her daughter for a big party), yet -- the concept of losing her hair temporarily is beyond her. I spent about 8 years working in the hair INDUSTRY, and I would have done chemo then...

On the academic stuff... The author is pretty ignorant about the basic job categories in academia -- as well as the fact that it's pretty unusual for someone to go from TA to professor at the same place. The author seems to teach lit (not comp), but is not tenured, nor is she an adjunct or on any kind of limited-term contract. A young department chair is trying to force her to quit with the threat of a schedule full of comp classes -- but the main character doesn't have tenure -- she even complains about a pattern of tenuring less-qualified men (which is probably the only accurate detail), but the main character says she isn't tenured. Plus, as a non-tenured person she has a lovely office, small classes and does no research -- and, she's active in faculty union protests.

Ummm--- most of you know the basics wrong with this little scenario. Really -- by the end of this I was kind of hoping the stupid twit would just get fired by the chair. The chair claims budget crunch and is trying to get the twit to retire -- and the twit is making sure the retirement package includes continuing her health insurance. Y'all know in the 'real' world, the stupid twit would be out on her ear without anything.

Most of the other characters were shallow -- although, the descriptions of the northern Michigan scenery were pretty good. I wish the author would stick to things she knows -- or, at least to things I don't know. I'm glad it's a library book, so I didn't actually pay for it.


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I hear you! It's not as if it's super-hard to find out some basic facts about how college teaching works. Not sure what to say about the breast cancer thing.

Bardiac said...

I almost want to ask what the book is, to avoid it.

But you know, if you make her base salary 100K plus, you'll probably fit a lot of people's expectations!