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Campus Fiction

The Art of FieldingSummer is coming to a close and students are returning to school, many of them to college. Why not take the opportunity to read a book set on a college campus?  Lose yourself in a story set on a sprawling college campus with professors, students, bookstores, dormitories and classrooms.

Campus fiction is generally described as a novel whose main action occurs in and around the campus of a university. The stories are usually told from the viewpoint of either a student or professor. Some of below examples are satirical and highlight the follies of academic life. Others are more serious narratives and explore deeper themes and subjects.



The Secret HistoryThe Secret History by Donna Tartt
This is a first novel of exceptional subtlety and suspense, featuring a haunting cast of characters. Somewhat reminiscent of Dead Poet's Society, a bit gothic, and inlaid with sophisticated psychology, it takes place on and around the campus of a small, private, Vermont liberal arts college. When Richard, a native of a small, dull California town, arrives at Hampden College to study Greek, he's startled by the changeability of the weather, the brooding skies, and brilliant autumn. Thoroughly alienated from his parents, he lies about his past, hoping to impress the tight-knit, wealthy, secretive, and tantalizingly eccentric group of classics scholars studying under the direction of influential mentor, Julian Morrow. (summary provided by Booklist)


The Art of FieldingThe Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
At Westish College, a small school near Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended. Henry's fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry's gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners' captain and Henry's best friend, realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert's daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an bad marriage, determined to start a new life. (summary provided by Little, Brown and Co.)


Lucky JimLucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Regarded by many as the finest, and funniest, comic novel of the twentieth century, Lucky Jim remains as trenchant, withering, and eloquently misanthropic as when it first scandalized readers in 1954. This is the story of Jim Dixon, a hapless lecturer in medieval history at a provincial university who knows better than most that “there was no end to the ways in which nice things are nicer than nasty ones.” Kingsley Amis’s scabrous debut leads the reader through a gallery of emphatically English bores, cranks, frauds, and neurotics with whom Dixon must contend in one way or another in order to hold on to his cushy academic perch and win the girl of his fancy.


Wonder BoysWonder Boys by Michael Chabon
Professor Grady Tripp, manages to ruin two marriages, cause the death of a boa constrictor and a dog, save a student's life, attend chaotic writers' conference, and lose the only copy of his manuscript. Now don't groan when I tell you that Wonder Boys is also the title of the novel Tripp has wasted seven years of his disorderly life on, because this is not your typical, bloodless novel-within-a-novel. It is, instead, a simultaneously hilarious and insightful tale about the Faustian bargains writers make, the fissures the act of writing rends in the wall between fact and fantasy, and, for good measure, the basic absurdity of human endeavors. (summary provided by Booklist)


The Rebel AngelsThe Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies
On one level, Davies's novel is "about" four academics: Maria Theotoky, the brilliant, beautiful graduate student; her adviser, the ascetic Dr. Hollier; Simon Darcourt, the bon vivant priest; and Parlabane, once an outstanding scholar, now sycophant to his former classmates. Then there is the basic plot theme: Who will end up with the girl? Standard stuff. Yet the real focus here is on the spiritual and/or mystical personal explorations of the main characters. (summary provided by Library Journal)



I Am Charlotte SimmonsI Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe
Charlotte Simmons is a brilliant, beautiful, and impossibly naive freshman at prestigious Dupont University. With its Gothic spires and manicured lawns, idyllic Dupont is clearly the stuff of fiction, boasting a championship basketball team, a litany of Nobel laureates, and an unbelievably bawdy student body. Hailing from the North Carolina backwoods town of Sparta, Charlotte is one in a cast of predictable collegiate characters (the dumb jock, the snooty preppy, the oversexed frat guy, and the undersexed nerd), but in Wolfe's capable hands, the stereotypes are rendered in Dolby Surround Sound. (summary provided by Booklist)


Changing PlacesChanging Places by David Lodge 
Euphoric State University with its whitestone, sun-drenched campus and England's damp red-brick University of Rummidge have an annual professorial exchange scheme, and as the first day of the last year of the tumultuous sixties dawns, Philip Swallow and Morris Zapp are the designated exchangees. They know they'll be swapping class rosters, but what they don't know is that in a wildly spiraling transatlantic involvement they'll soon be swapping students, colleagues, and even wives. Changing Places is a hilarious send-up of academic life, intellectual fashion, sex, and marriage. (summary provided by Penguin Books)