http://chronicle.com/img/chronicle_logo.gifBy Ms. Mentor. Question: I want to do what my American idol, Walt Whitman, recommended for the summer: "loafe and invite my soul." Can Ms. Mentor suggest academic novels with which I, an academic fledgling, may most profitably loafe?
Answer: Ms. Mentor is charmed by your request. Obviously you also know your Horace, who told us that the purpose of literature is to delight and instruct. Novels about academics and academic life will do both. You'll see, for instance, the spasms of self-loathing, Weltschmerz, and ennui that supposedly plague midlife professors. You'll get the impression that entrenched male professors all pant for nubile "coeds," while neglecting their long-suffering wives. You'll find that bright female professors routinely solve murders, especially ones committed at the Modern Language Association's annual conference.