Thursday, July 11, 2019

Campusland - by Scott Johnston: Book Review

Title: Campusland. A novel
Author: Scott Johnston
Pages: 331
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 13.08.2019
Genre: Humour, Campus Novel
Format: Kindle

This novel is so frustrating! It annoys me and it irks me! A few times I considered not finishing it, but I was curious to see where the plot will go. The characters are aggravating! At the same time you have to appreciate how well they are formed so as to stay true to the nature the author created for them.

Campusland presents various aspects of the academic life at a liberal university, but way outside the classroom. It focuses on the social issues that we all see everyday discussed in the news, but (I like to think! Lord help us!) exaggerated. It's a satire, and the tone is oftentimes mocking; Devon has the airs, but lacks the substance. It also has a large number of committees that like acronyms; inevitably you forget their meaning eventually.

It's also meant to come across as funny, and at times it is, but a dry humour. My favourite! It's mostly cringy and frustrating. I appreciate the satirical way in showing how all the social issues associations try to climb at the top to show their group matters the most. Their desire to make a protest out of anything and "fight over who is more offended" leads to unhealthy outcomes. Eph's career and reputation is tarnished because a bunch of drunk, stupid students think it's a good joke to accuse him of being racist because he teaches Huckleberry Finn (!!!), and a fame avid socialite decides to name Eph her sexual assailant just because she needs a name - well all these made me sick. The way characters dealt with even the smallest straw thrown towards their cause, and the way feminists on campus made everything worse through their desire to protect a "saviour" is meant to be a reflection of the way society deals with serious issues. I fear that this way of presenting things can be seen as mocking the real, serious, harming issues happening every day on campuses and not only.

It's hard to say if I like this novel. I appreciate how it made me care and it drew me in and it made me have opinions and it aggravated me. Argh!  I don't think this novel did any good for the real problems in our society, to be honest. I tend to agree that the way things are approached is not always the wisest because there's a lot of noise, but little desire to listen and come to a helpful solution; every party holds its ground and stays mad at the other people. Maybe this novel was a means to draw attention to this very thing. All that to say - if you like campus novels, or like reading novels about the university life, maybe this is for you. I continue to have mixed feelings. As far as the stars rating goes, I'd give it a 2.5*  

I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.
****

Quotes:
Part of the way down Mathers, a familiar voice cut through the chanting. “Lulu, what the fuck are you doing?” It was Shelley. Lulu kept crawling, eyes focused on nothing. “I had to see for myself. You know damn well this is bullshit. Do you hear me?” Pythia Kamal quickly interceded. “How dare you. Lulu’s a survivor. We honor survivors on this campus!” “Kiss my ass. No one is buying this, Lulu. And, not that I really care, but when your bullshit is exposed, you’re only going to make it harder for real victims to come forward. What about them?” Several people stepped up and surrounded Shelley. “You need to leave. Now. This is a peaceful march,” said one male student, striding toward Shelley, just thrust out. 

That she was, behind the scenes, falsely accusing someone had given her pause at the start. The feeling passed. Collateral damage was acceptable in every war, even if this was a war about which she didn’t particularly care.

****

Characters List (contains spoilers!):
Devon University - private research university, Havenport, New England
Milton Strauss - Devon president
D'Arcy - Milton's administrative assistant
Ephraim Eph Russell - 19th century American Lit professor. promised tenure. the centre of drama created by students
Titus O'Cooley - chair of the English Department
Louise Lulu Harris - socialite. instigates drama. initiator of #CrawlPeace
Song - Lulu's roommate
Sheldon Harris - Lulu's father. Devon alumni. rich. Hollywood lawyer
Camille Thornton/ April Gilmartin - Lulu's mother. she left Lulu and Sheldon soon after Lulu's birth. became an actress. Lulu and her are now together in making Lulu's cause known to the world and catch the media's attention
Yolanda Perez - Lulu's RA. convinces Lulu to "admit" and give the name of her sexual assailant.
Aldrich Red Wheeler - has been at Devon for seven years. activist/ social issues demonstrations & protests instigator
Foster Jennison - important alumni. gives large sums of money to Devon. Red's grandfather
Shelley Kisher - a junior. part of the Fellinghams
Winslow Gublins/ Win/ Winny - head of the Fellinghams Society = a sort of fraternity but male and female inclusive - the members are from the upper class
Sophie Blue Feather - poetry professor, tenured, pangenderist
Prof. Barrett Toes Smallwood - English prof, is given tenure instead of Eph due to the scandal surrounding him
Jaylen Biggs - head of the Afro-American Cultural Centre
Wendy Faircloth - works at the On the Avenue, the posh magazine Lulu wants to appear in
Martika Malik Adams - dean of diversity. Has it for Eph to frame it, despite Lulu admitting she lied.
Jack Russell - Eph's brother. died in Afghanistan. he was their father's favourite
Ellie - Eph's sister
Big Mike & Millie - Eph's parents
Stillman Weathers - Devon alumni. not pleased how Milton runs the university. gives a lot of money

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