Many Pretty Toys

Hazard Adams, Author State University of New York Press $62.5 (243p) ISBN 978-0-7914-4085-8
Adams's shrewd tale of Vietnam-era idealism on a college campus plays out with dignity and intelligence. The novel masquerades as a reasoned reconsideration of civil disobedience at a small Pacific Northwestern university in 1969-1970. Adams offers alternating perspectives by the self-righteous student senate, called simply ""We""; a fiery and dramatic history professor named Edward Williams; a ""co-ed's dream"" English professor named Martin Emory; and the Author (as a nod to postmodern skepticism about the relevance of authorship). In protesting the Vietnam War, students derail their classes with clamorous argumentation and then stage a sit-in at the campus library. Almost overnight, student Olivia Scott changes from a blithe young spirit into an angry activist. Dynamic artist Tom Righter attempts a strategic disruption of Williams's lecture only to find himself violently engaged with the erotic cross-currents of campus politics. The narrative's explosive and seemingly haphazard progress does not deter its didactic efforts; on the contrary, it enhances the novel's caustic integrity by hiding the author's hand. Despite a highly tongue-in-cheek (and less than believable) roster of faculty, and a predominantly reserved tone, Adams consistently displays concern for an endemic breakdown in communications between students and faculty that echoes the chaotic logic of the Vietnam War itself. The ""toys"" of the novel's title are less the terms of the debate (rife with abstractions like ""freedom,"" ""establishment"" and ""justice"") than the characters themselves, who sacrifice more than they bargained for in their attempts to organize. In Adams's (The Academic Tribes) hand, the disjointed tale of disillusioned academics succeeds as an engrossing exploration of the ethics of protest. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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Paperback - 245 pages - 978-0-7914-4086-5
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