The Sonnets

Lennard J. Davis, Author State University of New York Press $25.5 (163p) ISBN 978-0-7914-4977-6
A literature professor who has written about growing up as the child of deaf parents, Davis (My Sense of Silence) puts his insider knowledge of academic imbroglios to entertaining (if occasionally shameless) use in this campus novel. Will Marlow, a 40-year-old Columbia University professor of Shakespeare, lives comfortably with his wife, Anne, and their two children in a university apartment overlooking Riverside Park, until his sex life begins to assume curious parallels with that of the Bard. A former student, Christopher Johnson, arrives at his doorstep bleeding from a self-inflicted wound; Marlow is smitten by the youth's neediness and strange feminine beauty. Then a combative Marxist-feminist student in Marlow's Sonnets graduate class, Chantal Mukarjee, convinces him to allow her to feel his face for a re-creation of a musical portrait done by a blind composer. Anne catches them and, enraged, moves out. Chantal and Will embark on an affair, which ends disastrously upon Chantal's circulation of a preposterous 10-page screed accusing Will of sexual harassment. Meanwhile, Will has taken in zoned-out Christopher and finds an exhilarating sexual fulfillment with the youth. Davis writes in terse, frequently humorous prose, though his narrator's cerebral insistence on analysis sometimes overburdens the tale. Despite the correlation with Shakespeare's personal life, Davis doesn't make Marlow's transformation from conservative, married professor to sexual adventurer entirely believable; however, there are numerous excellent jabs at the ""post-colonially minded"" university environment, especially in the persons of Chantal and boorish, horny New Zealand poet-in-residence Norman Goldman. Academics will nudge each other with scandalous pleasure at this unusual ivory tower love story. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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Paperback - 163 pages - 978-0-7914-4978-3
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