cover image The Shrapnel Academy

The Shrapnel Academy

Fay Weldon. Viking Books, $15.95 (186pp) ISBN 978-0-670-81482-4

Versatile Weldon, British author (The Life and Loves of a She-Devil and playwright, is in her element with this fiendish satire, inviting comparison with Swift's acid condemnation of homosupposedlysapiens in Gulliver's Travels. The Shrapnel Academy memorializes Henry Shrapnel, inventor of the exploding cannon ball. In his honor, chatelaine Joan Lumb plays hostess to a group headed by Gen. Makeshift, who will lecture on the Battle of Wellington, and other military experts. Present also are the general's sexy secretary-mistress, Bella Morthampton, lusted after by husbands and lovers of other female guests. Known as Medusa (Mew), a reporter for the Woman's Times attends because Lumb thinks Mew is from the London Times. While the guests apostrophize epic battleswhich Weldon describes slashingly from the Age of Muscle B.C. through recent inventions of push-button carnagemutiny is brewing below stairs. Acorn the butler presides over hundreds of illegal aliens, hidden by the servants, an army Acorn plans to turn loose on the white oppressors. The story's end is unpredictable; the author's aim is unmistakably a gravamen charge of stupidity. (April 13)