Monday, June 9, 2008

book review: moo by jane smiley

I finally finished Moo. Its setting is Moo University in an unknown Midwestern state. Moo is primarily an agricultural university, and Smiley tells the story through a dizzying array of narrators: students, staff, townspeople, faculty, administration, world business leaders, elected officials and even a pig. It's delightfully satirical and witty. I adored the first half of the novel, but the second half fizzled a little for me. It's still a great book, however I can't imagine how even a storyteller as gifted as Smiley could execute a finish worthy of the brilliant premise. Chapter Four, "The Common Wisdom" is beautifully indicative of the scope of this novel. It begins:

It was well known among the citizens of the state that the university had pots of money and that there were highly paid faculty members in every department who had once taught Marxism and now taught something called deconstructionism which was only Marxism gone underground in preparation for emergence at a time of national weakness.

It was well known among the legislators that the faculty as a whole was determined to undermine the moral and commercial well-being of the state, and that supporting a large and nationally famous university with state monies was exactly analogous to raising a nest of vipers in your own bed.

Moo is definitely worth a read, and it would be a wonderful book for a book club. There are so many different characters and so much happening, I'm sure part of my lesser satisfaction with the second half of the novel is due to missing key tidbits in the first part. It's a book meant for taking a few notes.

Rating: 2.5 stars (really liked it)

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