Novel - Howard Kirk is the trendiest of radical tutors at a fashionable university campus.
I am also fascinated by the late 1960s and early 1970s, and so tend to enjoy books which credibly evoke that era. The History Man evokes this era wonderfully and, through 2018 eyes, it's an extraordinary world, almost unbelievable, especially when compared with 21st century universities. Malcolm Bradbury was a huge admirer of Evelyn Waugh, and The History Man is on a par with Waugh at his bleakly dark and satirical best. An exhilarating, dark, energetic and compelling satire that still feels relevant, and brilliantly evokes the era and milieu of English university life in the early 1970s - every bit as good as I had hoped - and, needless to say, it's crashed into my list of all time favourite novels.
Although its only thirty-six years old, reading this book is like entering a time warp. The author is obviously out to eviscerate Kirk and his ilk, and the book does that admirably, but its still a long time to spend with a deeply unpleasant, self-satisfied character even if we are supposed to come away hating him. If you have a desire for fine witty writing, lava lamps and an expose of how the sexual revolution could be exploited, this is definitely a recommended read.
Families are Flora's business; all over the world there are families, nuclear and extended, patriarchal and matriarchal, families cooked and families raw, which pause, rigid, in their work of raising children, bartering daughters, tabooing incest, practising wife-exchange, performing rites of circumcision, potlatching, as Flora enters their clearing or their longhouse or their living-room and asks, notebook in hand, 'How's the family?' It is a serious and searching question about the universe; and, Flora is seeking a universal answer. When she is not in her service flat in the leafy suburb, or out in the world on fieldwork, she is to be found at meetings and congresses, in small halls in London or Zurich; here she habitually sits in a left-hand aisle seat near the front and, the paper over, rises first, a pencil held high for attention, to ask the initial and most devastating question ('I'd hoped to bring evidence to show the entire inadequacy of this approach. As for my question) Kirks specialty of Sociology also informs the novels narrative: details of décor, dress, and speech signify the characters places on the class and political spectra. The novel is also funny as hell, the Sociology departmental meeting in Chapter 9 is worthy to stand with some of the comic scenes from Catch-22. The meeting passes a recommendation urging Senate to change regulations in order to permit tea-ladies to serve on department meetings. A resolution that items not on the agenda of the meeting be allowed is proposed, but is ruled out of order on the grounds that it is not on the agenda of the meeting.
Howard is the focus of the book and all the others seem to fade away in his shadow making for a one-sided view of university and personal life.
The writing is actually pretty good, but I really wasn't into a mockery of 1970's academics.
It starts off as a gentle satire of 60s and 70s radicalism, the right-on Marxist/Freudian/Reichian posturing of the Kirks an easy target, particularly so from the perspective of today (almost 50 years later).
"That's right", says Tony, "Because everything else is told in the present tense." Bob takes a drink of his beer and looks at the clock on the wall. Our History Man thinks he can." Bob takes a last drink of his beer and stands up.
The History Man is the story of the activist couple the Kirks.
His best known novel The History Man, published in 1975, is a dark satire of academic life in the "glass and steel" universities the then-fashionable newer universities of England that had followed their "redbrick" predecessors which in 1981 was made into a successful BBC television serial. Bradbury was a productive academic writer as well as a successful teacher; an expert on the modern novel, he published books on Evelyn Waugh, Saul Bellow and E.