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Notts: A Striking Novel

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Two American innocents abroad, one a mild-mannered assistant professor of Stereotype on his way to an Orwell conference in Nottingham commemorating the end of 1984 and the other a fiery graduate student on her way to study the National Union of Miners' ongoing mining strike, meet aboard a 747 as it wings them to England where they experience Thatcherism at full tide and where their romantic entanglement proves disastrous. William O'Rourke's fourth novel illuminates the gap between academic "political" concerns ...
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Overview

Two American innocents abroad, one a mild-mannered assistant professor of Stereotype on his way to an Orwell conference in Nottingham commemorating the end of 1984 and the other a fiery graduate student on her way to study the National Union of Miners' ongoing mining strike, meet aboard a 747 as it wings them to England where they experience Thatcherism at full tide and where their romantic entanglement proves disastrous. William O'Rourke's fourth novel illuminates the gap between academic "political" concerns and the realpolitik of labor disputes and international terrorism, as well as the notions of duplicatous texts and fictions within fictions, the novel of manners versus the novel of action. What is stereotyping but fear of ambiguity? O'Rourke asks indelibly in this postmodern anti-thriller thriller.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Academia meets realpolitik, to no great effect, in O'Rourke's latest (after The Meekness of Isaac), which transplants ideologically vague New Jersey professor Michael O'Dwyer into the middle of the great British miners' strike of the 1980s. Michael, who specializes in George Orwell and "stereotype" theory, would be better off even as a hapless David Lodge character than caught up in this crusade of trade-unionism, pitting Margaret Thatcher against Arthur Scargill of the National Union of Miners. When he's picked up on his flight to a U.K. Orwell conference by Jessie Jackson, a sociology professor at UC-Berkeley, Michael soon finds his Blue Guide vacation becoming a radical's package tour in D.H. Lawrence country. O'Rourke smoothly writes up documentary scenes of striking miners of all varieties. His portrayals of Michael and Jessie as stereotypically nave Americans, however, make them semiconscious as observers, and superfluous as lovers. Michael thinks, "Both Reagan and Thatcher are eminently laughable, or easy to mock, but they continue... to have the last laugh," but O'Rourke invests these and other rehashed political musings with little dramatic interest, until an attenuated terrorist plot suddenly brings the novel to an artificial climax. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
Too smart for his own good, a hapless American teacher dies in a cynical game between British and Irish political factions in this digressive academic thriller from O'Rourke (Criminal Tendencies, 1987, etc.)—a mix of terrorism, striking coal miners, university trendiness, and a love affair doomed by a seemingly insignificant treachery.

Michael O'Dwyer is a professor at a third-rate New Jersey college, on a visit to Nottingham for a conference on George Orwell. Jessie Jackson, a younger woman he meets on the plane, is a starry-eyed radical American labor organizer from Berkeley, traveling to England during the 1985 coal strike to show the colors on behalf of US coal miners. The two have a week together, visiting the doomed strikers and their organizers, shuttling between tourist jaunts and firsthand experience of the worker's despair, that could be the stuff of a slightly more bittersweet David Lodge novel. But as interpolated pages from a British police inquest make clear, something terrible is going to happen to this couple. The details add up: the impression that Michael's Irish name and looks makes during a time of IRA bombings, Jessie's radical naiveté, her shabby-sinister English connections, particularly David, who seems tense whenever Michael shows up. The climax finds the couple driving around London in a borrowed car that, we suspect, holds a bomb: Jessie finally admits she was asked by IRA sympathizers back in California to decoy British customs by picking up an Irish- looking male and traveling with him. As she and Michael discuss what they to do, we already know from the inquest that someone—British MI5, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the IRA—has decided to take lethal preventive action.

Too many scenes feel like mini-essays, and characters lecture at the drop of a hat. But fine description, a well-constructed story, and a sympathetic portrayal of the generally overlooked American and British working class carry this one over its dull patches.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569248065
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 4/4/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.45 (h) x 0.98 (d)

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