One of this author's great strengths is his penchant for exploring moral ambiguity. While some of his stories have decidedly ecclesiastical titles ("The Book of Timothy," "Michael The Archangel," "The Gospel According to Tim"), Foley seems to take endless delight in undercutting his protagonists' noble intentions with dubious motives. In "The Ballad of Tomasso," the father aches for the future of his son, a gifted boy soprano whose only hope for retaining his extraordinary gift is castration. Despite the oddly compelling case made for this grotesque solution, Foley doesn't hesitate to suggest it could also remedy the jealousy the father feels when his wife lavishes attention on their son.
.... the narrative continues in ways almost any teacher (and more than a few students) should appreciate. Petty academic politics drive faculty and administration hopelessly apart while plots and counterplots rage and the student body glumly soldiers on.
Symbolized by a smoking, rusty old Peugeot diesel sedan that somehow survives long enough to be passed from one generation of teacher to the next, Lingor High somehow survives as well, belching its way through endless squabbles, insanely wrong choices, and the unexplained suicide of a star student. Finally, it all comes to head in a game of "donkey ball," in which faculty and students shoot baskets from the backs of heavily sedated beasts of burden.
Ending up in a courtroom bursting with paranoia and muddled thinking, the novel probably has too much going on for its own good. Despite its faults, though, its insightful and comic take on the American high school and, by extension, American education in general strikes many of the right notes with verve and precision.
At fictional Lingor High School, the faculty will stop at nothing to get aheador at least avoid being stabbed in the back. The assorted vignettes, which span four decades, focus on different characters, often resurrecting characters who were of peripheral importance in other sections. They range from the obsolete master teacher ousted by younger administrators to students whose talents are smothered by overzealous parents or abusive coaches. Foley focuses especially on Timothy Barbieri, who attended Lingor High School as a student and returned immediately after college to begin his teaching career. Poor Timothy is disheartened to discover that being on the faculty at LHS is all about finding the right allies, not about the art of teaching. During Timothy's time at Lingor, his personal rivalry with the enigmatic principal, Mlle. Ameline, ebbs and flows in a hilarious fashion. The tongue-and-cheek narration and astute observations about human behavior are drawn from Foley's personal background as a former teacher. Not only does he address what's really inside the unmarked bottle always found in the employee refrigerator, but he also gets to the heart of unjust advancement and premature termination in bureaucratic work environments. The narrative voice varies widely among the vignettes, ranging from the pompously eruditei.e., poetic phrasing about "Tennyson's jutting proboscis"to the shockingly base: The principal "would market the breath of her crotch if she thought it would bring in money." Though the book is a bit longer than necessary and would greatly benefit from aggressive editing, the punchy storyline keeps the pages turning.
An amusingly offbeat parody that will appeal to quirky academics.
- Xlibris Corporation
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- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.37(d)
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