The Misanthropes: the true and accurate account of a fictional history

The Misanthropes: the true and accurate account of a fictional history

by Tom Dulack
     
 

Tom Bowman is a university professor teaching literature in New York City in the early 1970s. In the beginning of this novel-as-screenplay he is described as "a middle-aged leftover of the Beat Generation," presenting "a derelict appearance" with a "long grey beard, shoulder length grey hair, dirty wrinkled trousers, tennis sneakers, a torn sweater," looking "half…  See more details below

Overview

Tom Bowman is a university professor teaching literature in New York City in the early 1970s. In the beginning of this novel-as-screenplay he is described as "a middle-aged leftover of the Beat Generation," presenting "a derelict appearance" with a "long grey beard, shoulder length grey hair, dirty wrinkled trousers, tennis sneakers, a torn sweater," looking "half Christ, half Allan Ginsburg." He is a passionate teacher frustrated and angry, impatient with his students and contemptuous of his dull and academically regimented colleagues and their boring scholarship and interminable faculty meetings and idiotic committees. When a classroom experiment while teaching "The Rape of the Lock" leads a student to lodge a complaint against him, in the ensuing scandal Bowman abruptly quits his tenured position, leaves his wife, and embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery and spiritual renewal. Lacking any apparent marketable skills, as an employment agency coldly informs him, he starts a love affair with one of his former students, a young actress who is playing Celimene in a production of Moliere's "The Misanthrope" that a small, idealistic, multiracial acting company is struggling to mount in a run- down little storefront theatre on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As Bowman gradually involves himself in the destiny of the little company, calling themselves The Last Ditch Classical Repertory Theatre, long dormant talents and ambitions awaken in him. He feels truly alive for the first time since he was himself a student.

It's a serious attempt at a literary story about how we short-change ourselves in life, and how we compromise everything most important to us without even realizing we are compromising. But it's also a story filled with comical characters and hilarious adventures. It is a story equally about theatre life and university life, about sex and love and philanthropy.

The slightly tongue-in-cheek Author's Preface explains that "the action sprawls all over New York City, from Brooklyn, to the Lower East Side, from Greenwich Village to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Important events take place in university classrooms, in the bar car of the Long Island Railroad, in an airport, inside an Off Off Broadway theatre in the Bowery, in a subway car, in Bowman's Long Island home, in his girlfriend's apartment near what is presently SoHo, and in another girlfriend's apartment on the West Side. The climactic event in the story is the production of a play."

"The Misanthropes" is a kind of experiment in mixing genres. I like to think of it as a novel in the form of a screenplay, that is a screenplay never intended to be filmed, a screenplay that one reads as if it were a novel, designed to stretch the imagination of the reader. Indeed imagination might be seen as the true theme of the work. The capacity to imagine is what sets off characters from each other. Those who lack imagination fare badly. Those who are lucky enough to be possessed of lively and robust imaginations are ultimately exalted. My goal is the goal of any writer creating fiction: to make-up a world of the imagination that seems more believable to the reader than the world he actually inhabits and thinks he knows.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-29
A novel written in screenplay format about the fall and redemption of a cantankerous college professor.Tom Bowman has a unique approach to teaching. He believes in bringing the classics to life, even if that means occasionally badgering or otherwise intimidating his undergraduates at Long Island University, a college in an ethnically mixed neighborhood of Brooklyn in the 1970s. In fact, Bowman’s passion is what gets him into trouble. In an attempt to imbue Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” with some graspable drama for his students, Bowman snips a lock of hair from a frightened student. The unconventional move lands him in hot water; instead of defending himself at a department meeting drawn in broad farcical strokes, Bowman chooses instead to tender his resignation. It’s the beginning of a sea change for Bowman, one that soon finds him sleeping with one of his former students. While Bowman’s fall is rather standard, Dulack (In Love with Shakespeare, 2001, etc.) reserves most of the high jinks for the second act: Bowman’s redemption. The twists and turns delight, and a happy ending feels all but assured. Dulack’s main conceit here is that literature has suffered under the mollifying dominance of film, a medium he defines as lacking “continuing life.” Somehow, this is supposed to justify the decision to present this novel as a screenplay, but despite some clever rhetorical gymnastics in the author’s preface—“Suddenly, ironically, it seemed that films of all unlikely things might ultimately be the salvation of literary writing in the 21st century”—Dulack’s claim fails to convince. Still, Dulack is an old hand at playwriting, though he insists on stark divisions between the related forms, and his expertise shines here in terms of pacing and character development. Readers will feel in good hands when it comes to the principal cast, less so when it comes to the supporting characters.An unconventional novel tailor-made for its unconventional protagonist.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781492758976
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
03/14/2014
Pages:
296
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.62(d)

Meet the Author

Tom Dulack is an award winning playwright, a novelist, a director, and an English professor at the University of Connecticut. His play "Incommunicado" won the Kennedy Center Prize for New American Plays. His play "Friends Like These" won the Kaufman and Hart Prize for New American Comedy. Another play, "Breaking Legs," had a long New York run and an extensive national tour and has been performed in countries and in languages all over the world. It has been a comic staple in regional theatres for the past 20 plus years. Since 2005 Dulack has written and directed some 35 of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's famous Young Person's Concerts; his work in this area has also been presented at the Los Angeles Philharmonic and with the Cleveland Orchestra. Born and raised in the Midwest, he attended Indiana University where he earned his B.A. in English, and his Masters degree at the University of Connecticut. He lives in rural Connecticut with his wife, the Belgian art historian, Veronique Sintobin.

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