Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Eight top college novels

Sam Munson's writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Times Literary Supplement, among other venues. He is the former online editor of Commentary magazine. Munson graduated from the University of Chicago in 2003, and he lives in New York City.

The November Criminals, his first novel, came out in 2010.

One of Munson's eight must-read college novels, as told to The Daily Beast:
by Richard Russo

Richard Russo is not known primarily as a satirist, but he has produced one unquestionable entry in the genre: Straight Man, whose narrator William Henry Devereaux, Jr.—Hank to friend and enemy alike—teaches English at a shabby private college in Pennsylvania in the middle 1990s. Devereaux is, it turns out, the perfect lens for Russo to take on one of his favorite, visited-and-revisited subjects: the hard-to-avoid mediocrity of contemporary American life (which reached perhaps a nadir in those becalmed years), incarnated here in Devereaux's insufferable colleagues, his opportunistic professor father, and his own disconnectedness from more or less everything. Russo is no Nabokov, to be sure, but if the comedy here is clumsier, and the language less balletic, the pathos is no less real. Also: you have to admire a man who threatens on a local news affiliate to murder one goose per day until his departmental budgetary demands are met.
Read about another book on the list.

Straight Man is one of Pete Dexter's favorite works of fiction about families.

The Page 69 Test: Sam Munson's The November Criminals.

--Marshal Zeringue