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Publish and Perish: Three Tales of Tenure and Terror

3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  367 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A Publisher's Weekly Best Book of the Year

Combining the wit of David Lodge with Poe's delicious sense of the macabre, these are three witty, spooky novellas of satire set in academia—a world where Derrida rules, love is a "complicated ideological position," and poetic justice is served with an ideological twist.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 15th 1998 by Picador (first published June 1st 1997)
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The Secret History by Donna TarttPossession by A.S. ByattMoo by Jane SmileyThe Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine HoweGaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
Academia in Literature
9th out of 88 books — 58 voters
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. RowlingA Clash of Kings by George R.R. MartinHoles by Louis SacharThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverAbout a Boy by Nick Hornby
Best Books of 1998
69th out of 214 books — 108 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 753)
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Oct 23, 2014 Jim rated it did not like it
The 3 tales of terror are supposed to be ruthless & chilling with cliff hanger endings. The blurb says, The characters spout silly jargon, wrestle with their writing problems, preen their tender egos, and skewer their colleagues. Most are likeable: their vanity is so human, it's almost touching. I thought the characters were sad examples of humanity with nothing particularly funny about them or their situations. I couldn't work up any particular empathy for any of them, although I did sympat ...more
John  Bellamy
Dec 10, 2013 John Bellamy rated it really liked it
The toxic careerist culture of modern academia has produced a bounty of wonderfully entertaining fiction, the short list of which must include Kingsley Amis’s “Lucky Jim,” Randall Jarrell’s “Pictures from an Institution,” Malcolm Bradbury’s “The History Man,” John Barth’s “Giles Goat Boy” and David Lodge’s “Changing Places” and “Small World.” But, never, at least to my knowledge, has it produced anything quite like the three fiendishly clever novellas contained in James Hynes’ “Publish and Peris ...more
Feb 08, 2008 Angela rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Elizabeth, Sunday
I read the first two stories as soon as I checked out this book, and enjoyed them immensely, but then it took me about three months to pick it up again. Thank you, holidays! I agree with other reviewers that these stories likely appeal much more to folks involved in academia, who will find themselves snickering and nodding along to the character-type parodies. The first story is all Poe, the second story follows a Wicker Man-like story arc, and the author acknowledges that the third story is a " ...more
Jun 30, 2008 Bree rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-08
Thoroughly enjoyable- for anyone that's been there in academia and seen the ugly side of misogynist fogies, looming deadlines, and the uselessness of arcane knowledge. Liked it much, much more than his Kings of Infinite Space, a related novel. I totally dug it.
Oct 15, 2010 Dieter rated it really liked it
Funny kinds of skills with academic satire and horror kinds of themes. Guy is definitely a plot builder and a drama builder of a certain kind. Makes him worth reading. He has page turning skills and makes a valiant effort to grip into academic excesses.
Apr 24, 2015 Berry rated it liked it
I think the stories go from okay, good, to pretty good. I'm a big fan of MR James so the last interested me the most. The tenure milieu was fun, the characters and plots okay, but throughout the book I kept thinking the prose was decent. Basic. Not bad, better than decent, actually, just without a certain verve.

I will definitely check out some other books by the author, though. (it would be fun to see his take on gender politics in 2015!)
Jo Deurbrouck
Jan 03, 2012 Jo Deurbrouck rated it it was ok
Hynes does a fine job of making characters come to life and just as fine a job of plotting his creepy stories. At the word and sentence level he satisfies as well. He's a craftsman.

The trouble I had with all those deftly drawn characters is that many/most of them are asses (yah, poetic justice kind of requires that characters deserve what happens to them, so being an ass is a definite plus for a character who's going to get his life demolished).

But I just plain got tired of hanging out with them
Jamie VW
Jun 24, 2012 Jamie VW rated it liked it
I almost stopped after the first novella, which I found to be complete dreck (as my grandfather would say). Mean-spirited, contrived and poorly conceived, I had to force myself into the second book. That one, titled 99, was much better - not fantastic, but intriguing in its critique of anthropology and is reminiscent of The Lottery and Borges' The Gospel According to Mark. The third book, Casting the Runes, is actually quite good, a pastiche as Hynes puts it of a story from M.R. James. It uses t ...more
Aug 16, 2015 Jeff rated it really liked it
These three stories (novelettes?) seem at first to be unrelated, and then, prove to terrifyingly inter-related. Any academic can tell you that tenure always spells terror, but Hynes understands how to make academia into a place of supernatural intrigue, to hilarious effect. Creepy good fun!
Sarah Clement
Nov 01, 2013 Sarah Clement rated it really liked it
I rarely read fiction, but I picked this up randomly on a visit to the US, in a very nice bookshop in Ann Arbor. It's not the sort of thing that I would normally read, but I found this collection of short stories a pleasant distraction from my thesis. The characters are largely unlikeable - with the notable exception of the cat in the first story - but they are also entirely realistic, which worked well to offset the implausibility of the horror aspects of the story. I thought Hynes portrayed yo ...more
Oct 17, 2010 Gloria rated it it was ok
Skimmed/read this book one evening, after a depressing week (and reflecting on it, unfortunately, too deeply) about life in academia…

The first story I didn't like. Felt like a male mid-life crisis that happened to involve academics. While it did have some insightful details on academic dilemmas, overall not great.

The second story wasn't engaging. Actually, found it quite boring in general. The academic part was thin, really; the protagonist could be any obnoxious failing male in any profession…

Nov 23, 2015 Maria rated it really liked it
A fast read filled with unexpected scares and laughs. Hynes constructs a believable universe and juxtaposes the mundane with the macabre. He ends each tale with a twist.

Jan 03, 2016 mbattist rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery-woo-woo
Three novellas, loosely connected by characters that weave into the narratives. Awful to think of academics so governed by disrespect and dishonor.
Aug 10, 2010 Trish rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin L
Sep 07, 2015 Kevin L rated it really liked it
3.75 stars. The first story is weak, but the two remaining stories are much better and have a good sense of humor. It also has a good representation of the departmental infighting I remember from grad school.
Feb 11, 2009 Pamela rated it really liked it
It's been a long time since I've read a book that I couldn't put down. Purely by chance, I've been reading a lot of non-thrillers lately, and I forgot what it's like to have a book that makes your heart race. The three novellas in Publish and Perish are pure silliness—Russo's Straight Man with a generous helping of Poe—but if you've got a yen for academia, you'll be chortling your way through this book while flipping the pages at an alarming pace.

Also, academics are crazy.
Oct 25, 2009 Amy rated it liked it
This is a favorite among the academic set for obvious reasons. The three short stories (with some intertwining characters and events) would not be, I'm guessing, particularly compelling to true fans of the horror genre. Hynes does uniquely capture the "terrors" within academia, however--particularly the fear of tenure review and the loss of reputation. I was amused, but I fear that people outside of academia will only come away with an even worse image of it than before!
Aug 06, 2007 Lane rated it liked it
Three novellas combining satire of academia and Poe-ish horror. I couldn't help but be a little annoyed at yet another book where every character is a college professor or some part of the academic world that seems to dominate "serious" fiction. The addition of the horror element deflated the literati aspect of it enough to make me want to read his latest book though. Maybe I'm a sucker for genre work I can still feel pretentious for reading.
Jinny Case
Jun 04, 2012 Jinny Case rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who thinks college culture is funny
Recommended to Jinny by: James McDonald
This is another book that plays on our preconceptions about the Academy. Okay, I admit, I think most of these characters exist in abundance at universities. This book is, in turn, satirical and witty and also scary. The first story was really hard for me to read and, if you like kitties, you might also find the first story more than a little disturbing. There are three stories in this book. I am currently on the final story.
Jan 13, 2012 Marc rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I got this because of the title...for obvious reasons. Sadly, none of the stories grabbed me. The characters were so ridiculously inept in their personal lives. One story I just couldn't read because I just couldn't believe someone would do the things this guy was doing (tale about the cat that seemed to be haunting our protagonist.) I have only the dust jacket left, that's how goofy I thought the book was.
Apr 04, 2013 Barbara rated it liked it
Three Tales of Tenure, but not of Terror. I'm sure this book will appeal most to those caught up in the world of academia more than to the rest of us. As for "terror" - hardly! There were several laugh-out-loud passages, especially in the first tale where situations arise involving the protagonist (definitely not a likeable character in the least) and his pitched battles with his girlfriend's cat.
Coral Rose
Aug 22, 2008 Coral Rose rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
I went home last night, swung by the library and picked up my holds, among which was this hilarious gem. It was a mixture of horror and academic satire, and I read it all in one gulp, finishing well before bed. Each story's academics are obsessed with their academic lives, unaware of the supernatural that moves just out of their sight.
Apr 01, 2011 Heidi rated it it was ok
Three novellas about arrogant academics. They all get their come-upance, but in one case--as a man is buried alive--I felt sorry for him. None of the protagonists was particularly like-able and the references to academic life actually made me feel bad. Still, Haynes is a good writer--good pacing & interesting plots.
Oct 12, 2010 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Embarrassing story: sometime after reading this book of academia-related short stories, I was at an English department picnic with my then-boyfriend, and became convinced that a bearded picnic attendee was the author of this book. Needless to say, he was not, but that didn't stop me from asking, and being mortified after.
May 29, 2010 Simone rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I really liked these stories, the second two more than the first one. It's much in the same vein as "The Lecturer's Tale" in fact one of the characters from that story makes a brief unrelated appearance. Same kind of crazy, gothic academic craziness.
Sep 30, 2010 Leslie rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-fiction
David Lodge, Martin Amis, and Stephen King have a love child who grows up to be a bitter grad student in the humanities or social sciences facing an overeducated future as a contract instructor. The result is this book of three novellas. What's not to like?
Oct 10, 2011 Mhd rated it liked it
I made it about 1/2 way: one and a half of the three short stories. It's well written and I love the concept: professors, terror, and satire. But, it's just not my style, I need more action in my leisure reading.
Nov 11, 2010 Bandit rated it it was amazing
I seldom by books on impulse, but this was one of those times. Since then I have purchased every book by the author and read almost all of them. The writer brilliantly mixes academia with macabre with black humor.
Jul 21, 2008 Melissa rated it really liked it
A really fun mix of old-fashioned spooky storytelling and the self-aggrandizing world of academia. It's great how these stories intersect with each other and bleed into Kings of Infinite Space.
Jul 19, 2009 Werehippy rated it liked it
Shelves: fun
The only time a book has actually upset me is the first story here. Other than that it's a quite good combination of an insider's view of academic life and modern Lovecraft style horror.
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