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Pictures from an Institution (1954)

de Randall Jarrell

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468853,940 (3.67)22
Beneath the unassuming surface of a progressive women's college lurks a world of intellectual pride and pomposity awaiting devastation by the pens of two brilliant and appalling wits. Randall Jarrell's classic novel was originally published to overwhelming critical acclaim in 1954, forging a new standard for campus satire--and instantly yielding comparisons to Dorothy Parker's razor-sharp barbs. Like his fictional nemesis, Jarrell cuts through the earnest conversations at Benton College--mischievously, but with mischief nowhere more wicked than when crusading against the vitriolic heroine herself.  "A most literate account of a group of most literate people by a writer of power. . . . A delight of true understanding."--Wallace Stevens "I'm greatly impressed by the real fun, the incisive satire, the closeness of observation, and in the end by a kind of sympathy and human warmth. It's a remarkable book."--Robert Penn Warren "Move over Dorothy Parker. Pictures . . . is less a novel than a series of poisonous portraits, set pieces, and endlessly quotable put-downs. Read it less for plot than sharp satire, Jarrell's forte."--Mary Welp "One of the wittiest books of modern times."--New York Times "[T]he father of the modern campus novel, and the wittiest of them all. Extraordinary to think that 'political correctness' was so deliciously dissected 50 years ago."--Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph "A sustained exhibition of wit in the great tradition. . . . Immensely and very devastatingly shrewd."--Edmund Fuller, Saturday Review "[A] work of fiction, and a dizzying and brilliant work of social and literary criticism. Not only 'a unique and serious joke-book,' as Lowell called it, but also a meditation made up of epigrams."--Michael Wood… (més)
  1. 20
    The Groves of Academe de Mary McCarthy (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Another enjoyable account from the 1950s of doings and misdoings at an American university. (McCarthy is said to have been the original of one of Jarrell's characters, in fact.)
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» Mira també 22 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 8 (següent | mostra-les totes)
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  keithhamblen | May 27, 2024 |
Let’s see if I have this straight. Mary McCarthy spent a year teaching creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College in the late 1940s. In 1952, she published The Groves of Academe, which some credit as being the first faculty novel. In the years since, the shelf devoted to that inbred genre stretches into the next valley. Ms. McCarthy has a lot to answer for.
It happens that the poet Randall Jarrell taught at Sarah Lawrence that same year. Two years after McCarthy’s book appeared, Jarrell published this satire about a novelist of repute who spends a year teaching at a progressive women’s college and uses that year to gather material for a savage novel.
I haven’t read Groves, but I’m sure Jarrell’s book is funnier. I haven’t guffawed while reading so often since the last Mark Twain I read. I don’t know if McCarthy ever spoke to Jarrell again. In addition to being a good writer, she seems to have been a top-notch feuder.
Jarrell’s telling jabs at the foibles of institutions of higher learning balance between merciless and affectionate. Many are the observations of his own alter ego, the narrator, but the most telling blows are landed by the novelist, Gertrude. In singing the praises of Benton College to the Committee on Aims, she declaims: “Beautiful spot! So young, so lovely! So unravaged by the fierce intellectual life of our century, so serene!” (p. 211).
In one of my favorite scenes, Gertrude dissects a visiting lecturer at the reception in the home of the college’s president. The lecturer, Daudier (pronounced Dod-yer), seems to be an amalgam of Clifton Fadiman and Mortimer Adler. This scene comes near the end of the book, just as I was beginning to wonder whether Jarrell’s love of paradox didn’t border on the perverse (“you had to hear it not to believe it” - p. 25). The book is witty and insightful from beginning to end.
( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
This book had flashes of clever writing, but much more that was obscure and pointless. Perhaps prose by a poet tends toward taking risks of metaphor and expression that work in the more spare poetic medium, but fail in a prose narrative. There was an underlying snarky tone, in which nearly every character is faulted as pathetic, or mindlessly selfish and provincial, that made it further unsatisfying. ( )
  oatleyr | Aug 22, 2020 |
The funniest, wittiest, meanest satire this side of Mary McCarthy. And it's about Mary McCarthy. ( )
  giovannigf | Nov 15, 2014 |
I wish he'd written more than one novel. Jarrall is of course most famous for 'The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner,' which was, along with 'The Hollow Men,' one of the poems responsible for getting me into literature 25 years ago, when I was 12 or 13.

Too busy to say much right now: this is a superior, perhaps one of the best, of the academic fiction I've read, although I have to admit that I don't read much of it: too self-indulgent. It's as good as Pnin, better in many ways than Possession, and leaves crap like David Lodge or Francine Prose in the crapdust. And, unlike Amis's Lucky Jim, Jarrall's satire often discovers things to like in academia. With that in mind, this excerpt from the summary is pretty hamfisted: "Pictures from an Institution is a superb series of poisonous portraits, set pieces, and endlessly quotable put-downs. One reads it less for plot than sharp satire, of which Jarrell is the master." No, actually, it's a lot more than that, and that's obvious, again, if you compare it to Lucky Jim: but that would require, oh, knowing anything about the genre before writing the blurb. Now, as for the purportedly savage caricature of Mary McCarthy: sort of. But one has to observe just how brilliant the Gertrude character is: she's mean, but there's no character more witty or feared in the novel, and it's never said that Gertrude's a bad writer. If someone savagely portrayed me this way, I'd have his babies.

So, if you don't like an academic novel that's light on plot, one whose prose is a set of poetic maxims strung together, then read Jane Smiley's Moo. Otherwise, read this. Now. ( )
  karl.steel | Apr 2, 2013 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 8 (següent | mostra-les totes)
On the jacket of Randall Jarrell's first novel, "Pictures From an Institution," are printed no less than eleven extravagant tributes from other literary intellectuals of varying degrees of fame. Such a bombardment of advance praise makes wonderfully eloquent advertising copy. It may even awe timid readers into such humility that they won't dare admit to a dissenting opinion. On the other hand, it might antagonize them into surly skepticism. Can any novel be that good? No, no novel can and Mr. Jarrell's isn't. In fact, it isn't really a novel at all. "Pictures From an Institution" doesn't need to be a novel for the sufficient reason that it is one of the wittiest books of modern times.
 

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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Randall Jarrellautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Mars-Jones, AdamIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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Half the campus was designed by Bottom the Weaver, half by Ludwig Mies van der Rorhe; Benton had been endowed with one to begin with, and had smiled and sweated and spoken for the other.
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Gertrude's bark was her bite; and many a bite has lain awake all night longing to be Gertrude's bark.
She was, surely, the least sexual of beings; when cabbages are embarrassed about the facts of life, they tell their little cabbages that they found them under Mrs. Whittaker.
[Of two musical pieces:] They're both essentially experiences in pure duration.
As a writer Gertrude had one fault more radical than all the rest: she did not know--or rather, did not believe--what it was like to be a human being. She was one, intermittently, but while she wasn't she did not remember what it had felt like to be one; and her worse self distrusted her better too thoroughly to give it much share, ever, in what she said or wrote.
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Cap

Beneath the unassuming surface of a progressive women's college lurks a world of intellectual pride and pomposity awaiting devastation by the pens of two brilliant and appalling wits. Randall Jarrell's classic novel was originally published to overwhelming critical acclaim in 1954, forging a new standard for campus satire--and instantly yielding comparisons to Dorothy Parker's razor-sharp barbs. Like his fictional nemesis, Jarrell cuts through the earnest conversations at Benton College--mischievously, but with mischief nowhere more wicked than when crusading against the vitriolic heroine herself.  "A most literate account of a group of most literate people by a writer of power. . . . A delight of true understanding."--Wallace Stevens "I'm greatly impressed by the real fun, the incisive satire, the closeness of observation, and in the end by a kind of sympathy and human warmth. It's a remarkable book."--Robert Penn Warren "Move over Dorothy Parker. Pictures . . . is less a novel than a series of poisonous portraits, set pieces, and endlessly quotable put-downs. Read it less for plot than sharp satire, Jarrell's forte."--Mary Welp "One of the wittiest books of modern times."--New York Times "[T]he father of the modern campus novel, and the wittiest of them all. Extraordinary to think that 'political correctness' was so deliciously dissected 50 years ago."--Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph "A sustained exhibition of wit in the great tradition. . . . Immensely and very devastatingly shrewd."--Edmund Fuller, Saturday Review "[A] work of fiction, and a dizzying and brilliant work of social and literary criticism. Not only 'a unique and serious joke-book,' as Lowell called it, but also a meditation made up of epigrams."--Michael Wood

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