Monday, March 14, 2011

Guest Review: Alex Kudera reviewed by Joel Thomas

Alex Kudera. Fight for Your Long Day. Kensington, Md.: Atticus Books, 2010. Fiction. 264 pages. ISBN: 978-0984510504.

Fight for Your Long Day
’s protagonist, Cyrus Duffleman, does not fit the usual literary profile of professors – well-respected educators who juggle natural charisma and artistic brilliance, usually while battling demons available only to the privileged. Instead, author Alex Kudera gives readers a glimpse of the modern faculty majority: adjunct instructors. Like so many adjuncts, Duffleman’s story unfolds as he travels between low-paying teaching jobs and even a few hours weekly as a security guard. A dramatic adventure involving political assassination and dangerous troubled students unfolds around the well-intentioned teacher, but he doesn’t have time to stop and play the hero, especially without health insurance, until the novel comes to its madcap climax.

Kudera himself takes on a tough job with this novel. The writer clearly wants readers to understand the heavy load adjuncts undertake for low pay, and he includes specific details that real adjuncts will recognize as absolutely accurate. Students struggling with mental illness surfaces as a sub-theme, too, and he treats the topic with sensitivity even while illustrating inadequate resources for such situations at most colleges.

The author blends this gritty reality with humorous fantasy, deftly balancing heavy subject matter and an entertaining story. Hilarious caricature illustrates the idiosyncrasies and mounting frustrations for the character he affectionately nicknames “Duffy.” The novelist also cleverly sneaks in countless cultural references. This reviewer’s favorite appears when Kudera describes how Security Guard Duffleman stumbles into an underground punk rock show and gawks through scantily-clad girls’ mesh halter tops: “Duffy X-rays specks of” a body part, a pun that nods to readers who might also be punk fans. The plot involves some outlandish intrigue, with humorous references to a “President Fern,” a Homeland Security official with the surname “Cliff” (substituted for “Ridge”), and the dynamics of on-campus political radicals.

The combination of wordplay, satire, and over the top excitement make for an entertaining read. At the same time, Kudera’s thoughtful commentary reminds readers that Cyrus Duffleman represents many long, low-paying days worked by real adjuncts across America. The elements combine for an enjoyable book entertaining and exciting enough for a broad audience but thoughtful and sharp enough for university literature professors, even those fighting for their own long days.

Recommended for collections of contemporary fiction, academia-related fiction, Philadelphia-based fiction, social and/or political satire, working class fiction, and urban fiction.

Available from the publisher and at select bookstores.
Distributed by Itasca Books (who work with Baker & Taylor and Ingram).
Read more at Atticus Books.

Reviewed by:
Joel Thomas
Midwestern adjunct writing instructor

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