The Devil and Webster by Jean Hanff Korelitz - review by Geoff Mills

Geoff Mills

Big Trouble on Little Campus

The Devil and Webster

By

Faber & Faber 358pp £12.99 order from our bookshop
 

What happens when college president Naomi Roth, an erstwhile radical whose mantra has always been ‘speak truth to power’, finds herself the subject of a student protest? This is the conflict, both public and personal, at the heart of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s latest novel. At an elite liberal arts college in New England, a ‘halcyon, evolved, rarified, creative, and intellectual college campus, where you are free to learn and nap and make things and have sex and get high and change your fucking gender even’, a disruptive and dangerous force erupts. Thus we are drawn towards a classic motif of the campus novel: paradise disrupted.

What begins as a quiet protest, in the form of a picket camp on the college’s ancient green, soon escalates into a public relations nightmare. Naomi stands accused of presiding over an institutionally racist college, having passed over for tenure an extremely popular black professor of anthropology. Leading

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