Intergenerational romps, romances and relations have always been a staple of the campus novel. The opening sentence of Vladimir gets straight down to business. ‘When I was a child, I loved old men,’ the nameless protagonist tells us, ‘and I could tell that they also loved me.’ The narrator, an erstwhile novelist and ageing professor of literature, is married to the departmental chair, a charismatic Lothario whose many years of extramarital meddling with the student body have finally caught up with him. But even as her husband’s career hangs in the balance, she becomes obsessed with a younger man, a brilliant novelist whose troubled wife may or may not be involved with her already-disgraced husband. This quarrelling quartet of lotus-eating writers is set comically at odds with the unified chorus of finger-wagging students.
As for those who accuse her husband, with whom she privately shares an open marriage, the narrator observes, ‘I wish they could see themselves … as powerful, sexual women interested in engaging in a little bit of danger, a little bit of taboo, a little bit of fun.’