A Campus Conspiracy
Anonymous Impress Books, 208pp, £7.99
Harold Bloom labelled intellectual circles as "dominated by fools, knaves, charlatans and bureaucrats". The anonymous author of A Campus Conspiracy agrees, and this is the fruit of his frustration.
The elusive "prominent academic" entices us into the (insistently fictional) St Sebastian's University campus and the toasty-warm existence of the aristocratic Professor Gilbert. Scholarly types provide excellent comic fodder, and this Horse and Hound lifestyle, abounding in country-club clichés, serves to balance the full force of the novel's message. On-campus corruption and political anxieties are brazenly exposed as eroding any commitment to learning. No longer is higher education a haven for the scholarly minded; rather it is a temple to bureaucracy, league tables and alumni's donations.
With scholarships mostly reserved for ethnic minorities to keep up the quota, unprivileged white students must keep afloat by selling essays to their dim-witted counterparts, namely the offspring of rich alumni. This is a delicate equilibrium of deceit and nepotism. Although written elegantly, the message can at times feel laboured. The frustrating spiral of bureaucracy plagues the reader relentlessly with a sense of doom. But then that, I suppose, is the point.