We are in the Seventies, a time where the sexual revolution is fully embedded and every advanced marriage condones affairs and swinging After all, it adds to the spice and happiness of the union, and all right minded people understand that monogamy is heavy The setting is a red brick English University, one that is freshly designed by the finest Finnish architect and is packed full with buildings named after eminent philosophers Our protagonist is Howard Kirk, a Zapata moustachioed, right on, radical Sociology lecturer who no longer has any bourgeois sexual hang ups and is constantly railing against the liberal reactionary forces Fascist is another commonly thrown insult from his arsenal Except that Dr Kirk might not be as cool as he and his cronies would like to believe In fact it becomes clear that he is deeply selfish, truly intolerant of the opinions of others and motivated solely by his own desires Fortunately, the loose s of the world he inhabits means that he can get away with that, whilst still looking like a right on and with it, all round good guy.Although it s only thirty six years old, reading this book is like entering a time warp The characters, situations, moral judgements and values are all as far removed from us now in 2011 as the worlds of Austen and Dickens My own experience of British universities might be a tad dated, but it wasn t like that then and I doubt it s reverted now we re in the Twenty First century That being said, it s a wonderfully conjured world that really gives you a sense of time and place It is also an incredibly witty read, with many great lines and comic situations However, at points The History Man is a hard novel to get through The author is obviously out to eviscerate Kirk and his ilk, and the book does that admirably, but it s still a long time to spend with a deeply unpleasant, self satisfied character even if we are supposed to come away hating him.If you have a desire for fine witty writing, lava lamps and an expose of how the sexual revolution could be exploited, this is definitely a recommended read. Perhaps one of the most definitive campus novels of all time, Bradbury s The History Man is very much a product of a specific place and era and as such has dated somewhat The Swinging Sixties in retrospect we now know had a dark side and it s here embodied in the figure of Howard Kirk, one of literature s most unpleasant characters Unredeemably obnoxious he leaves chaos and heartbreak in his wake all in the name of freedom and liberalism An effective satire, and with moments of humour, I found the book ultimately tedious There s a lot of dialogue but little examination of motive or character, so all feels rather superficial Howard is the focus of the book and all the others seem to fade away in his shadow making for a one sided view of university and personal life Nevertheless, it s still worth reading as a memento of a changing society and the new permissive outlook on life which flowered at the time. A group of characters that I struggled to identify with, none of them seem like people you would want to spend time with. Howard Kirk is a professor of Sociology at the University of Watermouth He is the history man because he believes in the dialectic of history A repeated question in the book s first half, asked and overheard, is Who is Hegel He also believes himself history s catalyst who can speed the historical process to its goal by maximizing conflict wherever he can, on campus, among his acquaintances, or in his marriage.Kirk is a Richard III type figure an appalling human being who nevertheless fascinates the reader with his energy, audacity, and apparently flawless instinct for self advancement His energy also informs the novel s prose, which moves at a non stop present tense pace in long paragraphs that combine description, action, and dialogue in an stream uninterrupted by line breaks Reading the first few chapters I felt manic and exhausted until I adjusted my reading gears to match the novel s pace.I was bothered by William Stoner s apparent failure to see any relationship between his academic subject of Literature and his life outside the classroom and seminar This is certainly not an issue with Bradbury s academics, who bring their professional expertise to bear in understanding and conducting their lives There are people who ask the question How s the family and, receiving the answer Fine are perfectly satisfied there are other people, the real professionals, who expect the answer in a very different realm Families are Flora s business all over the world there are families, nuclear and extended, patriarchal and matriarchal, families cooked and families raw, which pause, rigid, in their work of raising children, bartering daughters, tabooing incest, practising wife exchange, performing rites of circumcision, potlatching, as Flora enters their clearing or their longhouse or their living room and asks, notebook in hand, How s the family It is a serious and searching question about the universe and, Flora is seeking a universal answer For Flora is famous for questions When she is not in her service flat in the leafy suburb, or out in the world on fieldwork, she is to be found at meetings and congresses, in small halls in London or Zurich here she habitually sits in a left hand aisle seat near the front and, the paper over, rises first, a pencil held high for attention, to ask the initial and most devastating question I d hoped to bring evidence to show the entire inadequacy of this approach Happily the speaker has, presumably unconsciously, performed the task for me in the paper itself As for my question Kirk s specialty of Sociology also informs the novel s narrative details of d cor, dress, and speech signify the characters places on the class and political spectra.Bradbury writes brilliantly here As indicated, he has that rare talent for matching form to content The dialogue is marvelously crafted as in Gaddis JR, the different voices of the many characters come across with distinctive phrasing and rhythm in the party scenes he is able to write dialogue that indicates the specific level of intoxication of each of the speakers The novel takes place over approximately 10 days in early October 1972, with a sort of epilogue set in December of that year After an introductory chapter establishing 1972 as the present , Bradbury gives us two chapters of back story on Kirk and his wife Barbara For me these served mainly to delay the novel s launch into its primary plot and seemed the one misjudgment in the author s otherwise masterful sense of structure.The novel is also funny as hell, the Sociology departmental meeting in Chapter 9 is worthy to stand with some of the comic scenes from Catch 22 Trading on success, the student representatives propose that membership of the department meeting be further expanded, to include representatives from the tea ladies The motion is put and passed Benita Pream, the administrative assistant, intervenes here, whispering first in Marvin s ear, then addressing the meeting she states that under regulations the tea ladies are not entitled to membership of department meetings The meeting passes a recommendation urging Senate to change regulations in order to permit tea ladies to serve on department meetings The resolution and the preceding one are both ruled out of order from the chair, on the ground that neither refers to any item on the agenda of the meeting A resolution that items not on the agenda of the meeting be allowed is proposed, but is ruled out of order on the grounds that it is not on the agenda of the meeting A resolution that the chair be held out of order because it has allowed two motions to come to the vote which are not, according to standing orders, on the agenda of the meeting is refused from the chair, on the grounds that the chair cannot allow motions to come to the vote which are not, according to standing orders, on the agenda of the meeting Also like Heller s novel, The History Man has au fond too dark an outlook to be unequivocally classified as a comic novel.David Lodge in The Guardian Nothing seems distant than the recent past, and the orange curtained, brown sofa d, Afghan coated 70s that forms the setting for this book appears impossibly alien today It starts off as a gentle satire of 60s and 70s radicalism, the right on Marxist Freudian Reichian posturing of the Kirks an easy target, particularly so from the perspective of today almost 50 years later But things soon get a lot darker, with the realisation that right on, liberal Howard is actually a monster, a charming sociopath whose single minded pursuit of his own gratification leaves a strew of damaged characters in its wake It s also a biting satire of conformity, as the staff and students espousing personal freedom and societal revolution are shown to have done nothing than cast off one oppressive ideology in favour of another Great style of writing too the disengaged, emotionally blank prose mirroring Howard s emotional detachment. I should probably rate this lower, as I ve given up on it.My book mark fell out and I didn t have the heart to flip through and find where I left off.The writing is actually pretty good, but I really wasn t into a mockery of 1970 s academics Halfway through and I cared nothing for the characters, nor was there anything insightful or actually funny in Bradbury s lampoon Don t like quitting books generally, but I liked quitting this one. Novel Howard Kirk Is The Trendiest Of Radical Tutors At A Fashionable University Campus A Self Appointed Revolutionary Hero, Howard Always Comes Out On Top And Malcolm Bradbury Dissects Him In This Savagely Funny Novel That Has Been Universally Acclaimed As One Of The Masterpieces Of The Decade While I really wanted to like this, and although I did enjoy the obvious descriptions of UEA, I found the whole thing rather difficult to finish I didn t find the writing funny enough to count as a comedy, but was aware that this was the aim of the piece In the end I just found it all rather uncomfortable to read, and felt that it was just trying too hard. Two men are sitting in a shadowed corner of a secluded bar drinking their favourite beer What book did you read this week, Tony asks one of the men The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury , replies Tony Did you like it , says the man, I mean, was it any good Tony puts his beer back down on the table and looks at his companion, Yeah, it was ok, Bob Just ok , says Bob, In what way was it just ok Well the story was detailed enough, almost to the nth degree as the characters analysed the plot with each other , says Tony, And the main character s backgrounds were told in the past tense which was a nice touch The past tense asks Bob That s right , says Tony, Because everything else is told in the present tense Bob takes a drink of his beer and looks at the clock on the wall The time is 11.20 in the evening and Bob remembers he must be home soon to get to bed as he has a busy day ahead of him What didn t you like about it says Bob Well the conversational style took some getting used to , says Tony, The characters dialogue is ping pong and printed as page long paragraphs A minor point surely , says Bob, What about the ideas Oh there s plenty of them in there , says Tony, Although I m not sure that an interpretation of the phrase Love thy neighbour means to rush about having promiscuous sex with all your friends and colleagues Bob looks at the clock again and thinks that his wife will be already in their bed waiting for him History is an inexorable process , says Tony Isn t that what Tolstoy said says Bob That s right , says Tony, Only Tolstoy added that man cannot influence it Our History Man thinks he can Bob takes a last drink of his beer and stands up Sounds like pretty existentialistic stuff to me , says Bob, However, if I don t make a move home soon, I ll be the one wanting to influence history Good night, Bob , says Tony as he watches his friend leave the bar and start the long walk up the hill towards home. The History Man is the story of the activist couple the Kirks The book starts from the premise that, like history, a true reactionary s path cannot changed by whichever contemporary events The Kirks, Howard and Barbara, live in the 1970s in Britain, Howard as a young professor of sociology, Barbara as a house wife, and find their true call in political activism their political credo is change, fueled with young student minds and promiscuous social exploration The writing style is interesting there is almost no descriptive passage or even passive tense, and most of the book is action despite a focus on political rhetoric On the negative sides, most of the characters in this story, including Barbara, remain coarsely defined, and the plot is rather thin Overall, an interesting topic but a wordy book.