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This academic satire is about two professors and their families. Howard Belsey is a white secular liberal, a specialist in Rembrandt, who is engaged in ideological warfare with a visiting professor, Monty Kippes, a conservative Christian scholar from Trinidad. Each character in the story is undermined by his or her self-deceptions. Howard’s attachment to theoretical knowledge seems to preclude understanding or controlling his adulterous behavior. Smith brilliantly draws these and other characters and gently but wittily pierces their illusions and pretensions. Howard’s African-American wife, Kiki, is one of the few characters to offer emotional or moral ballast, along with her son Jerome, who rejects his parents’ secularism for a newfound Christianity.

 

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