Charlie Tyson’s The Apocalyptic New Campus Novel is about Christine Smallwood’s debut novel of academic precarity, The Life of the Mind (2021). The review opens with Tyson’s dream, which is probably shared by many scholars who are also thinking “at least I can tell people I work at…”:
Early in graduate school, I had a curious dream. I had finished my dissertation, but no job was forthcoming. Taking pity on me, my department hired me to perform the functions of a janitor-cum-chambermaid. A pathetic scene followed. I found myself down on my hands and knees, scrubbing the floor tiles of the humanities building, choking on the fumes of cleaning fluid, squeezing my rag into a bucket of dirty suds. Students teemed past holding lattes. My former professors averted their eyes. “At least I can tell people I work at Harvard,” I thought madly, as hot tears spilled down and mingled with the lemon disinfectant.