The Realm of Means

David Hull
232 pp
$15 Cdn
It's 1987 and Allen Smythe has just joined the department of philosophy at St George U, and things aren't going well. Secretly doubtful of his own merits, and still stinging from a recent breakup, he immerses himself in writing Against Hope and relies heavily on the kindness of his mentor to keep his spirits up. But although Allen may not be interested in faculty politics, faculty politics is interested in him...

The only thing the newest professor, Allen Smythe, wants to do is think. Think about hope (he's against it); think about not thinking about his recent breakup. But the department's a busy place. Frederick Ash, the prof with the Jag, is pushing his plan for Just-In-Time Philosophy. Chair Gerhardt Gerber seems to be courting an American superstar as his successor. And a young undergrad is causing Allen distress with her (possibly imaginary) infatuation. But after a shocking faculty death, Allen finds himself immersed in the rumors and whispers of a bitter power struggle. Then a stranger shares a secret that thrusts him into an agonizing dilemma: whether to speak, or stay silent. A comedy of manners and a tragedy of doubts, The Realm of Means explores the bonds of friendship that hold us together, and the invisible wires that reel us away to our fates.