Merrimon Book Reviews

Hippolyte Taine
hief theoretical influence of French naturalism, a major proponent of sociological positivism, and one of the first practitioners of historicist criticism

Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets was possibly the first thorough-going exercise in biographical criticism.
Biographical criticism is a form of Literary criticism which analyzes a writer's biography to show the relationship between the author's life and their works of literature

Stanley Fish
American literary theorist

From Merrimon Book Reviews
Dominance by Will Lavender
by Will Lavender

Thriller: Literary Theory in the Xtreme!

Jasper College offers a totally new cutting edge, even outrageous, class.  Richard Aldiss, a specialist in the great new novelist Paul Fallows, will be teaching the new course, Unraveling a Literary Mystery and only a select few will be chosen to participate.  There is only one hitch.  Aldiss was convicted for the murders of two female grad students so he will be conducting the class with video feed from his prison cell.  Aldiss encourages his students to solve the mystery of Paul Fallows, a man whose true identity is more smoke and mirrors than true straightforward biography.  The subject matter so inspires the students that their studies become a part of their lives.  Fifteen years later, the body of one of the class alumni is found chopped up with an axe surrounded by Fallows novels.   Now a Harvard professor, Alex Shipley, wonders if somehow she made a mistake.  Those many years ago she solved thr mystery of Fallows identity as well as uncovering evidence that exonerated Aldiss of the earlier murders.  Can she use her knowledge of Paul Fallows and his novels to find the identity of the killer and prevent the murders of her classmates?

Will Lavender's academic thriller DOMINANCE takes literary studies to an Xtreme level.  In a narrative that alternates between past and present, the author allows readers to feel the excitement of the pursuit of literary studies, studies that become part of the inner life of the students as well as the later life of the characters.  Carefully interweaving past and present, Will Lavender parcels out clues in just the right measure to escalate the mystery and the edgy academic and psychological suspense.  Readers who have spent a large chunk involved in the pursuit of literary studies will find a certain humorous element as Will Lavender exaggerates certain familiar elements to thriller level.  The description of Jasper College couldn't help but remind me of my own small college and graduate degree program in one sense, although magnified resulting in an entirely creepy tone.  Even the literary exercise, The Procedure, could easily be a new form of literary theory extolled by the newest trends among academics.  Will Lavender creates a discomforting yet slightly humorous environment, a world both familiar and unfamiliar in degree, for the literary insider.

DOMINANCE keeps a reader on the edge of the seat with twists and turns to keep one guessing until the very shocking end.  One part of the maze opens to reveal another completely different direction.  One solved puzzle opens into another puzzle.  Will Lavender blurs the boundaries between truth and literary game (a game that on one level seeks to reveal a different kind of truth), ramps up the level of competition between the players, all the while tying together intellectual choices and high stakes danger.  I enjoyed this thriller so much that I ordered his past work OBEDIENCE within hours of finishing the last page to save for reading while I eagerly await the author's next academic thriller.  Superb!

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 5, 2011)
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Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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