It’s a novel in rituals, a novel to read and reread until you disappear into its demon-ridden thickets of meaning and emerge as anything, a six-headed elk-owl that sings in the voice of Nancy Sinatra, a cenobitic orca, the end of Hegel.
Both an exorcism of contemporary academia and a comedic portrait of an artist seeking the means to survive
At once angry and jubilant, Ray Levy’s School is a curse on a dying system and an incantation for transforming pain into a vessel for capacious, creative selfhood.
A dissertation manuscript possessed by the spirit of Marquis de Sade; a lecture on psychoanalysis delivered as stand-up comedy by a dysphoric graduate student; a review of a found-footage horror movie that’s also a YouTube video of a conference presentation on French theory; an interview with an avant-garde filmmaker that’s really an invocation for conjuring your demon brother; oversharing and withholding, chanting and channeling, School is a slapstick roast of Derrida’s corpse and a mystical vision of a life in which you have not lost.
Ray Levy’s School is a blistering and bitterly funny send-up, lampooning deconstructionism and the academy at large. With crackling wit and exhilarating formal play, Levy has given us a welcome antidote to the toxic culture of (some) graduate degree programs in literary studies.
There is such pleasure to be found in School, such virulence and cruelty. It’s a novel in rituals, a novel to read and reread until you disappear into its demon-ridden thickets of meaning and emerge as anything, a six-headed elk-owl that sings in the voice of Nancy Sinatra, a cenobitic orca, the end of Hegel.
School is a tour de force of deadpan wit, a delicious détournement in which Levy amusingly mingles (and mangles) various scholarly and cultural archives. Mashing up a range of cult materials (from Bride of Frankenstein to Venus in Furs to The Animal That Therefore I Am), Levy impishly enacts an immanent institutional critique against the cult of intellectual celebrity, the cult of deconstruction, and the cult of academia. It is hard not to feel a shudder of schadenfreude at witnessing Levy’s hilariously clever low blows to high theory. This is cutting-edge academic satire of the highest order.