Atticus Books

Fight for Your Long Day

Do we have to follow protagonist Cyrus Duffleman into a grimy restroom at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station and bear witness to his efforts at relieving himself? Yes, we do, because Alex Kudera’s examination of the life of an itinerant adjunct professor in his debut novel Fight for Your Long Day is as unflinching as it is exhaustive. To put it another way, Kudera takes us into the restroom with Duffleman because that’s how the life of an adjunct works — and trying to make ends meet by rushing from a gig teaching Technical Writing at one college to a separate gig teaching Freshman Composition at a school across town lends itself to a life largely spent relieving oneself wherever one can find even a moment of privacy.

Needless to say, Kudera’s novel is about much more than unpleasantness in public restrooms. Indeed, as debates over higher education heat up across the country, the role of adjunct or part-time instructors is coming under increasing scrutiny. A June 2008 article in The Atlantic titled “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower” has, for example, recently metastasized into a book bearing the same name, and a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that unions are stressing the correlation between better faculty conditions — particularly for adjunct professors — and student success. What Fight for Your Long Day adds to the conversation is a play-by-play depiction of a single “long” day in the life of an adjunct, which involves working at no fewer than four institutions, witnessing a political assassination, getting roped into a poorly-thought-out sexual escapade involving a student, and arguing endlessly with himself over a slew of intellectual and cultural issues revolving around race, class, and gender.

Adjunct instructors from the Philadelphia area will find this novel particularly interesting, as much of it is set in thinly-veiled versions of Temple University, Drexel University, and University of Pennsylvania. Having worked at both Drexel and Temple myself, I’d even go so far as to call the novel haunting. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Kudera and I walked the same halls and taught concurrently in adjacent classrooms. As Fight for Your Long Day makes especially clear, the life of the adjunct can be a solitary one — and one rife with all manner of drama and intrigue.

– Review by Marc Schuster

Nazareth, North Dakota

In this incredibly imaginative debut novel, Tommy Zurhellen fills the literary void between Jonathan Goldstein’s Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible (which presents a new take on the Old Testament) and the Left Behind series (which takes on the Book of Revelation and the tribulations contained therein) with a fresh look at the story of Christ. This time around, however, Christ is raised in a small town in North Dakota, and his name is Sam. What’s more, an elephant has escaped from a traveling circus, the town’s corrupt sheriff has just passed away, and a young rabble-rouser named Jan is making trouble on the banks of the Little Missouri with talk of the imminent arrival of a prophet.

Nazareth, North Dakota, however, does far more than offer an updated version of the New Testament. Rather, by transplanting the story of Christ to a contemporary setting, Zurhellen moves his readers from the somewhat two-dimensional realm of the iconic to a complex world of competing motivations, fears, hopes, and desires. In other words, he humanizes the story of Christ and, in so doing, manages to tell one heck of a tale that’s as much about the complexity of living in the modern world as it is about reinventing the icons of Christian tradition. All of this is to say that Nazareth, North Dakota isn’t just clever. It’s also an engaging and compelling read — an excellent book from a promising new voice in literature.*

*By which I mean the author.  Coincidentally, the press that’s responsible for Nazareth, North Dakota, Atticus Books, is also a promising new voice in literature. Check them out at their website!

Review by Marc Schuster