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    Review of FLYNN'S WORLD by Gregory Mcdonald (see his website)

    Pantheon Books, 2003

    Francis Flynn, Boston's only police Inspector anticipates another ordinary day--setting a judge straight on a police frame, getting fired by the police Captain, and involving himself with his family. He's surprised when his daughter rousts him to rescue her boyfriend--whose ear has been nailed to a tree. The boyfriend refuses to tell who nailed him and quits the wrestling team leaving Flynn with a mystery. A second mystery soon comes foward. A Harvard professor, once a star but now out of style, has been receiving death threats. Flynn is directed to look into it by his spy-boss.

    Along with hapless sidekick Grover (call me Richard), Flynn learns that Harvard has gone downhill, descending into internal dissension and value-free studies. The aging professor's old-fashioned beliefs that certain ideas are better, that certain (well educated) people make better leaders, and that professors have a mission to teach are considered elitist and outdated. Especially by one assistant professor who openly mocks the aging don while letting his own children grow up in a value free and hazardous environment. Flynn's large family, by contrast, is composed of well behaved and nearly perfect children.

    Gregory Mcdonald's writing frequently left me laughing out loud. Flynn's wry comments and sly digs are appealing and certainly anyone would like to have Flynn's perfect family rather than the horrible life of the assistant professor (whose wife, unsurprisingly, is a child psychologist). Still, I think Mcdonald carried his message farther than the story allowed. Age-tested concepts and ideas may be fine, but then again, infant sacrifice, female mutilation, and witch-burning are age-tested ideas that survived for generations. Age and survival cannot be the test of an idea. Since Flynn is naturally perfect, he could certainly be our Platonic philosopher-king but, unfortunately, Flynn is fiction.

    Mcdonald tried to tone down his message a little by introducing a neo-nazi cop--apparently intent on showing that Flynn (and Mcdonald) are not the elitist white males that the young professor would make them. Perhaps Flynn's contempt for 'Grover' is also intended to demonstrate a general contempt for the less educated, regardless of race. I found, however, that Flynn's treatment of his assistant was cruel and undeserved as Grover had his eyes opened by spending time with the professor and developing a real humanity--something that Flynn doesn't seem to share.

    It's hard not to enjoy a Gregory Mcdonald book. His writing is very strong and compelling. His wit sparkles. It's hard to put FLYNN'S WORLD down--I read it in a single sitting despite the lateness of the hour. But it left an uncomfortable aftertaste.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 9/11/03

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