A Novel Departure: Fight for Your Long Day: A Novel. Alex Kudera. Kensington, MD: Atticus, 2010. Reviewed for Academe by Isaac Sweeney who writes,
I laughed at parts of Fight for Your Long Day, a new novel (excerpt Ch 3 online) by Alex Kudera. At other parts of the novel, I felt inspired. But most of all, Fight for Your Long Day made me sad. Part of my sadness came because Kudera writes elegantly and has created an insightful, tragic, sometimes comic protagonist (I dare not call him a hero) named Cyrus Duffleman, whom the narrator calls "Duffy." He reminds me of Hamlet—a bit of an introverted whiner, but the kind you love to hear whine. I'm sad when Duffleman is sad. I'm even sadder when he has bits of hope, like when there's the prospect of an affair with an attractive student, because I know it won't work out for him. As with any other effective tragic character, there's something satisfying in watching his tragedy unfold.
The bulk of my sadness comes from my ability to relate to Duffleman. As I write this, I am a full-time nontenure- track instructor in Virginia. I teach four first-year writing courses at James Madison University and one composition course at Blue Ridge Community College. I supplement my teaching income with freelance writing and editing. Fight for Your Long Day is set in Philadelphia, and Duffleman, like me, is a contingent instructor (I dare not call him a professor). He, too, teaches at multiple colleges and universities. He supplements his teaching income with a tutoring job at the corporatized University of America and with shift work as a security guard at another college.... Duffleman's (and Kudera's) insights are profound at times....But it is Duffleman's hope in the face of adversity that is inspiring to a fellow contingent faculty member. I am better for reading it....
After reading the novel, I'm sad also because relatively few of us are doing more than complaining to air. Cyrus Duffleman and Fight for Your Long Day cast light on this situation. I hope the novel is popular enough to make a big change; it has already changed me.
Academe's reviewer Isaac Sweeney is a writer who spent three years as a full-time non-tenure-track instructor. James Madison University did not renew his appointment for the spring 2011 semester. His essays about the profession have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. His e-mail address is email@example.com.