“Still in Love: A Novel” by Michael Downing— Leaving the World Behind

Downing, Michael. “Still in Love: A  Novel”,  Counterpoint Press, 2019. Leaving the World Behind Amos Lassen
English 10 at Hellman College is a very popular course. Mark Sternum is a veteran teacher who has been separated for six months from his longtime lover. He desperately wants to duck the overtures of double-dealing deans above him and disgruntled adjunct faculty below him, Mark has one ambition every day he is on campus. He really just wants to be able to close the classroom door and leave the world behind. This hope is complicated by his contentious and complicated relationship with the Professor, the tenured faculty member with whom Mark has co-taught this creative-writing workshop for ten years. This relationship gives  students (and the rest of us), a chance to learn what an amazing arena the classroom can be. This is the story of one semester in a college classroom and a reminder that we desperately need classrooms where we learn to love our lives. Downing wonderfully and poignantly illustrates the dynamics of the college classroom as well as its potential for lasting lessons.  The book is also a sequel to “Perfect Agreement” which Downing wrote twenty years ago. While it is a sequel, it also stands alone. We meetstriving adjuncts teachers, grade-grubbing students, and smug professors, Downing uses academia as an object of ridicule. Here is a new meaning to the word “classroom” as a space for reflection, rumination, and pause “in a world that doesn’t seem to be stopping”. What we read is both very funny and genuinely moving. By poking fun at university politics and the comedy of manners that every teacher witnesses on a daily basis, Downing gives us quite a look at the classroom.  But this is also a love letter to teaching, students, and the classroom. We also have an entire classroom filled with irresistible characters. Downing captures the alchemy of teaching and learning and chimes in on subjects race, beauty, heartbreak, grammar, gender, mortal illness, and growing up. We are moved as we laugh and if, like me, you have spent your life teaching, you will zo love this book (because you identify with it).

Leave a Reply