Cover of The Guest Lecture

The Guest Lecture

Martin Riker

ere we have a novel not of ideas but of the feelings about ideas. About what ideas make us do and become and create things inside us we can’t see until later if at all, about disillusionment with ideas and with people who once held lit us on fire. Abby is a precariously un-tenured and spectacularly insomniac economics professor, lying awake next to her sleeping daughter and husband while confronting the anxiety about the next day’s talk on John Maynard Keynes she is unprepared to give. I found The Guest Lecture playful, touching, smart and surprising, and it made me up Riker’s first novel, Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return on my to-be-read list. I first learned of him as co-founder of the Dorothy Project, but he is one hell of a writer, The last time I felt this deeply trapped inside another consciousness was Ducks, Newburyport.

Book Info

Grove Press, Black Cat (2023)
ISBN/EAN Product Code
Publisher Description

With “a voice as clear, sincere, and wry as any I’ve read in current American fiction” (Joshua Cohen), Martin Riker’s poignant and startlingly original novel asks how to foster a brave mind in anxious times, following a newly jobless academic rehearsing a speech on John Maynard Keynes for a surprising audience In a hotel room in the middle of the night, Abby, a young feminist economist, lies awake next to her sleeping husband and daughter. Anxious that she is grossly underprepared for a talk she is presenting tomorrow on optimism and John Maynard Keynes, she has resolved to practice by using an ancient rhetorical method of assigning parts of her speech to different rooms in her house and has brought along a comforting albeit imaginary companion to keep her on track–Keynes himself. Yet as she wanders with increasing alarm through the rooms of her own consciousness, Abby finds herself straying from her prepared remarks on economic history, utopia, and Keynes’s pragmatic optimism. A lapsed optimist herself, she has been struggling under the burden of supporting a family in an increasingly hostile America after being denied tenure at the university where she teaches. Confronting her own future at a time of global darkness, Abby undertakes a hero’s quest through her memories to ideas hidden in the corners of her mind–a piecemeal intellectual history from Cicero to Lewis Carroll to Queen Latifah–as she asks what a better world would look like if we told our stories with more honest and more hopeful imaginations. With warm intellect, playful curiosity, and an infectious voice, Martin Riker acutely animates the novel of ideas with a beating heart and turns one woman’s midnight crisis into the performance of a lifetime. (Publisher’s Description)

On this shelf:
Books Read in 2023