Title: Student Body
Author: Rafeeq O. McGiveron
Student Body is an allusive, finely grained genre-straddler that incorporates elements of romance, memoir, mystery, even something I might term “fiction of academia,” with mood ranging from mischievous to exulting to elegiac.
Charming young professor-to-be Rick O’Donnell seems to have it all, but he also hides a desperate secret: his brief, passionate affair with a beautiful girl who had been his own student just the semester before, and who now is a fellow teaching assistant with an office right down the hall from his. If the truth comes out, he will lose everything—his once-promising career, his marriage, perhaps even his life. Sensual, poignant, and lyrical, Student Body is a frank and intimate tale of a harrowing week and a half which will decide a deeply conflicted man’s entire future…and the lives of the women who love him.
Whenever people ask me about my novel, I’m excited to talk about it—and I’ve done so in print, on the web, and on the radio—but at the same time, really, Student Body actually isn’t easy to categorize. When I wrote it, I knew I was crossing the boundaries of several literary genres, but I didn’t care.
The book is deeply romantic, for example, but it definitely is not a romance novel per se. It has some elements of a murder mystery or thriller, but it definitely is not quite one of these. For setting and even certain characters and scenes, I was able to draw from some my own experiences, but the book definitely is not a memoir. I simply had a fictional story to tell, and I told it—movingly, artistically, and evocatively, I hope.
As the novel opens, glib, cocky doctoral student Rick O’Donnell seems to have it all: a loving wife and three young children, a coterie of wisecracking friends, the respect of his professors, and a bright future ahead of him.
The charming young professor-to-be, however, also hides a desperate secret: his brief, passionate affair with a beautiful girl who had been his ownstudent just the semester before, and who now is a fellow teaching assistant with an office right down the hall from his. If the truth comes out, he stands to lose everything—his once-promising career, his marriage, perhaps even his life.
Student Body is not about car chases or assassination plots or explosions, therefore, but about the secret needs we all have, the vulnerabilities and the confused motivations, the soul-searching and the angst. The protagonist may be flawed, but he is aware of his shortcomings and the wrongs he has committed, and is struggling now to do right. And yet as Rick is confronted with the one thing he cannot have revealed, he is forced in the desperate silence of his guilt to work through all the gnawing uncertainties and the memories he had thought were buried in the past.
Student Body has been hailed as “vivid” and “emotional,” “smoothly presented” and “carefully crafted,” with an “unexpected conclusion…both believable and satisfying” (http://curiousbookshop.blogspot.com/2014/06/rays-reviews-rafeeq-o-mcgiverons.html). The novel is poignant and introspective, the frank and intimate tale of a harrowing week and a half which will decide a deeply conflicted man’s entire future…and the lives of the women who love him. If you enjoy reading it even half as much as I enjoyed writing it, then I’ll be happy.
Chapter 4, pp. 49-50
“Congratulations again, by the way,” he said around a mouthful, “on that article you had accepted in Nineteenth Century Literature. Very prestigious.”
She beamed. “Oh, it won’t be printed for another year or two, probably,” she tried to protest.
“Doesn’t matter,” he maintained, “just as long as it’s been accepted. How many first-year master’s students publish as at all? How many are accepted by a decent journal instead of some rinky-dink regional newsletter or something? I mean, hey, you know Edgar, that little guy with black-rimmed glasses about a year behind me?”
“Dark curly hair?” she smirked. “Pudgy nebbish who’s a national champion in Scrabble or something?”
“Yeah,” he chuckled. “Well, he just had his first article accepted a little while ago, and it was in some weird thing whose name was longer than the title of his own piece. Quarterly Proceedings of the Society for the Study of Scandinavian Influence in the Midwest or somesuch.”
Lauren snorted, and soggy bits of half-chewed bread and turkey meat spewed across his tray. Tolerantly he brushed them aside. Yes, for that, from her, was a trifle, was it not?—nothing like a transgression even half as bad that had come from a stranger. He already had tasted the flavor of swallowed food in her laughing, lively, frisky mouth, after all—yes, and the bitter, slippery glaze of his own semen that still swam in the corrugations of her loving tongue, too.
Back then, as her hips moved sinuously to the beat of the Pretenders and her eyes glowed huge and dark and drowsily playful, she had indeed made him see that there was nobody else here, no one like she, for she was special—spe-cial—so special—spe-cial—she had to have some of his attention— And his poor guilty tonguetip, once running free and utterly without scruple or restraint, even now still knew every place upon the girl, and within her, from the curling little treats of her red-nailed toes, to that raised freckle on the inside of her right thigh while stray hairs curled ticklingly up into his helplessly dilated nostrils, and her fluttering belly and her girlish little breasts so high and upstanding and pale, and the silky, salty, secret skin of her languorous baby-smooth underarms, and her shoulders and her neck and her lovely sighing face, and then down again, down, down, down again, to slither and burrow, and content himself in slippery musky darkness, on and on and on—
Rick shivered, but Lauren, wiping her mouth, didn’t notice, and he forced steadiness into his voice as he continued, “My occasional 1200-word nitpick in The Explicator or side project in Extrapolation or Science-Fiction Studies on Bradbury or Heinlein are decent. That piece I did on Cather in Western American Literature is good—”
“I loved that article!” she said earnestly. “I don’t think anybody has ever thought of her treatment of the landscape in quite the same way you did. And the way they chose your essay to be first in that issue, over those full professors, and picked the cover art around it…” Her eyes shone with admiration. “Very impressive.”
Swallowing, Rick tried not to tumble into those worshipful dark orbs again, and sink down into their warm, welcoming depths. Why, when had his own wife been able to force herself through more than the first page or two of even his proudest scholarly accomplishments? Oh, she had complimented him most dutifully on his publications, of course, for she knew that such things were important in his field, and yet she did not understand the subtleties of literary meaning and expression which he investigated, nor, he suspected, had she really even tried. But this girl had, happily—and God, how her gaze could make him feel… Inwardly, he felt a faint loss of equilibrium, or perhaps a teetering back toward an older, secret kind of equilibrium to which he dared not return, not ever, not even to acknowledge to himself that in a way it still might exist…
He kept his voice steady, however, as he admitted, “Well, it was nice, I gotta say. And I think I can see this as the springboard for my dissertation…” He blinked.
“But about you,” he persisted, “Nineteenth Century Literature isn’t just good. Don’t kid yourself, kiddo, it’s great.” Solemnly he rapped his knuckle twice on the back on her slender white hand—he didn’t dare touch her further. “You just keep it up, and you’ll get yourself noticed.” He grinned wryly. “And for the right things, too.”
“Thanks, Rick,” she said sincerely. Before he could squirm away, she caught his hand in her graceful fingers, and as she gave his flesh a friendly squeeze and then released him, he tried to look very nonchalant.
Rafeeq O. McGiveron is a writer and educator with a knowledge of...well, writing and education, along with cats, stray bits of literature and history, and other miscellany. Having spent over 20 years as a professional academic, he holds a B.A. with Honor in English and History, an M.A. in English and History, and another M.A. in English. In the first 12 years of his career he taught English at places like Michigan State University, Lansing Community College, and Western Michigan University, while since the turn of the century he has focused on advising students at LCC.
As a writer, McGiveron currently may be best known for his literary criticism. In academic journals he has published some two-dozen articles on a fair range of authors, though it is his work on Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein that probably is most familiar to students. In 2013 he served as volume editor for a text on Fahrenheit 451 for Salem Press, after recruiting scholars from all around the world and writing about 10,000 words of it himself as well. In 2014 he released his novel, Student Body.
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