The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 17 review

I’m currently reviewing chapters of War of the Encyclopaedists by Gavin Kovite and Christopher Robinson. As a Dune novel it’s pretty awful. This is pretty great reading material if you want to start writing fantasy novels. I feel like I’m learning a lot about the craft of writing just by obsessively pouring over these chapters.

Look forward to my own upcoming novel tentatively titled The Unstoppable Death Blade.

Chapter 17 is a Corderoy in Boston chapter.

Corderoy receives his essay and there’s no grade, only a note.

Professor Flannigan had written in the margin in red pen, Come along to my office at half-three so we can talk.

Corderoy, like me, is puzzled by the Brofessor’s European time.

So he shows up at 2:30pm and just hangs outside The Flanns’ office thinking about ♥Sylvie♥.

He sat there for the next hour, attempting to read Dafoe’s Roxana, which he had to finish for his Friday class, The Rise of the Novel.

Honestly, I wish there were more class scenes with Corderoy. That class sounds interesting.

Regarding ♥Sylvie♥:

Corderoy had scoured various social networking sites looking for Sylvies and anyone with bytheseashore as their handle. He’d found squat on Friendster, Live Journal, and Xanga, but after Googling “cystic fibrosis” and “Boston,” he’d stumbled onto the Web forums at, a community support site for people with chronic medical conditions.

The name dropping of the websites is pretty specific.Sometimes this book is surprisingly specific and other times really vague.

It turns out that there a woman named Sandra Fernandez created a fake person, Selena, to pretend to be sick and to garner sympathy. It’s pretty sick.

I think we all know where this is going.

Corderoy obviously wonders if he’s been catfished.

But to be safe, Corderoy had written to Charlie37, asking if he had seen the IM handle bytheseashore, or if there were any other things Sandra/Brita/Selena was known for.

The Flanns shows up and they go to office hours.

Corderoy is called upon to describe his essay.

Corderoy explained the sense of magnitude he’d experienced. He paraphrased the most important parts of the argument he’d made in the essay, that Joyce himself was the crafty Odyssean character, not Leopold Bloom,

Here I’m hindered by my lack of knowledge about Ulysses.

that the seemingly triumphal ending was best read in light of deceptive tendency, that Joyce’s vision of the female consciousness was that its intensity trumped its focus.

It makes me wonder about the end of this novel. I wonder if the authors are planning to be deceptive towards the audience. Also, I don’t know how to read the “female consciousness” and “intensity trumped its focus”. I just don’t understand it.

“Brilliant. I love it,” Professor Flannigan said.

Cool, I’m glad it’s good. I kind of wish he’d explain that last part.

“But I can’t accept it.”

So it turns out Corderoy wrote a brilliant essay that didn’t actually address what he was supposed to write about.

Flannigonigal lays some real talk on Corderoy:

This degree doesn’t lead anywhere else. If you want to survive in this career, you need to learn the language upon which the grand discussion is based.

I like that, The Grand Discussion. Sounds properly fantastical.

I’ve been thinking for a while that Corderoy has been a having a language issue since arriving in Boston. It’s kind of cool the book confirms that.

Corderoy arranges to get a rewrite of the essay then walks home.

When he crossed the Charles River into Cambridge, it began to rain. Not a Boston rain-storm but a Seattle drizzle. It reminded him of home, and it complicated his growing distaste for the city of Boston.

Well yeah. Boston seems like a long miserable experience for him.

As much as he’d been moved by Professor Flannigan’s speech that first day of class (the search for truth–what could be more important?), the whole enterprise felt like a game with no stakes.

I don’t know, it seems like a lot is at stake. Corderoy’s future career for example. I wonder what “stakes” would make the game seem less hollow.

But academics, he was learning, tended to take themselves quite seriously.

I mean, why not? Also, Corderoy takes himself seriously, just in not taking things seriously as a conscious act of coolness.

He went back outside into the rain to buy beer and ramen.

Man, that’s like super sad.

After eating, he distracted himself with Web comics and tech blogs.

Here’s what I mean about specificity. Like, Friendster, Live Journal, Xanga, but no webcomics or tech blog names to drop?

He reads the email from Charlie 37 and the horror is revealed. Selena loves Funfetti cupcakes.

Duh, duh, DUUHHHHH.

Well, this isn’t going to go over well.

This girl (♥Sylvie♥/Selena/Brita/Sandra?) had played him like a game of Candy Land.

To be fair, Corderoy was kind of getting off on playing her.

She could be anyone. A fat old dude. Some schizophrenic guy in a psych ward. She could even be Montauk, fucking with him

She could even be Montauk






Oh yes. Yes she could.

It would be too easy, to benevolent of the universe, the gulf between him and every other human reduced to a joke, a prank by his best friend. ♥Sylvie♥, a postcard from Montauk that said, Hey, Dickface, I miss you.

So this fake girl, ♥Sylvie♥, would act as … a sort of postcard to … transmit feelings from Montauk.

Corderoy laid back on the couch. He felt like he didn’t exist.

Don’t worry, buddy. You’ll be ok.


2 thoughts on “The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 17 review

  1. I think you missed the point of Corderoy’s disillusionment here. Corderoy naively thought the whole point of being an academic of his stripe was to generate brilliant insights into literature. Sort of how physicists think the whole point of their work is to determine better models for how the real world actually functions.

    Lo and behold, it turns out that’s not actually the case. Corderoy discovers, instead, that it’s his job as a grad student to learn how to jibber-jabber properly with other dudes who spend all their time doing the same thing in order to make tenure. Academia is essentially the party he got schooled at a couple of chapters ago, forever. For somebody who aspires to do something real, like Corderoy, this is a pretty big blow.

    I read the insight about Ulysses you couldn’t parse as a really pretentious way of saying that Joyce thinks that girls are more passionate than logical.


    • That’s a really great point! I feel like, due to the way I write these reviews (spaced out by weeks) that I’m missing more and more points in the novel.

      Thanks for the Ulysses translation. I think I tried to read Ulysses as a kid and found it incomprehensible.


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