by Arnold Silver

Published by Strawberry Hill Press

189 pages

Buy it online






No Shortchanging on Silver's Novel


Reviewed by Linda L. Richards


It is the unnamed but perhaps not-too-distant future and all of the American left's good intentions have run amok. Or so it seems to me. It does not, however, seem so to Shortchangers' hero, Jonas Trelawny who believes in cultural diversity and equal opportunities for all to the depths of his waspy core.

Shortchangers is set at a large American university where political correctness does not even begin to touch how correct everything must be. Jonas is a professor of physics and dean as well as champion to the downtrodden who are about to tread on him. It is an educational environment where teachers are required to wear the clothes of their forebears and words containing man have been struck from the teaching vocabulary:

He remembered the bitter battle three years ago with the Women's Studies Department's insistence that most "man" and "men" syllables words be banned -- as in manufacture, salesmanship, manuscript, mental, penmanship, and four hundred other words. Only a handful of words -- like maniac, manslaughter and semen -- were to be allowed. Jonas and his friend Virginia Solotaria of Women's Studies finally resolved the crisis by recommending that the letter "I" replace the "a" and the "e," and soon everyone on campus had memorized the perfect sentence: "Miny showmin and minagers have different regimins and minners."

Shortchangers is a delightful book. Author Arnold Silver has taught at universities in the United States, Canada and Germany and is currently based at the University of Massachusetts: he knows a thing or two about universities, and this familiarity with the culture and politics at a modern American facility of higher learning brings a certain authenticity to this fantastical tale.

Silver is a confident writer. His characters are believable and it's difficult to not gain belief in the situation as well: a good thing gone over the top and the end nowhere in sight. He's written a book that resonates with a hyper-reality that none of us will find to difficult to imagine.

Shortchangers is a very funny work. Silver's subtle humor is wonderful. He plays the story straight and we find the humor all on our own, which somehow makes that humor all the more rich and precious. It would have been easy to tell this story as a moral tale, but Silver doesn't take the bait and the result is both entertaining and even somewhat thought-provoking.

Don't let the dreary and dated cover put you off; Shortchangers is a worthwhile read and Silver a wordsmith of merit. | July 23, 1998


Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of the Madeline Carter novels: Mad Money, The Next Ex and Calculated Loss.