I bought this book several months ago before I had read any Joan Ellis because I loved the Paul Rader cover — this disproportionate woman with a glazed, dazed barbie-doll look on her face, walking down a campus and all these frat boys and book-carrying academics staring at her ass and wolf-calling her. This was a rader motif — men are often staring atwomen, or women at women, or women looking at themselves in the mirror…either, someone is observing someone, which draws our attention more to that person.
Of course, this is not what Faculty Wife is about. The wife in question is Fran, a former computer programmer (progressive for 1966!) who is married to a young consumer research wiz who has published key papers and has left the corporate world to teach. The college wants him for his published works — he does not have a Ph.D. and this pisses off the old researchers because he’s well-published and has world experience in the consumer trade field.
Boy this rings a bell — I have seen and experienced the same in literature, sociology, and anthropology: the fellow with no high degree but lots of publications and practical hands-on know-how frightens the dusty Ph.D.’s who can never get their dull work published.
Ellis must know this world too, because she writes with autheticity.
Many of her books are set in college or high school, often dealing with confused, over-sexed girls age 17-19, such as Campus Jungle, Campus Kittens, The Cool Co-eds, After Class, High Shcool Hellion, Girl’s Dormitory, Odd Girl on Campus, Campus Pet, Campus Rebel, Campus Affair, etc. Her other themes are young women in the entertainment industry (Flame, Redhead, Pleasure Girl, Daughter of Shame) and young women in the office work life (Temporary Secretaryl, Executive Sweet), and bored housewives (Day In, Day Out, Married Too Young, No Last Names). She also wrote quite a few of the Midwood doubles and triples under Ellis, Michaels, and some other names. Rader did the covers of most of Ellis’ books — they seemed a good match.
The hellion in Faculty Wife is not Fran but 19 year old Shirl, a spoiled rich girl who can’t stand to not get her way, or whatever man she wants, student or professor. She is sleeping with a grad student and the drama teacher, and she has her gun sites on Craig, Fran’s husband. A newlywed, he has no interest and that drives her crazy, so she sets up a situation and tries to break up the marriage.
Fran is gorgeous, but the students are not chasing her — other professors are, damn that she’s married. Ellis captures the little petty sexual games within academic politics well.
The nice irony is that Fran, thinking Craig cheated on her with Shirl, goes out and sleeps with the drama prof as revenge…then she finds out Craig neverdid anything and Shirl made it up. Fran shows no guilt or remorse.
The book ends in a strange, anti-climatic way. Country Girl did too. This seems to be Ellis’ style — a sorta New Yorker-ish literary trick: dangling the slice-of-life ending…
Joan Ellis is really Julie Ellis, who wrote under other pen names for other houses, but mostly Midwood as Joan and Linda Michaels. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Lynn Munroe:
LM: What pen names did you use?
Julie Ellis: I was Joan Ellis and Linda Michaels for Midwood. I was Jill Monte for Beacon and Domino, and Susan Richard at Paperback Library. My daughter is Susan, my son Richard. Susan Marvin became Susan Marino for one book when an editor at Avon wanted an Italian name on a book. I was Allison Lord and Jeffrey Lord. And I did some paperback originals under my own name before going hardcover/softcover with Simon & Schuster in 1975.
LM: I found some of your books at my local used bookstore in the romance section.
Ellis: I’ve never written paperback romances. Today the term “romance novels” is being widely expanded. I’ve done multigenerational novels, historicals, and romantic suspense.
I will be reading Girl’s Dormitory and Campus Jungle next.