If you're still hunting for something to read this summer, look no further. Susan Choi's "My Education" is a chaise-lounge literary page-turner par excellence: sexy, smart, well-plotted, jammed with observations witty and profound, and so well-written it occasionally leaves you gasping. If, like me, you haven't read her earlier novels, which landed Choi finalist spots for both the Pulitzer and the PEN/Faulkner prizes, you may want to drop everything and spend the rest of July and August with her, too. These earlier works -- "The Foreign Student," "American Woman" and "A Person of Interest" -- have radically different subject matter than the current one, but once you experience Choi's prose style, you'll be ready to read her grocery lists.
I guess I'm in love. And so is the protagonist of "My Education," Regina Gottlieb. In 1992, Regina arrives on the campus of a Cornell-like university as a graduate student in writing. The first week she catches sight of the notorious professor Nicholas Brodeur. "He wore a long duster coat, in the heat of September. His filthy blond hair stuck up and out in thatchy spikes from heavy use of some kind of pomade, as if it were 1982, not '92, and he wore Lennon shades with completely black lenses, as if it were outdoors, not in, and overall, in his resemblance to a Joy Division poster, he comported himself as if twenty and not, as I'd come to find out, almost forty."
Intrigued beyond reason, Regina signs up for Brodeur's advanced seminar in Chaucer, a subject about which she knows nothing and which she attends in a get-up she describes as "Catwoman of Academe." (I believe I wore this same outfit to a Russian history class I took in my first semester at college, and for the same reasons.) Despite her novice status, Regina ends up becoming Brodeur's teaching assistant and is soon after invited to a dinner party at his house. At this Buñuel-worthy event, at which the guests drink a case of wine before any food appears, Regina meets Brodeur's wife, Martha Hallett. In a shocking twist, the two end up making out in the solarium.