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"I had a great time reading Flunky...a good, ribald academic comedy."
"Money is oil to dignity's water."
So muses John Deyme, the eager bumbler of Flunky. Fully ambitious and fully talentless, John is determined to impress West Central College president Don Boyle, a savvy practitioner of rough-and-tumble, Chicago-style patronage and politics.
As associate dean, John greases the skids for the mercurial Boyle's schemes. John becomes an academic bag man, buying off Boyle's enemies and manipulating faculty union elections. John's willingness to roll in the dirt of realpolitik impresses his superiors, and soon he is assigned dicier tasks, such as destroying public housing to pave the way for West Central's campus expansion. Along the way, John has comic clashes with faculty union zealots, with Jo Ann Staulen, the college's grim PC Dean, and with his drinking pal and fellow flunky Bruce Herrig.
John's personal life is also an ever messier tangle: he loves and quickly loses Lydia Fairview, a fellow administrator slyly on the make; he has an affair with Lauren, a neurotic car saleswoman; and he tramples the one purely good thing in his life--friendship with the Kwangs, his Korean immigrant neighbors--by becoming more than neighborly with Kim Kwang, a high school senior.
Ultimately, John is left to muse on the wreckage of his career and friendships--even as his bitterest rivals emerge unscathed and prosperous.