Alison Lurie was a long time professor in the Department of English at Cornell. As I work at Cornell, I always meant to read her. So, I picked up “The Last Resort” to see if her fame, which seems to be part of Cornell but also transcends it, is justified.
Not surprisingly, "The Last Resort" deals with academics, or former academics, trying to find meaning in their later years (as this is one of her later novels) in the face of deteriorating reputations, ill-health, and just plain old existential angst. As a writer who spent most of her time in academia, that she should write about academics is surprise (after all, most writers these days are academics of some sort).
What saves "The Last Resort" from the banalities of these themes is that Lurie can genuinely write. She uses language in creative and intelligent ways, taking a look at old topics and giving them new life. She is able to capture character in all its confusing glory, and wrestle with plot as an organizing element to keep character, description and flow alive.
This is a pleasantly surprising novel: a deep rumination on life, aging, and thinking for a living.