A Tenured Professor

by John Kenneth Galbraith. Houghton Mifflin, $19.95. When a well-known economist turns to fiction, it is naturally to be expected that his novel will involve economics. Professor Galbraith’s novel concerns both financial maneuvers and Harvard University, where his protagonist achieves tenure by belaboring and elaborating the subject of “Mathematical Paradigms in an Approach to Refrigerator Pricing” (which nobody understands although all pretend to), while quietly making a large fortune through a system for measuring unwarranted euphoria among investors. Things go well until the Feds take notice. Professor Galbraith juggles four victims in this irreverently satirical tale: Harvard, which is always a fine target for the deflationary knife jab; the mass hysteria that causes investors to assume that up is the only direction; official prattle about the American way; and the eccentricities of his own arcane profession. He is, in short, playing fairly as well as funnily.