A novel written by Jon Hassler, published in 1995. The story takes place in the fictional northern town of Rookery, Minnesota, in the late 1960s. Professors at the Rookery campus of the State University system are grumbling about the College Board's decision to use money slated for salary increases for campus improvements instead. To protest, the professors join a union (the Faculty Alliance of America) and organize a strike. The ordinary townspeople view the professors as lazy snobs and do not support the strike.
The strike plot is not really the focus of the book, however. Instead, the reader is allowed to become an insider to the characters' lives. The book title derives from the band, "The Icejam Quintet", formed by four of the first-year professors and Leland Edwards, Professor of English. Leland plays the piano, living out his lifelong dream to be part of a group of musicians. Peggy Benoit, Professor of Music from Boston, provides vocals and also plays saxophone. Victor Dash, recovering from a head injury and using his experience working on pipelines to become the campus union leader, takes out his aggression on the drums. Neil Novotny, a young novelist who is absolutely awful in the classroom and not much better at writing, provides a squeaky clarinet. The bassist is Conner, an alcoholic painter who has come to Rookery to get away from the temptations of Minneapolis.
In a quiet way, which the less-patient reader might find excruciating, Hassler opens each person's life against the background of Minnesota culture. He shows us Connor, renouncing the bottle, painting eerily beautiful mother-daughter portraits while his own wife and daughter become more and more estranged from him. He shows us Neil, typing feverishly on his novel in a windowless basement, bribing his students to come to class, always one misstep away from being fired. There is Leland, still living with his widowed mother, playing daily piano concerts without an audience, and escaping to the lake or river with his fishing rod whenever possible. There is Peggy, who is only in Rookery until she can get hired by one of the more prestigious New England colleges, falling in love with Connor. There is also Victor, who has the perfect wife and a troop of children, banned from manual labor by his accident but still able to rouse the sleepy college faculty with his voice. The interactions of these people and others make surprisingly good reading.
Hassler also wrote a sequel called The Dean's List.