Tag Archives: College Life

Paying for the Party by Elizabeth A. Armstrong

Synopsis: Subtitled: How College Maintains Inequality. Review: Paying for the Party is an ethnographic study of a so-called “party floor” at a midwestern university in one of the big football conferences. It looks at the effects of party culture on the young women who live on the floor and comes up with some shocking conclusions about the ramifications for society at large. Hint: the meritocracy is a myth. The author and her team identify three pathways through college life. The first, the party pathway, is…

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College Girl by Patricia Weitz

Synopsis: UConn transfer student Natalie finds that her lack of worldly experience can’t stand up to the pressures of a hot frat brother. Review: College Girl is really just a poor woman’s I Am Charlotte Simmons. I didn’t get sucked into Natalie’s story the way I had hoped to, because I usually love these kinds of tales, and I found myself frustrated with her relentless passivity (which she shares with Charlotte, but Wolfe made this almost an heroic quality in his heroine). Believe it or…

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The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay (The Fionavar Tapestry, Book One)

Synopsis: Five Toronto college students are pulled into an alternate world where they discover their true destinies at the outset of a war that could affect all worlds, including their own. Review: Yep, another hard-to-synopsize epic fantasy book. The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay employs one of the standard fantasy templates–ordinary people drawn into an extraordinary world–making the book “execution dependent.” That means that Kay has to work twice as hard to make the story feel fresh and exciting. Share on Facebook

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Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk

Synopsis: A headstrong Upper West Side yearns to escape her family’s Jewish Bronx origins and become a Broadway star. Review: This is the third or fourth time I’ve read Marjorie Morningstar, and every time I find myself absolutely riveted for the first two-thirds, then bored and indifferent for the final third, only to be knocked out by the epilogue. The book is rich with details and some astonishing set pieces–such as Seth’s bar mitzvah–but it’s hollow at the core. It’s as if author Herman Wouk…

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Sunless by Gerard Donovan

Synopsis: Bereft and aimless, an ex-meth head signs up to test a new drug promising to cure anxiety of all kinds. Review: I picked up Sunless because it promised a Chuck Pahlaniuk-esque satirical romp through all the woes of our modern age, dressed up in off-kilter post-apocalyptic trappings and with an addictive prose style. Instead, I suffered through a lazily written, incoherently plotted, almost aggressively aimless stylistic exercise that I had to force myself to finish reading. Thankfully it’s not very long, so I could…

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Unhooked by Laura Sessions Stepp

Synopsis: A dissection of hook-up culture on college campuses and in high schools, including anecdotal accounts. Review: More hand-wringing than Last Night in Paradise, less high-minded than Unprotected, Unhooked is more likely than either to provoke fear and consternation in the hearts of parents of teenagers across America–particularly if they’ve read I Am Charlotte Simmons and their daughter is looking at Duke University. Share on Facebook

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Last Night in Paradise by Katie Roiphe

Synopsis: A look at sexual mores in the age of AIDS. Review: I like a good polemic as much as the next person, particularly when it involves people having lots of sex, mostly because I always feel like that’s nice work if you can get it. Last Night in Paradise isn’t hard-hitting investigative journalism as much as it’s an apologia for all the sex that Roiphe and her friends had in the 80s and 90s: “look, we may have slept around but we are always…

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Blindness by Henry Green

Synopsis: A young man on the verge of university is blinded in a freak accident. Review: Henry Green’s later books Loving, Living, and Party Going were referenced quite a bit in Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, but I chose to start with Blindness because it was listed in the infamous 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. It’s a slim volume, and I breezed through it, though Green’s marvelous turns of phrase caused me to pause and relish. Share on Facebook

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Unprotected by Anonymous, MD

Synopsis: A survey of the state of affairs in campus counseling, presenting the argument that sexual activity is being left out of the equation with disastrous results. Review: The full title, Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in her Profession Endangers Every Student, offers a very good sense of the writer’s agenda, and she provides a great deal of evidence to support her claims. The term “political correctness” seems designed to tip off the right that she’s “one of us,” but really it’s…

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