Classifying the present college generation as silent, apathetic, conformist, or security-minded is the most chic of today's intellectual fashions. Now, Richard Frede, a Yale graduate of about four years back, has contributed as his first novel an expose dissection of what he terms our "IBM generation."
Entry E has been acclaimed in some quarters for its out-spoken presentation of a "typical" college youth's overly cautious moral apathy. Unfortunately, the novel is disappointing, primarily because of clumsy characterization and over-simplification
Presumably, Entry E's Hayden University serves as an alias for New Haven's gothic pile. Ed Bogard, a junior majoring in architecture, turns out to be the never-take-a-chance representative of our college generation.
Bogart finds himself dateless on the big Princeton weekend and is drinking his way through to Monday when Diana-Sue arrives, a girl with flexible morals and eager glands. Bogard's friends, sports all, treat their visiting nymph to liquor, grain alcohol, benzedrine, and then exercise her in a "gangbang." Thus even sex becomes organized for the IBM generation.
A neighbor to this orgy, Bogard realizes that to help the girl he must commit himself, for once, to action--the moral crux of the book. To call the Yard Cops is outside "the code," and in trying to break up the festivities himself he is discouragingly slammed around. Finally, he and a med-school friend put the girl into some kind of shape and send her home. Bogard is called before the deans to answer for his failure to notify the police. But because he tried to help the comatose slut, Bogard is not expelled, but allowed to resign for a year from Hayden.
The assets of the book life lie chiefly in its small touches--description of the weather and of Yalie breakfast conversation.
Although frequent use of capitals of express The Big Ideas is annoying and the prose often cumbersome, the primary fault of the book is its over-simplification. To present the character of Bogard, Frede resorts to a modern-day equivalent of good and bad angels. Bogard's thoughts are conveyed through two of his mental creations named Slide Rule and The Third Person. Calculation and commitment contend for the sould of the present generation.
The use of these two devices seems to indicate that the writer did not have the skill or the patience to develop his protagonist without artificially bisecting him into two idea-vehicles. Bogard loses depth and reality as a college student and becomes a clumsy allegorical figure in a twentieth-century morality play.
The crude presentation of theme is as irritating as the superficial characterization of Bogard. The author hammers at what he considers the problem of our generation: we lack conviction or concern enough to take a stand on any significant issue. The interview between Bogard and the dean forms a superfluous gift-wrapped packaging of the book's thesis. The dean declares that Bogard's is the "Indifferent" Generation.
Frede's diagnosis may be accurate for a segment of the present college generation, but it is certainly to glib. Bogard suggests that "we've been taught a helluva lot of Don'ts and almost no Do's." causes of apathy are much deeper and more complex than Frede's closing explanation suggests. In sum, the author fails to convince the reader that he is capable of more than a tabloid presentation of character or idea.
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