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On the Shelf

By Alfred FRIENDLY Jr.

Considering the infuriating self-consciousness which is apparently indispensable to the manufacture of yearbooks, the editors of 323 have produced a strangely wishy-washy whitewash in their year-book's pages. This cultivated objectivity is laudable in an Associated Press dispatch, but it is not all which might be hoped of such perceptive reporters.

Almost every "news" article--even those in the "Atmosphere" section--ends with a piously optimistic paragraph. The faults which are found with Harvard and the various Harvard systems are handled curtly, if at all, yet the overall impression of each article is generally insufficient to support the hopeful conclusions. Perhaps the malaise which the editors feel is so subjective and individualistic that it is inexpressible. Indeed, the various mood pieces in 323 reflect only personal unhappiness. General conclusions or even general sentiments never emerge. It is fair to ask whether the editors who have covered the Harvard scene so thoroughly found nothing whatsoever which seriously disturbed them, no issues which they thought their experience entitled them to explore. If the answer is negative, then surely they are not good reporters.

But the coverage which the yearbook gives to the community is generally thorough and competent. In this sense, 323 fulfills part of its editorial standard of being "a lasting, accurate record of what happened at Harvard in a given span." Of course, there are a few inaccuracies: the CRIMSON does accord its Radcliffe members full privileges within a merged organization; Dr. Henry A. Kissinger is scarcely a "strong supporter of the Eisenhower-Dulles foreign policy." Moreover, it is unfortunate that the copy deadline is so early, for the editors might now wish to revise their some-what pessimistic comments on the vigor of House drama and would surely wish to mention Fidel Castro's visit alongside that of Ambassador Menshikov. Yet the scope of 323 is commendable, and in most cases the writing of the articles is satisfactory and occasionally enlightening.

The editors, however, have left unfulfilled the second part of their goal: that of recording "experience" and of having their publication cast "a light in its own right, a sort of headlamp throwing parts of mental landscape into severe relief." The catholicity of the book itself precludes effective discrimination. But more important, one misses a sense of perceptivity in their comments on the lecture system, on work outside the classroom, on the honors system or on tutorial. The writers have remained content as scribes with no ambition to be analysts. There is no reason why men who have studied the community as closely as they must have need be ashamed of their own editorial views. There is, in fact, every reason to believe that their views would be as welcome and as pertinent as those of the CRIMSON or the Student Council.

The mood pieces are all of a type: the single, lonely, distillusioned, frustrated youth who has found out that the real Harvard is not the Harvard of his dreams. The authors of these articles even have a tendency to repeat themselves: "a tweed jacket, a bottle of Scotch, and a copy of Eliot's poetry" (p. 43); "Scotch, tweed, Eliot (House?) were the parameters" (p. 53); "hurried up Mass. Ave. toward the graveyard at the corner of Garden" (p. 47); "up to the small graveyard at the corner of Garden Street" (p. 146). The only two really rewarding parts of the "Atmosphere" section are Richard H. Seder's long, but very readable and, I found, rather moving poem on the frustrations of communicating love, and an excellent, but unfortunately anonymous photographic essay called "Impressions of the Night."

Technically, 323 is a fine production. There are some sloppy layouts in the section on professors, a few typographical slip-ups, and some inexcusable group photographs (though group photographs are deadly dull anyway). But the artistic standards are generally high and generally fulfilled. The fact that neither the articles nor the photographs are credited to particular individuals bars some from praise and saves others from censure.

If a yearbook can communicate a general impression, 323 emanates one of personalized and some how incommunicable frustration with Harvard. Until the editors find out how to generalize from their own experiences, learn to document a serious argument, and learn to recognize an important issue, they will have to be content with white-wash, spotted here and there with blotches of unhappiness. When they do learn about these things, they may produce a really interesting publication.

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