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IF set anywhere else in the United States, this entertaining series of neurotic episodes would be uninspired and without interest. But maladjusted Radcliffe girls and frustrated Harvards become extremely graphic as you follow them on their sexual excursions down the aisles of Widener ("Christ, Mark thought, doesn't anyone ever study around here?") and into their Eliot House beds between Gordon Linen sheets.
The Cliffies include Heather Brooks, an all-American girl who was deflowered the previous summer in Venice by one Chet Mirsky (sic), an aspiring writer. As Heather quaintly puts it to a group of girls in her dormitory who are debating whether to "do it," "I'm glad my first time was not in some filthy hotel in Boston or in Eliot house between four and seven o'clock, not with some smooth-talking rich boy who spent his Harvard years playing bridge at his club."
Heather rooms with Ginny Winslow, a millionairess with a special yearning for Jews. She wants some action from one Harry Loeb, but Harry is psychologically incapable of gratifying her. So one night she goes to a party with Harry's roommate, Ben David, and Ben gets her upstairs. He says:
"I know all about it Ginny. You're a great liberal, but your parents have control over you.... You hate Jews, don't you? You hate us. You're full of hate, hate, HATE. You think we're dirty. It makes you feel decadent to kiss us...." At this point Mr. David interrupts his narrative to rape Miss Winslow, affording considerable mutual enjoyment. Ben whispers low, "I love you because you hate me," and they start dating thereafter.
The master plot, however, revolves around Mark Scott, of Exeter, the Pudding, and Eliot House, and his deep, sincere love for Heather Brooks. Mark has been scoring pretty heavily with Miss Brooks, but Bob Reese, homosexual Eliot House English tutor, is trying to undermine the affair because he's jealous. The Scott fans are in for some really tense moments when Chet (the Jet) Mirsky returns from Europe with the manuscript of his second novel, and he joins forces with Reese in trying to pry them apart.
ONE of the games that this book has created in Cambridge is called Who the Hell is Leonie St. John? And there are those who think they know. An intricate network has been established, identifying not only "Miss" St. John, but each of the protagonists. Most of the characters and names suggest their own counterparts in recent Harvard classes, and some think they have not been changed to protect the innocent.
Actually, the book is badly and foolishly written. Mark Scott, the bland, vaguely obnoxious hero sings a love hymn about Heather from a semi-aris-tocratic vantage point. "It was to be expected that the girls with rich parents who teen-age years had consummated in ostentatious coming-out parties should lack style like Ginny Winslow. No, Heather's middle class background gave her a certain quality that none of the other girls could ever have. She wasn't jaded by their indolence and their country club manners. She was the kind of person who did something in life...."
And needless to say, the book exaggerated the extent to which Radcliffe girls are preoccupied with sex. There is one little heroine, Mary Ellen Babcock, a fleshy young thing who decides it's about time to do it, and is dismissed from Radcliffe for doing it over the week-end in a nearby motel. Mary Ellen we learn, suddenly matures, and spends her forced leave of absence in Paris, working for UNESCO. This sudden maturity represents one of the great miracles of our era, and it will be a long time before any reader forgets the courage and integrity of little Mary Ellen.
The setting of course, helps make this pulp intriguing: your room. Elsie's. The Brattle. And where else could you audit such courses as Comp. Lit 248, Modern Forms of Ambiguity, in which "we shall consider how the trends, first synthesized in Dostoevsky, later developed separately by Conrad, Gido, Joyce, and Proust, finally became re-integrated again in the novels of William Faulkner." That might not be great satire, but at least it sounds familiar.
Then there is Miss St. John's delightful penchant for synopsizing local attitudes. She hardly realizes what snobs her heroes are. Heroine Brooks for example, is involved in the following episode: "As she made her way to the exit she was jostled and pushed by two boys behind her. She gathered from their conversation that they were in a hurry to get to Math 306, Vector Analysis. Their voices were course and vulgar. She shuddered to herself."
There's also a description of the summer school: "All of a sudden every girl is wearing a Brooklyn College sweatshirt. They all come to summer school to meet the mythical Harvard man of their dreams, and, of course, all they find are their equivalents from C.C.N.Y." So this is how the other half thinks!
Quite touching is the first real conversation between Heather and Mark, which takes place at The Patisserie: MARK: (Describing his summer) I was working out west, travelling AND so the romance builds For forty cents, you can't go
AND so the romance builds For forty cents, you can't go
For forty cents, you can't go
AND so the romance builds
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