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The Yearbook

From the Shelf

By Joseph L. Featherstone

When I am an old grad and my bones hurt and I vote Republican, I'll probably enjoy this year's yearbook. It does, after all, cover the ground it has to cover. It ceremonially records a set of public memories--even if they are the sort of memories which could belong to any year at Harvard. It presents the glass flowers of Cambridge existence--photographic meditations of House portals, more or less perfunctory portraits of a number of professors, sports events, the Houses, the Activities, and the class pictures.

But until I am an old grad--ready to overlook such points--I will resent the very slipshod way in which this year's volume has been put together. Much of the copy reads like a bad first draft, and the dummying is totally unimaginative. I am told that part of the trouble is that some of the copy really is first draft, and that many of the pages were in fact dummied in one night. The yearbook staff has had its troubles this term, God knows, but they really must pull themselves together.

Some of the descriptions of the Houses are good--the one on Adams, for example, is accurate. Some aren't so hot, though. The section on Quincy House is frightening--full of talk about how "student-tutor" and "student-student relations" are on the up and up--while the description of Leverett is absurd, a wretched little parody of Huck Finn. There are far too many shots of people playing pool.

And indeed, the real trouble with the House articles is that there is little attempt to catch any kind of distinctive flavors in House living. One set of House pictures could easily be substituted for another. (A humorous exception is the piece on Eliot House, where there is an epic-sized portrait of the Karls' tomcat, Solomon, a unique feature if there ever was one.)

The text is less cloying and the photography richer in the section on "Activities." It's such a relief to see pictures of people for a change. Elsewhere, the Yearbook's photographers have invested heavily in shots of architecture, and while they do walls and doors and towers very nicely, these pictures aren't very interesting. Some of the "Sports" action shots are really exciting, and there is an absorbing, but kind of muddled, article on Harvard Athletics by Mike Lottman. (The Yearbook metes out a piece of wry justice in its section on "Magazines": it misquotes a CRIMSON editor.)

The Yearbook staff also puts out a Radcliffe volume, which is the real basis for most of my anger against Three Twenty Six. Done by the same people, the Radcliffe yearbook is a much, much better product. Its pictures (mostly of people) are superior, its less crowded dummy is more careful and imaginative, and in one section a different kind of paper has been used to produce a very interesting deepening effect on the pictures. The text is about as bad as the Harvard text, but there is a nice photo essay on Cambridge which is missing from the Yearbook's evocation of the Harvard world. (Some of the pics are, sorry to say, the same--one ghastly shot of the singer Gary Davis as a dark blob of glup is repeated, an awful mistake.)

After the Radcliffe yearbook, Three Twenty Six is inexplicable. Its editors chose to publish a conventional Harvard yearbook, which would have been satisfactory. Well, they nearly botched even that. On its own dull terms. Three Twenty Six is barely adequate.

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