IF YOU LOVE yearbooks, you may possibly like 337. I've always been skeptical about them, only because almost all I've ever seen have proved that it's impossible for any small group to catch What Life Was Like For All of Us. Most of the ones I've seen didn't even come close. Those are the stakes in the yearbook business; 337 loses big.
Skeptic that I am, I offered my thirteen bucks (special advance-order rate) to Harvard Yearbook Publications because I didn't want to miss out on the possibility that it would nurse my nostalgia sometime in the future when I've forgotten Where We Lived and What We Lived For.
Now that I own one, I doubt even non-skeptics will find the book particularly memorable either, in spite of some intelligent choices the editors made in doling out space for the more visible undergraduate groups. On the side of fair coverage, they didn't make the mistake of running eight pages of photos on the Polo Club (as last year's editors did), nor did they ignore those who are anxiously watching the disintegration of Radcliffe as a separate college and wondering whether Harvard is man enough to live humanely with women. And they did make the effort to include a statement on the Black community, an honest essay on the emotional turmoil of being an actor at Harvard, and an article on the work of Education for Action.
On the side of social realism, there's an attempt at describing what the editors call "The Pre-Med Subculture." I'm still not sure whether the author's final judgment is that some pre-meds are always "obnoxious and overbearing," or whether all pre-meds are sometimes "obnoxious and overbearing."
UNFORTUNATELY for the editors and the rest of us, an awful lot of the writing in the book is the kind of superficial data-mongering that we all first met in "Introduction to Harvard" handbooks and our first Confi-Guides:
John Finley's course, Hum 3, "The Rise of the Greek Classic," is already well-established as one of the most popular courses at Harvard, though it has only been offered four times. However, John Finley, its creator, has been at Harvard considerably longer than that.
Even the sections on the Houses only manage to intone generalities about House Activities, House Staff, House Stereotypes, and House Spirit. Somehow the standard format for these essays ignores the opportunity to set down what actually went on here among real people outside their classes, teams and committees.
One of the most important memories for a lot of seniors in Dunster House, for example, is the development of an intricate web of strong relationships among men and women under one roof. During the last three years, they formed and broke off and then reformed intellectual dependencies, became boy-and-girl-friends and then became lovers, moved in with each other, and then drew apart in anger or disappointment or boredom--only to find another person to love or trust in spite of the avid comments of spectators. Dunster wasn't the only House to evolve a hopeful, tangled and sometimes tormented community under the new dispensation of co-residence. The yearbook tells us that if you live near the Dunster library, you will be bothered by the frequent concerts held there, and that the House seems to have "fragmented into cliques." Our lives have not been trivial and meaningless, but the yearbook suggests that life in the Houses is an endless yo-yoing from classroom to lunchline, from library to pinball-machine. The writers seem compelled to distinguish their House from the others, and then can only come up with commonplaces about architecture, student stereotypes, and food. Food.
Seven of the articles mention House food, in fact; Kirkland claims "possibly the best at Harvard," but a few pages later Mather settles Kirkland's hash by claiming the best. These matters pale in comparison to the obvious attraction of the Currier Grille, "a tremendous success this year with its usual fare of cheeseburgers and shakes, as well as bagels and cream cheese."
WITH ONE very memorable exception, the editors made reasonable-enough choices of subjects for photo-essays. But --too bad again --the staff photographers don't seem to have been very fast on the uptake, and the results are none too exciting. That memorable exception, though, surpasses anyone's wildest dreams -- the already famous color sequence (one of seven) titled "Lifestyles." Both the managing editor and the business manager of the book appear in this section, and the lifestyles they helped portray include dancing, drinking, playing chess while drinking, smoking dope, holding hands, passing-out-on-the-couch from drink (or possibly from the combined lifestyles of drink and dope), and making love. I realize the editors of 337 invested a lot of time and thought in the book, and maybe they have their own good reasons for "Lifestyles." Until they make them public, I'll just assume that the shots of a faceless, naked couple groping tepidly on attractively striped sheets are meant as a reminder-- that sexual intercourse, too, was part of the Harvard-Radcliffe experience. Or maybe the nudie pix are meant to represent rotten taste and a flair for false iconoclasm among the diverse qualities of the Class of '73.
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