Preppy Handbook Editor Calls Boston 'Shrine for Prepdom'

Dressed as one might expect to find her--in a prep-plaid shirt, green sweater, blue blazer, penny loafers, and Nantucket accessories--Lisa Birnbach, editor and coauthor of "The Official Preppy Handbook" came to the Coop yesterday to sign copies of her book.

The "Handbook," which Birnbach said, is "still number one nationally on paperback charts," was released in November 1980, 900,000 copies ago, and is now in its fourteenth printing.

Birnbach credits the book's success to a resurgence of "overtly nauseating preppiness." Another fact, she added, is "my sparkling personality."

If yesterday's two hour signing session was typical of her others. Birnbach's sales factors are accurate. Her preppy jokes, charisma, spot-inspections of the patrons' preppy attire, and generally witty personality wooed a Lacoste-clad crowd into buying nearly 100 copies of her book in the first hour. She dazzled patrons with her ability to describe their friends, aided only with the knowledge of the person's alma mater, which lead to the sales of more copies for more friends, and so on....

Birnbach started her public tour last November and will continue through the summer. She has come to the Boston area three times.


"Boston is a large shrine to prepdom, not a city," she said, calling Brattle Street's Club Casablanca the nation's preppy mecca.

Not the type to shun publicity. Birnbach announced that she will be master of ceremonies at a Babson College preppy fashion show this weekend, and will host the Boston television show "Five All Night" on April 11.

She also has an article in this week's Rolling Stone Magazine called "Scared Serious," about today's college students' "disturbing preprofessionalism."

Birnbach said "Official Preppy" T-shirts, book bags, and stationery will go on sale this summer to publicize an imaginary preppy college with the motto "semper prepperadus." Also, an "Official Preppy Desk Diary" is in the making, complete with a section for "confessions of summer flings with non-preppies."

A graduate of Riverdale Country Day school and Brown University. Birnbach said she based her book largely on personal experience. Calling her Harvard visit a "sentimental journey," she described herself as a "bohemian preppy," which her book defines as more free-spirited than the usual, conservative preppy.

Although the "handbook" is a satirical attack at the preppy lifestyle. Birnbach said she is really "pro-preppy." She feels, however, that the preppies "have to laugh at themselves."