Sunday, August 22, 2010

College life

It’s the new year! Or at least I have always felt going back to school is the start of a new year. Maybe it comes from being a student for so long and working in school libraries. The college/university students have started moving back into my neighbourhood and it is interesting to watch their growth throughout the university year. Here are some novels that can give you an idea (or bring back memories) of what college life is like.

I am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe. My friend Kristina recently wrote about this novel. As she stated this novel did get mixed reviews but I liked it. The novel follows the journey of a small town girl, Charlotte, as she faces university life, peer pressure, alcohol, social status and sexual conquest.

Go back to 1962, co-ed dorms were becoming more frequent, the birth control pill was available and thus the sexual revolution started. This was the era that the novel The Harrad Experiment by Robert Rimmer, came out. Harrad students were learning more than history and accounting. They were learning about their own psychology and biological urges with experiments in "free love". We have the film version.

Moo: a novel, by Jane Smiley. This finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award is a satire of university life. It features not just the students, facility and staff of Moo University, but a huge hog named Earl Butz! Moo U is a large Midwestern agricultural college where campus politics and intrigue rule. The most powerful person on campus is the campus secretary. I loved that she siphons funds from the athletic department and sends it to the library’s budget! Smiley gives everyone a voice in this novel making it seem like a cast of thousands but it all comes together in the end. But it still makes me wonder... is the Nova Scotia Agricultural college anything like this?!

The classic Love Story by Erich Segal. Well what can you say about this without thinking "love means never having to say you are sorry". For those who are not familiar with the book or movie, sorry for giving you a quote you may not get. While it takes place over a number of years, the characters meet in college so I decided to include it in this blog. Narrated by Oliver, it truly is a love story. He tells the tale of how he met, loved and lost the most important person in his life, Jennifer. The playful banter of the main characters is one of the highlights of the novel. You know the fate of Jennifer right from the start so when you are reaching for the Kleenex at the end.....well just don’t let me say you weren’t forewarned.

For a local twist on this theme try Lynn Coady’s Mean Boy. Lawrence Campbell is determined to escape his life of intellectual poverty he had on PEI. He is drawn to charismatic professor, Jim Arseneault who influences all parts of Lawrence's life. To quote the Edmonton Journal "a coming of age novel, Mean Boy will make you laugh... Coady is a storyteller with a wry comic sense and a wonderfully satirical touch".

Or for something completely different try the Anne of the Island, part of L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series. This particular novel focuses on the time when Anne goes off to Redmond College.

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