"Harvard is a terrible mess of a place," Douthat writes, "an incubator for an American ruling class that is smug, self-congratulatory, and intellectually adrift." It is also Douthat's beloved alma mater (he was class of 2002), a place where a young man sneered at by the "high school jockacracy" could finally become "cool." Or so he thought. In this memoir–cum–pop-sociological investigation, Douthat reflects on campus academics, diversity, class and sex, "the lunatic schedules and sleepless nights, the angst and the ambition, the protests and résumé -building." He comes down against grade inflation and mourns the "smog of sexual frustration" that floated over Harvard's campus; he reflects longingly (though with mixed feelings) on the tony clubs to which he did not gain entrance; he explains the lack of real diversity on campus (most students are privileged blue-staters, despite differences in race); and he serves up anecdotes about the homeless man masquerading as a Harvard student, the senior who embezzled from the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, and his failed trip to Smith College to look for girls. It's an interesting book, if a little self-centered and self-serving (it was "written as much in ambition as in idealism"), and it'll no doubt be read eagerly by Crimson students—at least the ones like Douthat, who are not quite "the privileged among the privileged, the rulers of the ruling class." (Mar.)
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Close on the heels of Tom Wolfe's "I Am Charlotte Simmons" and the flap surrounding Harvard's president, Lawrence Summers, comes this memoir-cum-polemic about Harvard by a 2002 graduate. Douthat critiques his peers' sense of entitlement from the perspective of a cultural conservative, although his high moral tone is somewhat compromised by an eagerness to bolster this account of campus life with salacious anecdotes of debauchery, greed, and snobbery. Douthat skewers the political and sexual shenanigans of his classmates and provides a thoughtful analysis of the prevailing liberal politics of the campus. But his righteous indignation can seem misplaced, when so many of the injustices that exercise him are so petty. It's hard to get really upset about charges of button-stealing in a campus election.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Assigned reading for my sociology course on Wealth, Status, and Power in America! Good read - interesting information from the author who experienced a Harvard education firsthand. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Charle O
Much better than anticipated, I loved Douthat's prose. His is an all too true but incisive commentary on what and who Harvard and Harvard undergrads have on their minds other than... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Aucoot
Interesting account of Douthat's perception of the socio-economic culture at Harvard. A good, thought provoking read. Recommend this book as a good read.Published on May 9, 2013 by Harold
I didn't go to Harvard, but I almost did. I got wait-listed and was eventually rejected, before going to a state school. Read morePublished on August 17, 2010 by Conservative Postmodern Polyglot Abroad
I didn't know much about the author when I started reading this book except that he was Catholic and a Republican. Read morePublished on March 31, 2010 by Steve
The author contends that the Harvard final clubs are an important part of the university's social life these days. Read morePublished on October 24, 2009 by William M. Doolittle Jr.
This book is either wrong or things have changed a great deal since I was a student at Harvard, 50 years ago. Read morePublished on October 3, 2009 by William M. Doolittle
The timing of my reading this book was fortuitous. I finished the book within a few days of my very moving experience of being at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government for the... Read morePublished on March 28, 2007 by Alan L. Chase
Ross Gregory Douthat often tells a good story, but ultimately runs into trouble when his assertions, which are nearly never supported with data, turn out to be wrong, as shown by... Read morePublished on December 29, 2006 by po1058