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Cloyne Court Paperback – December 8, 2009
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People, I can verify that as unbelievable as Dodie's novelized account may be, stuff just like this ACTUALLY happened.
I lived at Cloyne Court for only one year, the 1965-6 academic year, but I could write a pretty interesting book about that short but potent experience. Lots of sophomoric craziness mixed in with being as serious a student as I could be. Just to give you a taste of daily living at Cloyne,
the following is off the top of my head...
...Motorcycles going up and down the hallway with mostly drunk student waitresses from the women's house down the street aboard the passenger seats at what was billed as a senior graduation dinner. The dinner had degenerated into a monstrous pre-Animal House food fight with tables flipped over for protection and the walls decorated with fragments of baked potato missiles and ketchup halos from what the Co-Op passed off as steak, a special food just for that event. That was a rather typical day from that year variously filled with dinner-time milk drinking contests that made Nathan's events look tame, perpetual poker games, giant vats of green beer brewing on the stove (bottles of which still exist!), sporadic but semi-serious water balloon wars with the fraternity across the street, parties stocked with girls bused in from Mills College who definitely would never return a second time, an incredible array of residents including one who would only walk on the dark tiles in the checkerboard linoleum floor; all this in a house that worked pretty well for what it needed to do. For $60/month I got 3 squares a day every day with unlimited snacks, putting 15 lbs on my terribly skinny frame in 3 months, and a double room with a terrific fella who is still a close friend some 45 years later.
Why did I stay only a year if it was so much fun? The following spring the USCA opened Ridge Project (now known unfortunately as Casa Zimbabwe) down the street from Cloyne, about which there definitely should be a book written. This was AFAIK, the first co-ed university student housing in the US, at least sanctioned by the university. An important note - although Ridge Project had university approval, it was totally STUDENT run with no university oversight, just like Cloyne. All the smart guys from Cloyne (still men-only at that time) moved to Ridge Project. I gather Cloyne went co-ed in 1972, after I graduated, so I have a pretty good idea of what happened at Cloyne in the 70's from my experience a few years earlier at Ridge Project. I could go on, but you had to be there. I'll just say that the experience was so obviously special that many of us who lived at Cloyne and subsequently at Ridge Project in the late 60s still have an annual reunion that draws over 40-50 people each time, and even many more at special times like our 2006 reunion marking the 40th anniversary of the opening of Ridge Project.
The late 60's and into the early 70's was a glorious time to be in college at Berkeley. The academics were perhaps at their peak before the attempted devastation by Governor Reagan, the political atmosphere was still very hot, post-free speech movement as the Viet Nam war raged on, and the SF Bay Area music scene veritably exploded, stoked by Bill Graham. It still stands as the most vibrant 4 years of my life. To some that may make it sound like I led a rather sad life, but Berkeley in the late 60's is just very, very hard to top.
So, I bought this novelized account about a special place in my life. I suppose novelizing what could have been a documentary/biography makes it more palatable and appealing, but to me, a straight telling of the events would be no less rewarding. So far, I have read the first 4 chapters of Dodie's account. It is a well written coming of age story with a solid feel of authenticity. AND I believe every word of it. It is great to see that Dodie appreciated the Cloyne experience as much or more than I did and had the talent to bring it to life in his book.
I'll add more once I finish the book.
One of the things that surprised me about this book is the amount of homophobia presented in the novel. I've grown up in an environment where people I think feel free to be "out" so it was scary to realize how closeted the men had to be just 30 years ago.
When I was done with the book, I remarked to my husband that I won't think about a plate of brownies again in the same way!
I recommend this book for anyone that has gone to college, or plans to go to college, or thought about going to college. Also for anyone who knows someone who went to college, because that buttoned up shirt wearing respectable man might have some stories to tell.
Author Dodie Katague lived at co-ed Cloyne Court during the years 1977- 1979. In his opening, he tells the reader that 75% of this memoir is based on fact and the other 25% was added "for plot purposes."
Living in a co-op is a unique experience. As Derek found out, the residents set the rules of the residence and are responsible for it's daily operations. You want your room cleaned, then you clean it. When the common areas are dirty, you'd better hope that those with that job task get it done. There are no hired cleaning staff. Members also have to learn to deal with personality, culture and political clashes. There is no hired ombudsman to adjudicate. At the same time as the co-op members are dealing with their living arrangements, they also have to attend lectures and complete their assignments and study. More pressure than living in an official residence, though with the added benefit of learning how to live with a wide variety of 'roommates'.
Right from his first day, when Derek accidentally sits in on the Sunday night women's group and ends up explaining how he pleases a woman even though he has not yet 'been with a woman', he is thrust into an endless series of new situations. Co-ed showers. Ttemptations (sex, drugs, rock and roll). Politics/social causes. Religion/cults. Sort of a trial by fire situation. There are no notes that you can read that will prepare you for every possible situation you will encounter when you first attend college/university. You have to be flexible and open to new experiences.
I lived in a student run co-op during my university years. Waterloo Co-operative Residence Inc. Reading this book was a trip down memory lane. Much of what Dodie related, fit right in with my actual experiences. Sure, there were some differences, we didn't have co-ed showers, but the relationships and the day to day functioning of the co-op was very much the same. There was that very close inter-play between the residents. Even if you weren't friends with everyone, you did become dependent on them pulling their weight and completing their tasks. More importantly, the well being of all was dependent on the group functioning as a 'family'. Just as Derek experienced, you lived with these people day in and day out and you needed to be able to deal with them or you would be miserable. Along with his other building mates, Derek found out that they all needed to be more than people living in a co-op. they had to learn how to become a community.
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In 1946, the "real" all male "Animal House" was born when Cloyne Court become a student co-op.Read more