Ivy Lit 101

Religiously observing lockdown since middle March, I have disentangled the Ivy League shelf in my bookcase. Here’s the caravan that alleviated pandemic ennui.

 

“Your wedding day will be the second happiest day after you beat Yale,” Coach tells the team in the locker room at Harvard’s Memorial Stadium be-fore The Game. The John Phillips’ novel The Second Happiest Day isn’t great literature, but if you care to stalk the Heyday of Ivy in Cambridge, search out this Harvard Square creaky gem that that enjoyed a brief spot-light 20 years before Yale Prof Erich Segal’s turgid Love Story soap opera that featured its immortal line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Phillips’ writing career was sorely tried under the paternal cloud cast by his father, Pulitzer Prize author, J.P. Marquand. His dad’s award-winning novel described an earlier Harvard generation. H.M. Pulham, Esq. narrated the adjustment of a townie, not unlike the author, becoming a full-fledged Har-vardian, making the best clubs and receiving ultimate recognition, Chair-man of his class 25th reunion.

F. Scott Fitzgerald admitted he borrowed his lead character Amory Blaine, Princeton hero of his premier novel This Side of Paradise from Owen John-son’s turn of the century national blockbuster Stover At Yale. “My kind of textbook,” Fitzgerald confessed. His Eli fixation—Nick Carraway’s Gatsby antagonist Tom Buchanan were both Yalies.

Geoffrey Wolff, Class of ’60 updates Fitzgerald’s Princeton. The Duke of Deception: Memories of My Father is a knowing recollection of his errant father being tossed out of Princeton, a jailbird ending his life in tragic ar-rears. Wolff’s next Old Nassau work, The Final Club, scripts his Seattle public high school protagonist with a Jewish mother and drunk father, over-coming his negligent past gaining Princeton Eating Club acceptance (bicker), Briarcliff debutante romance, 1st-team crew on Lake Carnegie — a précis of Princeton Heyday.

Quintessential Princetonion nobility, Scott Fitzgerald self-destructs in a Shakespearean coast-to-coast drunken binge en route to the 1939 Dart-mouth Winter Carnival in Dartmouth grad Budd Schulberg’s cruelly drawn novel of the nervous breakdown endured doing background for their movie about the Dartmouth Winter Carnival, The Disenchanted.

Beyond the comic fringe, Chris Miller, Dartmouth ’62 decapitated his Ha-nover adventures in The Real Animal House, recapitulating Alpha Delta Phi’s mayhem that inspired the college deconstruction that occurred during my own time at Dear Old Dartmouth. Confession: I partially shared the fa-bled social dysfunction at Chi Phi, my own fraternity next door.

A more significant example of the Ivy League contribution during the Ameri-can Century is exemplified by the tradition of service recorded in the 1986 nonfiction work, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made, by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas.

The authors elevate WASP ascendency beyond the gin-and-tonic and three-button snobbery of storied Old Money ephemera honoring the heroic examples of Dean Acheson, Charles E. Bohlen, W. Averell Harriman, George Kennan, Robert Lovett and John J. McCloy, the renowned Ivy elite that redeemed the free world from both communism and post-World War II chaos. Saviors of public service, these great men honored their Ivy aca-demic credentials.

Bright College Years summer vacation away from Netflix and Morning Joe.

 

RICHARD PRESS

9 comments

How about Norman Mailer a Electrical Engineering major from Harvard.

Ed Sandow 10月 19, 2020

You mention the late " Yale Prof Erich Segal." In this particular article he might have preferred to be remembered as Erich Segal, Harvard ’58. Enjoyed the article—keep it up, Richard.

Stuart Ebby 8月 18, 2020

I was reminded of the Rector of Justin recently when I met Auchincloss’s grandson at the San Luis Obispo airport, where he stopped on his round-robin flight around the country piloting his light plane.

Chuck Porter 8月 17, 2020

I think there is a similarity between the “Yale Professional and Graduate School” versus “Yale College” problem and the New Haven/Yale problem, the first members of the comparisons being the poor relations of the ever more diverse, but nonetheless richer, main line. Perhaps this is simply a part of the Anglophile educational model long established at Oxford and Cambridge and brought to the American Colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Robert W. Emmaus 8月 17, 2020

Once again I enjoyed Richard’s story. It is ironic that Bud Schulberg was at Deerfield in the thirties with my dad. Gordon Mac Rae, who starred in “Oklahoma”, was also at Deerfield then. Also, John Mc Cloy’s son was two classes ahead of me at DA.
Small world.

Charlie Hotchkiss 8月 17, 2020

…or The Graduate? Charles Webb passed away earlier this year.

Jonathan Broom 8月 17, 2020

Paper Chase grad school novel. Only include undergrad stuff, but like most of the others, a great movie.

Richard E. Press 8月 17, 2020

When I was a couple of years out of school, I was working at Lowell (MA) General Hospital in administration. One day I was asked to speak with a new reporter for the Lowell Sun. Here name was (is) Celestine Bohlen, the Russian-born daughter of Chip. Does anyone know what she is up to now?

Bob Whidden. H60 8月 17, 2020

Did you not have The Paper Chase on your shelf?

JR Bowman 8月 17, 2020

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