Following up his narrative of his rural Missouri childhood in Mid-Lands (1992), Davis (English/Univ. of Oklahoma) modestly...



Following up his narrative of his rural Missouri childhood in Mid-Lands (1992), Davis (English/Univ. of Oklahoma) modestly offers a memoir of his middle-of-the-road, middlebrow, 1950s Kansas City college career. If a middle-class education (i.e., Ivy League) is ""supposed to help you maintain status so that your family can understand what you are saying,"" a lower-middle-class education is, according to Davis, ""supposed to help you improve your status so that your family will not understand what you are saying."" Many of Davis's generation were the first in their families to leave home to attend college, and although this was not quite the case with Davis, he did arrive at the Jesuit-run Rockhurst College as a slightly bookish farmboy with an unexpungeable accent. Revisiting his college records and papers, Davis is abashed to discover a recruiting letter that boasted of a student body of ""average Joes scholastically"" and a prospectus that rhetorically asked, ""Does training by men and with men mean more to you?"" Davis finds his youthful self equally obtuse, not to mention naive politically, romantically, and intellectually. An undistinguished face in his class picture, his student-self is portrayed, with some lenience and affection, as semiconscious of the Korean War, oblivious to the Eisenhower recession, emotionally untutored with his first sweetheart, and in general too busy with intramural sports, the college paper, and ""barracks"" life to acquire a genuine education. While Davis writes with rueful clarity about life in a small midwestern college in the 1950s, he frequently strikes chords that transcend time and place. In contrast to recent let-it-all-hang-out autobiographies from academics, such as Frank Lentricchia's The Edge of Night (1994), Davis's personal memoir of the Silent Generation's college years stirs up nostalgia with low-key irony.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996


Page Count: 192

Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996