The college fraternity as a metaphor for life.
In his sentimental, nostalgic sequel to Flatbellies (2003, not reviewed), Hollingsworth follows the college career of Oklahoma high-school golf star Chipper DeHart. Entering the University of Oklahoma in 1967, Chipper pledges Sigma Zeta Chi, drawn by its stated Christian values, and quickly rises in the frat’s ranks. His less presentable friend Peach bribes his way into SZC along with his new friend Larry Twohatchet, the chapter’s first Native American. All three are golfers, as is Smokey Ray Devine, a Shakespeare-spouting deep thinker who remains a loyal frat brother even as he toys with hippiedom, SDS, and hallucinatory drugs. With Vietnam and social upheavals in the background, the fraternity, under Chipper’s earnest leadership, begins to modernize, but first Chipper and his friends must defeat stereotypical frat bad boys who represent prejudice and narrow-mindedness. Chipper’s shallow niceness becomes grating after a while, but his superachieving girlfriend Amy is just as annoying in her perfection: the perfectly coifed sorority sister and sweetheart of SZC, she is also working her way through college in premed, hosting Gloria Steinam at the behest of her women’s studies professor, and founding a women’s golf team. Chipper inadvertently has a bad drug experience, listens to a lot of Three Dog Night, worries about fighting in Vietnam (if not the moral implications), and leads his fraternity to win various campus competitions. Robert Kennedy is assassinated, a black pledge is blackballed (Chipper disagrees but doesn’t quit), and a crazed Jesus freak burns down the frat house. Still, the fraternity’s spirit never breaks. By the time they meet again, 15 years after graduation at the funeral of their pledge class guide, who has died of AIDS, Chipper and his friends have married their college sweethearts and found success in worthwhile careers.
Well-meaning but clueless (like its hero) and—unless you’re fascinated by arcane details of frat life—interminable.