ROMANCING A RHODES SCHOLAR

SEEKING WISDOM AND SPLENDOR AT OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE

An agreeable account of a year spent studying at Cambridge and Oxford. Feiler, after graduating from Yale and teaching for a year in a rural Japanese school (described in his Learning to Bow, 1991), pursued graduate studies at Cambridge. He arrived in 1990 with stars in his eyes; memories of Milton, Byron, Newton, and Darwin; and an eagerness ``to row, to debate at the Union, and to have a date for the ball.'' Feiler achieved all three goals—``but by then my stars had already faded.'' He found a Cambridge still ``trapped by its past''; a student body overwhelmingly content, disinclined to demonstrate, and looking for its place in the Establishment—a complacency perhaps arising from the fact that Cambridge is ``a laboratory of love'' where students are ``virtually bombarded with occasions to drink and excuses to get pissed.'' In the course of his social rounds, the author met and fell in love with a Canadian Rhodes Scholar from Oxford who eventually threw him over because, she said, he wasn't an original thinker. She might have reconsidered if she'd been able to read Feiler's analysis here of the similarities between the Japanese and the British: Both, he notes, inhabit isolated islands of roughly the same size and roughly the same weather; both boast largely homogenous peoples and unifying national religions; both speak languages characterized by a similar emphasis on courtesy, hierarchy, and indirection; and both display a powerful national pride verging on xenophobia. Feiler believes that the two nations' educational systems largely explain their different fortunes in this century, with Britain suffering from an antibusiness bias (fewer than eight percent of Oxbridge graduates go into industry, compared to two-thirds of Japanese college grads) and a hierarchy of intellectual values that stresses the abstract and philosophical while regarding the practical almost with contempt. A delightfully witty complement to Ved Mehta's Up at Oxford (p. 841), full of anecdotes and food for thought.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-41492-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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