A former Dartmouth student reflects on his 10-years-past college career devoted to playing drinking games.
In his debut memoir, Knight tries to explain why he spent most of his time at Dartmouth, a prestigious Ivy League university, drinking until he blacked out in his fraternity’s foul basement. Although he writes that this book “will not be a chronicle of my descent into substance abuse,” that’s exactly what it becomes. As he tells a career-services officer late in his senior year: “You wouldn’t believe how rarely I attend class and when I do I’m usually drunk or hungover. The only thing I care about at Dartmouth is Pong.” (“Beer Pong” is a popular drinking game said to have been invented at Dartmouth; Ship, from the game Battleship, is a variant.) Knight is an intelligent, skilled and vivid writer, making it plausible he could have gotten by so long on so little effort. Most of this skill is devoted to lively but endless descriptions of drinking and vomiting, or “booting.” For example, he drunkenly encourages his friends “to boot on me as much as you like. This is Poncho Night.” Knight manages to convey the lure of group affection behind the fraternity’s beer hall–like boasting, feats of skill and drinking contests. But he often seems disengaged from his story’s implications. He writes passages in the third person (using his college nickname, “Balls”) that show his alienation yet deny responsibility, as if someone else made these decisions. Knight seems stuck in the past, still finding Ship more meaningful and substantive—“a sacred ritual” even—than spending time going to classes would have been. His college years were an “ongoing charade,” but, he says, “Even ten years later…my nostalgia for Ship has not abated in the slightest.”
Colorful and adeptly written, though it gives off harsh vibes of immaturity.