HIGH SCHOOL by David Owen


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When he was 24, David Owen decided to be 17 again. With his agent posing as his mother, he enrolled among the class of 1980 at ""Bingham High,"" an unidentified suburban school two hours--by daily commute--from Owen's Manhattan apartment. The project turned his wife into less than an enthusiast of his hair (long), clothes (running shoes, jeans, requisite black rock-band T-shirt), unscintillating conversation (""In psychology today this guy I know cut a really tremendous fart. It was incredible!""), and the one gym dance they attended together. So far so good--or at least promising. Owen was able to notice that ""Clothes, in the peculiar idiom of physical education teachers, are known as 'street clothes.' Any shoe not specifically designed to promote traction, speed, or maneuverability, is called a 'street shoe.' The labels bespeak a quaint ignorance, as though physical education teachers were at a loss to describe precisely what it is that people do when they are not engaged in physical education."" Droll. And Owen captures well that spirit of mutually exasperated fondness, heavily stylized back and forth, between teacher and kids. Yet, for all this, the book is drab, unspirited. Perhaps because Owen doesn't commit himself one way or the other: to be a pseudo-student, involved in a comic caper; or to be the journalist genially willing to go along with the insane drinking, the nurd-like music, the stranded sexuality. . . yet finally appalled at the kids' illiteracy (and that of some of the teachers, like the one who defined a jackal as ""a demon, you know, a kind of gargoyle. It stands for evil""). He can't, in other words, get his act together. Some sharp takes on the high-school scene; but, at the core, a bobble.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: Viking