The Gaudy, for those not on close terms with what Mr. Stewart dubs ""identificatory phrases"" of the Oxford life he knows so well, is the equivalent of our college reunion although it's by no means as ardent. At the most mulled in sherry or madeira, the now twenty-year-older and accomplished gentlemen (a playwright, Pattullo, the narrator; a life peer who still says ""Capital""; an archdeacon called a Prebendary; etc.) meet in a hallowed atmosphere of ribbons and gongs and ""Commere"" Balls and chocolate Bath Olivers (?) in which you may find yourself bewildered if not estranged -- as to some degree is Pattullo, who in grave and prudent tones describes the scene. The first half of the book is all paving stones for what apparently will be a Bildungsroman running to five volumes. The minimal action begins only then (the suicide of an undergraduate; the rape committed by the son of the life peer; the meeting, Patullo's, with the first girl he loved) and is prefatory to his own appointment back at Oxford when he is offered a Readership in Modern Drama. Stewart, always a witty writer, jeopardizes the humor he no doubt intends -- (slow)poking fun at the vitae tedium with many other Latin phrases and formal ruminations on what was, what was. lanes like ""We had presumably been treated to an under-statement -- an instance of what the school-books call meiosis"" hang in the rarefied air above the spires of Christ Church.