An earnest debut finds trouble in the demi-paradise inhabited by the 1960s’ best and brightest.
Veteran TV (Hill Street Blues) and film scriptwriter Lewis sets his story in 1966 and in the memory of his narrator Louie, one of six recent Yale grads who share a weekend on a Maine island to send off one of their number: golden-boy senator’s son Harry Nolan, who has just joined the army and may soon be en route to Viet Nam. Harry and Sascha, his beautiful recent bride, compose the “force field” in which Louie (who loves them both), affable Tennessean Cord, brittle sardonic Teddy, and blank-slate (Adam) Bloch adoringly exist. Louie’s reconstruction of their weekend (nearly 40 years later, in the approximate present) sets up a pattern of reminiscence, meditation, and analysis (including overabundant political commentary) that isolates a central question: Did Harry decide to serve his country out of noble motives, or as a stepping-stone toward a later political career? The question is thrown into bold relief by the weekend’s events: an unhappy argument between Sascha and Harry, a trip to a rural fair followed by all-night drinking at a roadhouse, an automobile accident, and a serious injury that changes everything forever. The dénouement—where Louie’s ties to the world of his youth and the people he loved are gradually severed—has a wistful tone that wraps things up movingly (if a trifle too neatly) and (perhaps needlessly) reemphasizes the irony of high hopes dashed and a generation’s promise lost before its youth could fully mature.
Meritocracy is not at all without merit. But it feels like a story we’ve heard many times before.