PARTIAL RECALL: The Afterthoughts of a Schoolmaster by John D. Verdery

PARTIAL RECALL: The Afterthoughts of a Schoolmaster

Email this review


Chatty, engaging memoirs by the Episcopal priest who ran the Wooster School (Danbury, Conn.) from 1943 to 1976. Verdery has no earth-shaking wisdom or dramatic experiences to pass on, but on the other hand he also avoids the pitfalls of this Mr. Chipsian genre: whimsy, sentimentality, twiddling with the Old School Tie. Consider the moment when the Reverend Headmaster meets one of his faculty looking especially grim. ""I've just made a horrible discovery,"" the teacher remarks. ""I'm allergic to adolescent boys. . . . They think the sun rises and sets in their own assholes."" Verdery hastens to add that at least one of the pimply so-and-sos in that particular class later redeemed himself, but here and elsewhere he's refreshingly realistic. He discusses, for example, the Wooster School's efforts at racial integration with a blend of moral and social sensitivity, administrative savvy, and self-deprecating humor. Throughout the book Verdery suggests that his whole career was a faintly inspired process of bumbling through, from his unexpected election to the job at age 25 with no background as an educator, on through the long, serendipitous transformation of an all-white, all-male, mostly Episcopalian school into a much livelier and less traditional, rainbow-colored, co-ed, quasi-nonsectarian institution. It's a good story. Verdery is no intellectual (he characteristically attributes a famous remark by G. K. Chesterton to G. B. Shaw), and his narrative line meanders (e.g., into some forgettable reminiscences of family vacations in Provence). But his honesty and humanity transcend the little preppie world he so fondly describes. Nicely done.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1981
Publisher: Atheneum