A GOOD SCHOOL by Richard Yates


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Professionally wistful, pleasantly inconsequential vignettes from Yatea' memories of prep school in the early Forties: a foreword and an afterword inform us that it's all precisely autobiographical. Yates calls himself Billy Grove, one of the sloppiest outcasts at Dorset Academy in Connecticut--a borderline, bankruptcy-prone ""good school"" catering to near-misfits and reduced-tuition cases. As bright, broken-home Billy overcomes his gaucheness to win friends and become the school newspaper's editor, the focus drifts round and about. To a manically witty overachiever who's having a nervous breakdown. To a polio-crippled teacher whose wife is sleeping with the dashing French master. To the headmaster's daughter, losing her virginity to a senior and then losing her senior to World War II--the first Dorset casualty. Romance-like tensions between adolescent chums; sexual teasings and humiliations in the dormitory; an air-raid drill; a dance (Billy is attracted to his best friend's girl); a last ""illegal"" party. And then, of course, this being 1944, most of the boys go off to war. Yates neatly sketches in the varieties of male teenage insecurity, and all the selective details and fragmented conversations seem just right. But neither the school's closing, the war, nor the autobiographical wraparound can make this into anything more than a slim, smooth, forgettably accurate pastiche of adolescent angst.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1978
Publisher: Delacorte