Keith (Irreverent Shorts, 2013) offers a lighthearted romp through the college high jinks of a man born a little too late.
Joseph Roman grew up watching the turmoil of the 1960s and basking in that decade’s musical legacy and cultural optimism. Unfortunately for him, the ’70s don’t share quite the same ethos. As a sophomore studying biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1973, young Joe is more interested in re-creating the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle he idolizes—mostly the sex and drugs part—than he is in applying himself to his studies. He often skips classes to hang around the dorm or in the nearby woods with his posse. Still, he’s a decent student who earns good grades. He’s also popular: His tricked-out dorm room features a fan rigged to prevent marijuana smoke from drifting into the hall, making it the go-to destination for his fellow Hyer Hall denizens. He spends his days planning pranks, getting high and trying to date the girl of his dreams. His pranks, however, predictably run afoul of the stern dorm director, and before long, Joe is banished from the dorms—and the comfortable life he’d built there. But our hero soon finds a new living arrangement and a lucrative source of income. The scattered plot progresses as Joe spreads his wisdom of the hippie counterculture to a receptive, but ultimately apathetic, group of friends. Keith’s light tone telegraphs the fact that Joe will land on his feet, and his adventures are often humorous. However, he sometimes parodies popular song lyrics in a misguided attempt to inject additional levity into the proceedings (“One pill helps with foosball, / And one pill makes you limp”); random illustrations also appear throughout the text, seemingly for the same purpose, but add nothing. The prose is often clunky and unsubtle; for example, the lone African-American dorm resident introduces himself as “one of those highly sought-after, token Negro dudes from the inner city of Milwaukee.” Overall, this paean to the ’60s could’ve done with more nuance and some tighter editing.
An unfocused tale of a college kid’s attempts to re-create the decade he missed.