Quite thoughtful, and the controlled verve of Douthat’s prose deserves better than a gentleman’s B in Expository Writing.

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PRIVILEGE

HARVARD AND THE EDUCATION OF THE RULING CLASS

Memoir of four years in Harvard Yard, “written as much in ambition as in idealism” by a member of the class of 2002.

The acquisition of an Ivy League education, Douthat reveals, is still a special privilege, and diversity remains limited. In the time-honored tradition of college memoirs, this avowed undergraduate rebel against good form reveals all the faults of higher education—along with a few of its pleasures. Douthat provides plenty of obligatory material about freshman housemates and the nubile girls upstairs and down, as well as much fretting about the clubs where the elite meet to eat and to grope the opposite sex. To be sure, he also spends time pondering the academics, from class shopping to the age-old custom of procrastinating and cutting corners on assignments. Yes, he descries grade inflation: what was once a “gentleman’s C” is now a coed B, and As abound, especially in the cut-rate humanities. Fun tidbits include the story of a wildly popular campus queen and her mild-mannered friend who got busted for embezzlement. Harvard’s core curriculum (which seems to include the movie Love Story) yields spotty learning, contends Douthat. A wider education is provided by clubs, campus publications, and, in due course, fervid hooking up. He analyzes the Crimson way with faculty and the occasional dissident movement, making some astute comments about the differences between parlor and street liberals. Once a summer intern at the National Review, the author (now working at Atlantic Monthly) recalls an idyllic sail with Mr. Buckley himself. It’s all about class, classes, geeks, grinds, and girls: college days when “academics were the easy part.”

Quite thoughtful, and the controlled verve of Douthat’s prose deserves better than a gentleman’s B in Expository Writing.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-4013-0112-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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