[Paleopsych] NYT: Word for Word: He Said (1912), She Said (2005)

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Week in Review > Word for Word: He Said (1912), She Said (2005)


    IF ever a novel depicted college life in all its rah-rah,
    fraternity-laden, raccoon-coated glory, it was "Stover at Yale."
    Written by Owen Johnson (Yale class of 1901) and published in 1912,
    the book follows John Humperdink "Dink" Stover's journey up Old Eli's
    social ladder - mixing with the right crowd, makes a name as a
    football hero, rebelling just enough to emerge as the biggest man on
    campus. In 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald - a Princeton man himself -
    called it the "textbook" for his generation.

    But move over, Stover: Last month, a freshly minted Yale graduate
    published a college novel for a new generation. "Chloe Does Yale"
    (Hyperion), by Natalie Krinsky, relates the misadventures of one Chloe
    Carrington, the undergraduate author of a sex column in The Yale Daily

    Excerpts from the books suggest that priorities at George W. Bush's
    alma mater have shifted a bit in 93 years.

    As soon as Stover arrives as a freshman, a sophomore, Hugh Le Baron,
    offers advice:

    "Don't ticket yourself for drinking."

    "I won't."

    "Or get known for gambling - oh, I'm not preaching a moral lesson,
    only, what you do, do quietly."

    "I understand."

    "And another thing: no fooling around with women; that isn't done

    In contrast, by Page 10 of "Chloe Does Yale," our heroine is fooling
    around with a vengeance:

    Without a word, he leans in and kisses me. It's good. He's a goooood
    kisser. For just a moment I lose myself in it. Even my mind is giving
    a little sigh.

    But the moment of enjoyment is fleeting and my mind begins racing
    again. The good kiss is lost and now he's doing something very odd
    with his tongue.

    Stover, the bumbling neophyte, has little fashion sense, as his friend
    Dopey McNab tells him:

    "Fancy wearing a colored shirt - and such a color! You're gotten up
    for a boating party - not for a formal lunch. You're unspeakable,
    Dink, unspeakable! Look at me. I'm a delight - black and white,
    immaculate, impressive and absolutely correct."

    Chloe isn't hung up on sartorial niceties:

    Exotic Erotic is also the best party at Yale. Its motto: The less you
    wear, the lower the fare. Being only slightly more modest than cheap,
    I shelled out the requisite $3 at the door. I could have avoided the
    fee by showing the freshman manning the entrance my left breast. ...

    Once inside, it occurs to me, as it does every year, that being nearly
    naked in front of 4,000 other people who are nearly naked is quite an
    interesting, if not jarring, experience.

    Stover ignores Le Baron's advice about women and falls for the
    beautiful Jean Story. He courts her through the proper channels:

    The maid stood at the open door. There was nothing to do but to toil
    up the penal steps, heart in mouth.

    "Is Miss Story in?" he said in a lugubrious voice. "Will you present
    her with this card?"

    Chloe prefers the direct approach:

    We met. I was unimpressed. We hooked up.

    Despite Stover's gentlemanly overtures, Jean resists him:

    "Oh, please!" she said, with a sudden weakness, again trying to
    release her fingers.

    "I can't help it," he said, blurting out the words. "Jean, you know as
    well as I what it is. I love you." ...

    She remained motionless a moment, gathering her strength against the

    "Please let go my hand," she said quietly.

    Believe it or not, Chloe resists, too:

    Hooking up with college guys is like playing a sordid game of cat and
    mouse. They are after the mouse, and you need to hold them off as best
    you can. I am fending Maxwell off like a warrior princess. Hand moves
    to the bikini bottoms. Whop! I smack it away. He tries the left hand -
    tricky. Whop! I got that one, too.

    At one point, Stover frets that he's wasted his time by sucking up to
    well-connected classmates:

    "Good Lord!" he said, almost aloud, "in one whole year what have I
    done? I haven't made one single friend, known what one real man was
    doing or thinking, done anything I wanted to do, talked out what I
    wanted to talk, read what I wanted to read or had time to make the
    friends I wanted to make. I've been nothing but material - varsity
    material - society material."

    When Chloe frets, it's about not getting connected at all:

    "I need to start some kind of program for myself. You're all leaving
    me in relationship dust!" I exclaim.

    "You're not dusty," Crystal says comfortingly. "Maybe just a little
    ... rusty?"

    "Rusty? What do you mean?"

    "Last major relationship: Josh. Last major hookup: hello, honey, six
    months ago - Maxwell. Wake up and smell the Gold Cup. Girl, you gotta
    get yourself some action."

    "Stover at Yale" ends with Dink as a junior, achieving his ambition of
    membership in the secretive social club Skull and Bones, with the
    entire student body congratulating him:

    He heard them cheering, then he saw hundreds of faces, wild-eyed,
    rushing past him; he stumbled and suddenly his eyes were blurred with
    tears, and he knew how much he cared, after the long months of
    rebellion, to be no longer an outsider, but back among his own with
    the stamp of approval on his record.

    "Chloe Does Yale" also ends with its title character as a junior. But
    she, alas, fails to attain her true educational goal:

    I couldn't wait for college because everyone told me I would meet the
    man I was going to marry. I was going to fall in love.

    It's been three years, and I'm still waiting.

    Thomas Vinciguerra is an editor at The Week magazine.

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