4 books fresh from campus, recommended to you by us at 4th Estate.
‘You know what college does for you? It makes you really smart, man’
Kanye West, School Spirit Skit 1
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
College baseball is the obsession that primarily unites the characters in The Art of Fielding: Mike Schwartz is chief mentor, Owen is composed and deft and Henry possesses a rare talent: he’s never misthrown a ball. But there’s more to the lawns of Westish College than baseball. President Affenlight’s daughter Pella has returned from a failed marriage, and Affenlight is experiencing his own awakening. Hearts are racing and stamina is tested, while the statue of Herman Melville looks silently on.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
On the first page of this novel we learn three things: a boy called Bunny has been murdered, his murder hasn’t gone according to plan, and our narrator is heavily implicated in the crime. So begins THE novel of the nineties, exploding with a vigour that catches in your throat. The Secret History tracks a privileged Classics set whose cerebral pursuits land them in deep water, and Tartt’s probing of the intricate dynamics of collegiate friendship makes this a standout example of the campus genre.
The Horned Man by James Lasdun
As in The Secret History, something is immediately amiss, but not in so obvious a manner. Laurence Miller is an English expatriate teaching Gender Studies at a college near Manhattan, sitting on a Sexual Harassment Committee which is handling a student-professor affair. Lawrence’s rather numb routine is disturbed by a series of strange occurrences – who is Trumilcik, the shady Eastern European who used to occupy his office? Why is his office adorned with a network of secret mirrors? Why is Elaine, the lawyer at work, convinced that she and Miller are in the throes of a clandestine tryst? And why is Miller reacting so strangely to all of this? Paranoia takes hold, and Lasdun’s twisty prose leads to a place you never saw coming.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Can literature’s traditional marriage plot work in modern fiction? This is the question that Eugenides seeks to address in this ingenious novel – as does his heroine Madeleine, albeit in a rather less cerebral manner. While studying at Brown, Madeleine is torn between brilliant, depressive Leonard and her romantically-inclined friend Mitchell. Witty, whip-smart and deeply moving, The Marriage Plot is a love story to make you think.
Words by Tara Al Azzawi