Letters - December 16, 1998

The fictive Princeton

Please count me among the many who enjoyed Ann Waldron's article, "The Fictive Princeton" (PAW, November 4), and permit me to call attention to an omission from its "complete list" of Princeton-related stories and novels. Tolbecken (1955), by Samuel Shellabarger '09, is a posthumously published, semiautobiographical novel that includes Woodrow Wilson 1879 as a cameo character and an evocative description of the university during his presidency. Why Shellabarger did not publish the novel in his lifetime I don't know; perhaps its self-critical tone and invocation of the recurrent "up-from-snobbery" theme of Princeton novels didn't fit with the author's courtly, reserved, and distinctly nonrebellious literary persona. He had become rich and famous in his 50s as the author of such best-selling historical novels as Captain from Castile and Prince of Foxes, and he listed himself in Who's Who as a Republican and an Episcopalian.

John Milton Cooper, Jr. '61
Madison, Wisc.

Your article made no mention of Walker Percy's The Last Gentleman (1966). Percy's father was LeRoy Pratt Percy '10. In the novel, the protagonist is a young southerner who, "like his father and grandfather and all other male forebears ... was sent up to Princeton University." His fellow students "had a certain Princeton way of talking, even the ones from Chicago and California, and a certain way of sticking their hands in their pockets and settling their chins in their throats." His dormitory room is 203 Lower Pyne, "by coincidence ... the very room occupied by his grandfather in 1910." Grandfather and father had adored Princeton; at the mere mention of the names of certain classmates, including "Froggie Auchincloss the true frog the blue frog the unspeakably parvenu frog ... his father would smile and shake his head fondly and stick his hands in his pockets in a certain way and rock back on his heels in the style of the class of '37." But Princeton inexplicably makes the grandson miserable. Sitting at his desk on the crisp, cool day of the Harvard game in his junior year, he "tried to get up, but his limbs were weighed down by a strange inertia and he moved like a sloth. It was all he could do to keep from sinking to the floor. Walking around in old New Jersey was like walking on Saturn, where the force of gravity is eight times that of earth."

W. Barksdale Maynard '88
Newark, Del.

It's inevitable that in such an article something would be overlooked. I can think of Hurrah for the Next Man Who Dies (1985), by Mark Goodman, a novel based on the life of Hobey Baker '14, with much on his Princeton years.

Richard A. Baker '58
Annapolis, Md.

Your list of Princeton-related fiction missed at least one work: In Princeton Town, by Day Edgar (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929).

Richard Kouzes *75
Morgantown, W.Va.

Your list of Princeton-related fiction omitted Bygones (1981), Frank Wilkinson '63's enthralling family saga. Published by G.P. Putnam's, it follows the fictional Philadelphia-based Whisten family from the 1880s into the present, including Thayer Whisten '02 in his Princeton years. Bygones devotes many pages to describing the turn-of-the-century campus, bicker, and Princeton in general. The novel is dedicated to Wilkinson's college friend and classmate, William Thom, among others.

Liz Shollenberger '78
New York, N.Y.

Ann Waldron's piece didn't mention Deering at Princeton (1913), by the Reverend Latta Griswold '01. Published by Macmillan with eight illustrations, it looks at Princeton at the turn of the century.

Thomas B. Marshall '43
West Chester, Penn.

Editor's note: When we titled the list of works "complete" we did so knowing readers would come up with titles we had missed. Since the article appeared, Waldron has learned of additional Princeton-related titles. One is a mystery set in Firestone Library: Deadly Meeting (1993), by Robert Bernard. Two other novels set in Princeton are Wrong Information Is Being Given Out at Princeton (1998), by J. P. Donleavy; and Nemesis (1990), by "Rosamond Smith" (a nom de plume of Joyce Carol Oates, the Roger S. Berlind '52 Professor in the Humanities).

What is wrong with PAW's fact-checking? You mistakenly assign Fred Buechner, one of the authors mentioned in your article about Princeton in fiction, to the Class of 1948. In fact he is a member of the great Class of 1947.

Joseph Neff Ewing, Jr. '47
West Chester, Penn.

For the record

In a profile of poet William Meredith '40*47 which appeared in the issue of September 9, we incorrectly identified one of his former students as the "late" author and poet Gayl Jones, who remains very much alive.

In the October 7 issue we inadvertently reversed the photograph on page 14 of Princeton Stadium.

In the October 21 issue, the article on Ivy Leaguers in the National Football League should have said that Cowboys quarterback Jason Garrett '89's 1994 game against Green Bay took place on Thanksgiving Day, not during the playoffs. Also in that issue, the correct photo credit in the profile of photographer Natasha Bult '91 is Solina Guedroïtz.

Our November 4 article on the restoration of the 1879 gilded lions attributed them to the sculptor Fredéric Auguste Bartholdi; in fact the sculptor is unknown. Also in the Letters department of that issue, we misidentified Perry Smith, the writer of a letter criticizing CNN's account of Operation Tailwind, as a member of the Class of 1957 living in London. There is such a Perry Smith, but he's not the author of the letter, a 1956 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

In the November 18 issue, a Notebook article on the Aubrey Beardsley exhibit in Firestone Library misspelled the name of Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine.

This is our last issue until January 27. To all our readers, best wishes for the holidays.

-- The Editors