Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Quote of the Day (Mary McCarthy, on Postwar College Students)

“These youths, for the most part, were still squirming in the straitjacket of puberty; their hands trembled when they lit a cigarette; their wrists protruded from their very coat-sleeves; they lived in an existential extremity; every instant of communication was anguish. Besides the beer-and-convertible crowd—the ex-bootleggers' and racketeers' sons, movie-agents' sons, the heavy-walleted incorrigible sons of advertising geniuses who had been advised to try Jocelyn as a last resort—the male part of the college included an unusual number of child prodigies, mathematical wizards of fourteen, as well as some spastics and paraplegics, cripples of various sorts, boys with tics, polio victims. There were a deaf boy, a dumb boy, boys with several kinds of speech-defects; there were two boys who had fits, boys with unusual skin diseases with ordinary acne, with glasses, with poor teeth, a boy with a religious complex, boys who had grown too fast, with long, chickeny necks and quivering Adam's apples. The girls, by comparison, were blooming, healthy, often pretty specimens, with the usual desires and values, daughters of commercial artists, commercial writers, radio-singers, insurance-salesmen, dermatologists, girls who had failed to get into Smith or nearby Swarthmore, girls from the surrounding region, narcissistic, indolent girls wanting a good time and not choosey, girls who sculpted or did ceramics of animals or fashion-drawing, liverish girls, older than the rest, on scholarship." —Mary McCarthy, The Groves of Academe (1952)

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