Sunday, August 20, 2006

Chuck Eberly Reviews New Fraternity Novel

Another trite fraternity bashing, August 20, 2006
The Worthy: A Ghost's Story by Will ClarkeEdition

Will Clarke's story of a physhopathic murderer, and the ghost of the pledge he killed, is a quick light read. If fraternity life at LSU is as sotten as Will describes, and I am led to think the entire campus has an alcohol problem, not just the fraternity system, one wonders if there is anything at LSU remotely associated with the higher learning. This is another of a long list of fraternity-related novels that employs the base and the banal as if fraternity life were centered on debauchery, and fraternity men were involved only with pubic education. Rather than using an overworn theme of hazing, drunken parties, and anti-intellectualism, what would be refreshing is a novel about fraternity life that centered not on the descent into debauchery, but on the rise from it. So much of fraternity fiction centers on excess (Animal House, etc.) that "The Worthy" contains little that is "new" except for several plot twists. Still, one has to wonder at the shallowness of the characters, particularly when the unsuspecting country boy (lower class) is used to recreate the "hero" of the novel with the campus's most beautiful and attractive (but also lower class) coed. Clarke keeps the Southern Class System intact, sadly. I know fraternity men who have endured hazing almost as egregious as that described in the book, and one has shared his story with me in detail. The difference is that as a pledge and then as a young member, he confronted his fraternity brothers and took specific action to change the nature of the fraternity. Today his fraternity is a far better organization, and he became a respected campus leader known for his moral strength. In my humble opinion, Will Clarke took the easy route in creating a novel incorporating the stereotypical worst of fraternity life. What would be truly challenging, and refreshing, is a novel about fraternity life that lifts up the idealism of the organizations, honors the Ritual, and leaves the principal characters at a better, higher stage of life than they were at the beginning. In my 40-plus years of experience with fraternities, the majority of members do rise to the challenge and become better men. Clarke's ability to create dark humor could just as well be used to create joyful hilarity.
Review written by Charles G. Eberly "Order of the Golden Heart, SPE" (Charleston, IL)