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College joes 

Until I started reading Tom Perrotta's novel "Joe College," I hadn't realized that my college years needed explaining. But the book -- set at Yale in 1982 -- captures a great deal of college life in that time period, from the music to the clothes to the struggles of overcoming the substantial class differences within the student body. It captures so much, in fact, that after 50 pages I was hoping it could do what great literature does: explain my own life to myself.

I tried to write something like "Joe College" not too long after graduation: a novel that could capture the humor and inquiry of college life. But I was not then very experienced, nor did I have much distance on the experience, so the result was a mess. Perrotta's far more talented: the voice is genuine, the details telling.

Unfortunately by the end of the book I couldn't tell that Perrotta had any such actual explanations. He had captured a moment... for the sake of capturing it.

I think I'm going to have to go back to assuming that for me college was a rich time, one of learning and growth, one I look back on fondly while seeing ever-increasing areas of missed opportunity. (A lot like many other people, I'm sure.) Not necessarily something that could be "explained" -- or needs to be.

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