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Meritocracy: A Love Storyby Jeffrey Lewis
Synopses & Reviews
Meritocracy is the story of a generation when it was young, caught at the moment when history arrived to exact a tragic and inevitable price. It is the end of the summer of 1966 and a small group of friends, recent Yale graduates, gather in a Maine summer cottage to say good-bye to one of their own. Harry Nolan is joining the Army and may be sent to Vietnam. Also present is Harry's beautiful young bride, Sascha.
Harry and Sascha represent to their friends the apex of their generation. Sascha has men falling for her "up and down the eastern seaboard," and Harry, a rich and fearless Californian, son of a United States senator, has his friends convinced that he will one day be president. The story proceeds from the point-of-view of one of the friends, Louie, whose unspoken love for Sascha is like a worm that works its way through the narrative, cracking apart every innocent assumption. An aura of power, earned and unearned, assumed and desired, hangs over this Ivy League world.
And it settles at last on Harry, who on this final weekend before his induction comes to understand a terrible paradox: if he's going into the Army simply to maintain his political viability, his action will dishonor his right to lead; but if he doesn't go, he will likely never have the chance. His wrestling with this paradox unleashes a spiral of events that becomes as fateful for all the characters as it is emblematic of the times they grew up in.
In one sense, Meritocracy is a novel for the Al Gores and John Kerrys and George Bushes of today's America. But in a larger sense it is a book for all those of the postwar generation who have mourned the loss of their true "best and brightest," and who regret how the life of their nation, so brightly and hopefully imagined when they were young, and now entrusted to their care, has come to be diminished.
"A sheen of nostalgia glazes this tribute to privileged college kids in the 1960s by television writer (Hill Street Blues) and film writer Lewis. Politics is the frame of reference for Lewis's Yalie protagonists, who gather in Maine at the end of the summer of 1966 to bid farewell to Harry Nolan, who is going to Vietnam as an enlisted man. There is speculation about Harry's motives: has he joined up to advance his potential political career (his father is a senator), or are his reasons more personal? Narrator Louie, who idolizes Harry and is in love from afar with Harry's gorgeous, mysterious wife, Sascha, casts the couple in a golden light ('like Indian gods both of them, like Shiva with Parvati'), while attempting to curb his resentment. The story of the idyllic weekend alternates with an older, wiser Louie's reflections on the political fate of his generation: he compares Harry to contemporaries Gore and Bush and attempts to reconcile the conflicting attractions of meritocracy and democracy. The tone shifts from elegiac to tragic when the group drives home in the fog after a late night at a bar and crashes, changing everything for Sascha and Harry. This is less a novel than a paean to lost youth and hopes, and will appeal most to Lewis's fellow Ivy League boomers. (Sept. 7) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A tragic coming of age story as a group of recent Yale graduates deal with the repercussions of the Vietnam War.
About the Author
Jeffrey Lewis won two Emmys and many other honors as a writer and producer of Hill Street Blues. His "Meritocracy Quartet" is intended to chart the progress of a generation. The first book of the quartet, Meritocracy: A Love Story, won both the Independent Publishers Book Award for General Fiction and the ForeWord Book of the Year Silver Award for Fiction. He lives in Los Angeles and Castine, Maine.
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