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Book Review | The Classmates, by Geoffrey Douglas

Book Review | The Classmates, by Geoffrey Douglas
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The Classmates: Privilege, Chaos and the End of an Era (Hyperion, $23.95), by longtime Yankee contributor Geoffrey Douglas, is several books: a memoir of his years at St. Paul’s, the New Hampshire prep school that expelled him in 1961; a travelogue of the turbulent decades that followed; and a portrait of his former classmates, including Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

It was an e-mail group of those classmates, formed to discuss Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, that inspired the book. The more I read, the more I found myself wanting to know: How did that boy become this man? How many of the stumblers, and which ones, have found sure footing?

Douglas tells many stories, but they all include the burden of expectations. Some of his classmates buckled under the load. Some, like Kerry, rose to the pinnacle of success — yet even then, Kerry remained the outsider he had been at St. Paul’s. A politician’s life might have been the last career path on which a wise counselor would have sent him, Douglas observes. But there were always expectations. In college, his roommates used to play “Hail to the Chief” on kazoos when Kerry entered the room.

It’s a touching, troubling book that should be read by every commencement speaker before dropping the leaden mantle of expectations on another graduating class. — Tim Clark

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Tim Clark

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Tim Clark

Biography:

Tim Clark has been writing for Yankee Magazine and The Old Farmer's Almanac since 1975. Subjects of his many Yankee profiles have included filmmaker Ken Burns, historian Barbara Tuchman, pediatrician and political activist Dr. Benjamin Spock, and World War II General James Gavin. Tim left his job as Managing Editor in 1999 to teach English at ConVal High School in Peterborough, N.H. for 13 years, but since retiring from that demanding and rewarding profession in 2012, he has continued to contribute articles and book reviews. Tim lives in Dublin, N.H., two miles from the offices of Yankee Publishing, and serves as Town Moderator, a post previously occupied by Rob Sagendorph, the founder of Yankee Magazine.
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