The Last Autumn: A Novel of a Princeton University Senior
Want to know what it might be like to go to Princeton? Read The Last Autumn by Daniel Scavone.
I met Dan at Rutgers when I was a freshman and he was a senior. He went on to earn an MBA and a law degree at Penn and sent his children to Yale, Vanderbilt and Carnegie Mellon. He also lived in the Princeton area for a long time. The Last Autumn “questions what constitutes success in America and are these goals really worth striving for. The novel takes jabs at what society values as “having made it.” Although funny and satirical, the novel confronts serious issues such as child abuse, drugs, privilege, power, sex and suicide.”
Please listen to my conversation with Dan about The Last Autumn. Parents and students alike will learn a lot about what it means to attend a selective university
Alex Williams, Princeton University, Class of 2015, is an ordinary young man admitted into extraordinary circumstances.. He rows crew, majors in English, earns good grades, and has an introductory appreciation for Mozart. His best friend, “Boder,” is the son of the senior senator from Virginia and his girlfriend, Amanda, is daughter to a wealthy alumnus, and former crew Olympian, Ronnie Fallon, aka ‘The Cruiser’. Alex is a member of O’Neill, a non-elitist (and fictional) eating club, Princeton’s counter to fraternities and sororities. He does not enter Princeton with their connections, but he does not feel as much pressure on himself to live up to expectations. His senior thesis, thinner than most, is a play about bowling!
Through The Last Autumn, and a pair of admissions and engineering tours of Princeton that I took after reading the story, I felt that Princeton students were likely smarter than my classmates, and probably Dan’s, at Rutgers.
But I did not believe that the fictional students were any more aware of what they wanted to do after they graduated, even if they had a feeling that Princeton would “be there for them.”
Being a Rutgers alum I had to laugh as I read this exchange between Alex and Boder, as they drove through downtown New Brunswick on their way to meet their dates:
“Man, this town seems so much cooler than down our way,” Boder remarked. “Tell me again why we didn’t go to college here?”
“Because we wanted to be guaranteed an elitist job when we graduated.”
“Oh yeah, right,” Boder replied, lighting up a one hitter he had pulled out of his pocket.
The students who took me around the Princeton Engineering Quad were not Boders. They were certainly motivated towards their academics, but they also wanted to leave with few good friends and their sanity. I never heard more praise for engineering labs, especially a semiconductor “clean room,” than I have ever heard on an unscripted college tour!
If you want a better picture from the student’s view, and you cannot spend many days on campus, read The Last Autumn and listen to this conversation between me and Dan.
This story should fly off the stacks into the bags and backpacks of students, parents, Tiger hopefuls, and maybe counselors and admissions officers!
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Want to know more about me? Check out these podcasts!
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!