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"Identifying the right partner is critical. One of the criteria by which I am defining the right partner..."
April 1, 2013 - 1:16pm

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UD

By their words shall ye know them.  The Princeton graduate getting global attention for warning current undergraduate Princeton women to gather ye assortative rosebuds while ye may isn't the April Fool's joke people are calling her.  She's got a certain take on things... Things having to do with the importance of physical, rather than virtual, campuses, for instance...

As with so much in expressive life, this woman could have made her point so much better.  She could have mildly put it out there that Princeton women should consider thinking about marriage to a classmate while they're at that school, because these women will never again be in the midst of a concentration of people so (arguably) suited to them. 

Her letter, or essay, could have started autobiographically:  Right now, in the midst of a divorce from a non-well-educated person she shouldn't have married because they lacked intellectual sympathy, she regrets having overlooked that possibility when she was at Princeton... Self-deprecating humor would have been the tone, a sadder but wiser thing involving no crude fear-mongering or advice-giving, but, again, just a putting it out there for what it's worth approach.

I don't say it's a particularly sympathetic or strong argument; I say there are ways she could have shot her arrow so that it fell into Not Totally Repellent territory.


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But she made a number of fatal mistakes, most of them having to do with forgetting to think about the nature of her subject.  She is writing about the messy, delicate, intense, enigmatic, private, profoundly human matter of falling in love.  To this subject she has brought (see my headline quoting her) the redundant, rigid language of Saul Bellow's Reality Instructors, or John Cleese's banana expert.  No one outside of characters in hilarious misadventurous chick flicks "identifies" the critically "right partner" using "criteria." 

No, the Princeton advice-giver is not an April Fool's joke, but she is a satirical figure, a person whose words come directly out of America's greatest satires - Pnin, The Crying of Lot 49, White Noise, Infinite Jest.  All of these novels showcase bullying, bureaucratic, reality instructors, some of whom, like Cleese's guy, shade over into psychosis. 

When you share their language, you make yourself ridiculous.

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(If you want the real skinny on Princeton, there's Walter Kirn.)

 

 

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