Quarterlife Crisis) begins by setting readers up with the ridiculous myth of Yale's Skull and Bones, an exclusive society whose powerful members "/>

SECRETS OF THE TOMB: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power

Alexandra Robbins, Author . Little, Brown $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-316-72091-5

Robbins (Quarterlife Crisis) begins by setting readers up with the ridiculous myth of Yale's Skull and Bones, an exclusive society whose powerful members—including both presidents Bush—are sworn to secrecy for life about the club's activities: the myth says that the society's members form a clique that rules the world. Robbins then proposes demystifying the group. On the one hand, she propagates the myth, spelling out how Bonesmen have promoted one another in enormously successful political and business careers; they presided over the creation of the atomic bomb as well as the CIA, she says. On the other hand, Robbins turns up much that is prosaic, as she traces the society's origins back to 1832, when William Russell founded it as retribution for a classmate's having been passed over by Phi Beta Kappa; she discovers that the club's cryptic iconography is derived from German university societies. She reveals the inventory of the Tomb (an evocative name for what is essentially a frat house) and details about the group's oddly juvenile fraternal ritual. The narrative never gets more dramatic than Robbins staking out the Tomb for President George W. Bush during Yale's tercentennial celebrations in 2002, and while she relies heavily on the testimony of many Bonesmen, she never names names. While the book may demystify Skull and Bones, it also imparts the sense that Robbins, herself a Yale graduate and member of a rival society, believes in Yalies' elitist entitlement to power and prestige. (Sept. 6)

Reviewed on: 07/08/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
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