Fraternity: Stories

Benjamin Nugent. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (160p) ISBN 978-0-374-15860-6
Terry Southern Prize–winner Nugent digs into Greek life at an unnamed western Massachusetts university in this winning collection (after Good Kids). In “God,” Delta Zeta Chi members admiringly nickname a classmate God after she writes a poem calling out Delta president Newton as an “early detonator” in bed. “The Treasurer” stars incoming Delta treasurer Pete, whose dedication to the brotherhood impairs his reasoning after he’s sexually assaulted during a leadership test, while in “Ollie the Owl,” Nugent conceives a comical alternate reality where the fraternity’s wooden owl mascot comes to life and attacks students. “Safe Spaces,” the lone tale featuring a female protagonist, ponders the aimless nature of a broken heart, as dropout Claire, high on cocaine, seeks refuge at Delta house after being rebuffed by a former lover. While Nugent shows consistent talent for capturing the voices and shallow ambition of college students, he stumbles when he leaves the campus—the collection’s weakest story, “Fan Fiction,” dawdles as Newton, the Delta president from “God,” moves to Los Angeles and dates a famous director. Despite this aberration, the rest of the collection pulses with energy, and Nugent commendably weaves humor and drama to shine an unflinching light on the young adults convening behind fraternity walls. One can almost smell the stale beer on the page. (July)
Reviewed on : 04/07/2020
Release date: 07/07/2020
Genre: Fiction
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