August 17, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Palau RPCV P F Kluge speaks at Kenyon College

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Palau RPCV P F Kluge speaks at Kenyon College

Palau RPCV P F Kluge speaks at Kenyon College

'Alma Mater' author to speak

By Shannon Banks
Flat Hat Staff Writer

For anyone who has ever been heckled for coming to a liberal arts college, Kenyon College's Writer-in-Residence P.F. Kluge will deliver a lecture that presents a new take on this sort of life.

''Liberal arts colleges are small places; they're like islands in the Pacific,'' Kluge said. ''They have their own hierarchies, oral histories, myths and legends, and even tribal feuds.''

Entitled ''Life and Death at a Liberal Arts College,'' the lecture is co-sponsored by the Religion Department and the Dean of Arts and Sciences. It will be held in the University Center's Commonwealth Auditorium next Wednesday at 7 p.m.

''We invited him to speak here for several reasons, principally because he has written the best book on what it means to be a college professor and a college student at a liberal arts school today,'' religion professor David Holmes said. ''Mr. Kluge has written a splendid book full of idealism tempered with realism.''

At the lecture, which is free and open to the public, Kluge will read passages from his book ''Alma Mater'' and discuss reactions to it. The book traces a year in the life of Kenyon College in the early '90s.

Kluge drew on a variety of resources for ''Alma Mater.'' He graduated from Kenyon, located in Gambier, Ohio, in 1964 and returned as a faculty member in 1987. For research purposes, he moved back into a freshman dorm for a year.

Holmes discovered Kluge by reading his books, starting with ''Alma Mater.'' He uses another book by Kluge in his freshman seminar on World War II literature.

''None of the books we read dealt with the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, and his book 'MacArthur's Ghost' fills that gap,'' Holmes said.

Kluge has written a total of seven books, including ''Eddie and the Cruisers,'' which was made into a film. He is currently working on a novel about serial killings at a liberal arts college. During the lecture he will read passages from the manuscript.

As a writer, Kluge considers his current environment a treasure trove.

''I think a college is a good place for a writer to be,'' he said. ''It's like living in a small town. I like the river of life that flows through it.''

Before returning to Kenyon to work in 1987, he worked as a journalist for the Wall Street Journal and Life. When not teaching or working on a novel, he works as a contributing editor for National Geographic Traveler.

Although he has spoken at a number of colleges due to public interest in ''Alma Mater,'' Kluge has not spoken at any around the area.

Holmes notes that although the book is based on Kluge's experiences at Kenyon, ''Alma Mater'' could be about any liberal arts school in the country.

''The book and lecture are aimed at anyone who has an interest in the strengths and weaknesses of liberal arts education,'' Kluge said. ''It's not scholarly; it's pretty straightforward.''

Senior James Swynford, who has read ''Alma Mater'' twice, agrees.

''I thought it was very candid, humorous, and easy to read,'' he said. ''It opened up a whole new world to me.''

Swynford said he was looking forward to hearing Kluge speak and predicted that he will offer a ''very entertaining, substantive discussion of things relevant to [college students].''

On Friday, Kluge will be at the College bookstore from 2 to 4 p.m. for a book signing.

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