Saturday, August 22, 2009

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz ***

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz is really two books in one; an inside look at the world of college admissions and the story of Portia Nathan, a story that revolves around her job in the Admission Office of Princeton University and the few (bad) decisions she'd made in her life. If your interest is college admissions, the author recommends: The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College.

The story of Portia Nathan is a challenge as Portia suffers from depression and like Raskolnikov is more prone to introspection than action, though, also like Raskolnikov, has brief episodes of decisive action. Depressed protagonists (is that an oxymoron?) rarely make for compelling reading.
She had no particular talents, no extraordinary intelligence, no burning desire to excel in some academic field or profession, and that in absence of a life plan or goal, her intention was to wait until something happened to her.
A year of lying-awake torment in which imagined touching alternated with imagined conversation, invented smells and tastes, and great insights, reached with the catalyst of his undoubted brilliance. But nothing actually happened.
Portia had abruptly found herself without a destination and taken on the general demeanor of a pillar of salt.
Lead by this passive protagonist, the reader wanders though the Princeton admission cycle and Portia's life of missed opportunities to a surprisingly satisfactory resolution. I must warn readers that Portia's story, though full of poignancy and pathos, is insufficient to maintain interest and involvement throughout. The admission process delivers much of the conflict and plot motivation, so if you are not interested in this facet, skip this book and read War and Peace

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