On the Horizon

Adolf Hitler, the triumphal conqueror, now controlled the bulk of Western Europe-—from the Pyrenees to the Arctic Circle, from the Atlantic to beyond the Vistula.

Great Britain now stood alone.

***

Until the late 1950s, more than half the students at West Coast universities were members of the “Greek” fraternity system. Today, only about 10 percent belong.

At the University of Oregon in 1940, fraternities and sororities dominated student life on campus. It was the way to go. And one of the two most powerful fraternities at Oregon was the local chapter of Alpha Tau Omega, a curious mix of scholars, athletes, student politicians, ranchers’ sons, California expatriates and cityside kids up from the crowd.

There was nothing snobbish about the ATOs, however, evidenced by their pledging two freshmen from Portland’s lower eastside: Dan Borich and Byron Mayo.

We became ATOs, along with Vic Collin from Grant High School in Portland and “Ox” Wilson from The Dalles. Bob Ballard joined the SAEs.

Set on a knoll overlooking Eugene’s Pioneer Cemetery, the ATO house was an awkward, two-story, Moorish-style structure with a dormitory wing on one side and a warren of small study rooms on the other.

On those groggy, god-awful mornings when I had an eight o’clock ‘class, the cemetery provided a convenient, “forbidden” shortcut to the main campus.

***

My first dreaded eight o’clock was 20th Century Literature, in a handsome old building near the millrace, at the far end of the lower campus.

The Dublin-born professor still packed an Irish brogue as he strode up and down, passionately defending the significance of James Joyce’s labyrinthine novel, Ulysses—considered by many to be the greatest novel of the twentieth century and considered by many others to be the greatest unread novel of the twentieth century.

I couldn’t get through the thing.

One week before final exams, I skipped to the last episode, mulled over Molly Bloom’s famous stream-of-consciousness monologue, wrote a labored interpretation of her self-confessions, and squeezed through the term with a passing grade.

Because James Joyce had a strong influence on Wilham Faulkner, John Dos Passos and Ernest Hemingway, I may tussle with Ulysses again someday. But then again, life is short. And I may not.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Leave a Reply