The Student Body: A Novel

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Overview

Harvard University can be a menacing place. Academic pressure is intense. Racial and sexual politics create a minefield. Toni Isaacs, a gutsy young Harvard student who reports for the campus paper, can handle that - usually. This smart black woman works hard, knows how to dress, and won't back down in a fight. Covering a story for the Harvard Crimson, Toni receives a tip: Harvard students - both men and women - are working as prostitutes. Determined to make her mark, Toni finds herself drawn into Boston's sexual ...
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Overview

Harvard University can be a menacing place. Academic pressure is intense. Racial and sexual politics create a minefield. Toni Isaacs, a gutsy young Harvard student who reports for the campus paper, can handle that - usually. This smart black woman works hard, knows how to dress, and won't back down in a fight. Covering a story for the Harvard Crimson, Toni receives a tip: Harvard students - both men and women - are working as prostitutes. Determined to make her mark, Toni finds herself drawn into Boston's sexual underworld, where she encounters strippers, johns, escorts, vice cops, a stash of student sex diaries, and an MBA candidate with a very unusual business plan. Toni's investigation ineluctably draws in some of her closest friends, who find their own worlds spinning out of control. This Mod Squad for the nineties stumbles across a scheme that jeopardizes much more than their academic futures and will have readers of this compulsive page-turner wondering just who the real prostitutes at Harvard are.
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Editorial Reviews

Peter Kurth
If you wanted to write a bestselling novel in this age of sex and youth-worship, you might do what the pseudonymous Jane Harvard has done in The Student Body. You'd look for a salacious news story, switch its locale, invent a variety of "multicultural" characters -- an African-American student reporter, her Latina roommate, a studly Vietnamese bisexual with pecs of steel, etc. -- and throw them all into a sinister plot involving corporate swindlers and academic frauds who are out to seduce more than the kids. You'd take your readers inside the dorms and regale them with talk about "pussy" and "dicks." One of your characters would count the number of times he "thrusts" during sex, stopping at 140 and noticing afterward that his member is "sticky." You'd be on to something for sure -- something really obnoxious.

"Jane Harvard" is actually the nom de plume of four recent graduates of Harvard, two men and two women, who've spent the last six years hammering out sentences and paragraphs with an eye to exposing the reality of student prostitution in the Ivy League. Based loosely on a real-life sex scandal at Brown in 1986, The Student Body was written "partly as a lark," the authors explain, "and partly as a way to pay off our student loans ... We decided to see if we could collaborate on a book without killing each other." They appear to have accomplished that much successfully, but at the cost of drowning all life in their prose. The Student Body isn't bad so much as stultified, written, rewritten, edited and processed to a single point of breathless obviousness.

"As her classmate shut his eyes and leaned down to kiss her," we read, "Tara Sheridan wondered why voluptuous moments like this had been so rare in her Harvard career." Everyone in The Student Body is introduced like this -- whatever else Jane Harvard may have learned at school, she's up to speed on simple exposition: "The long-haired repairman stripped off his undershirt and dropped it on the avocado-green linoleum floor. He rested his hips against the stainless-steel sink and motioned for the housewife to inch forward." And later: "Sterling Kwok returned from lunch at the faculty club -- risotto primavera and a very pleasant Chardonnay -- only to be informed by an uncharacteristically agitated Mrs. Hale that a group of students had burst into the outer office waiting to see him." The authors' unified, negotiated voice serves as a heavy shellac on their plot and their characters, even though The Student Body was obviously intended to be funny and fun. The best parts of the book are the multicultural send-ups and what arises from the authors' ingrained familiarity with the lives of privileged kids in Cambridge. Everyone drinks Diet Coke; everyone reads Vanity Fair. There are eating disorders and tedious lesbians and condoms stamped with the Harvard motto, "Veritas."

"Sterling had been on the front lines with SDS; he had stormed the administration building, heart pounding with fear as he remembered the demonstrators killed at Kent State ... He had no time for these armchair radicals whining about handicapped bathrooms and dolphin-safe tuna." But takes like this are too few and rare to keep The Student Body moving. As one of the characters says with a sigh, "If only Harvard students weren't so damned convinced of their capacity for original thought." SALON May 4, 1998

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780615113449
  • Publisher: MayaLuna Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/2000
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Harvard is a pseudonym for four graduates of Harvard College: Faith Adiele, Michael Francisco Melcher, Bennett Singer, and Julia Sullivan, who work in film, law, and academia and live in Massachusetts and New York. Inspired by a prostitution scandal that unfolded at Brown University in 1986, Jane Harvard began collaborating on The Student Body six years ago to help pay off student loans.

Faith Adiele serves as the Christa McAuliffe Chair/Visiting Professor in English at Framingham State College. A former fellow at the MacDowell Colony and Ragdale Foundation, she has published in Ploughshares, Ms., and anthologies from Norton, Beacon, Doubleday, and Routledge presses. Adiele lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where she is at work on a memoir about growing up Nigerian/Scandinavian in Washington State.

Michael Francisco Melcher is a securities lawyer in New York City. Raised in Orange County, California, he earned JD and MBA degrees at Stanford University, where he wrote, produced, and directed several musical parodies of law-school life. Along with another business-school classmate, Melcher created the Stephanopouletter, a political fanzine. Before practicing law, he was a foreign service officer with the U.S. Information Agency in India and Taiwan.

Bennett Singer has served as producer or associate producer on a number of nationally broadcast PBS series, including Eyes on the Prize: America at the Racial Crossroads; The Question of Equality; and With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. He is the editor of the award-winning Growing Up Gay/Growing Up Lesbian: A Literary Anthology and an editor of Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil RightsMovement. At Harvard, he was executive editor of the Independent, a campus weekly. Singer lives in Brooklyn, New York, and currently works as executive editor of Time magazine's education program.

Julia Sullivan has been a freelance writer, translator, and editor for the past ten years. She has taught American literature, medieval studies, and science fiction at Rutgers Univer-sity; her work as a playwright and librettist has been read and staged throughout the Northeast and in England. A native of Massachusetts, Sullivan is currently employed as director of communications at Cambridge College, and is the editor of the forthcoming incandescence.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2003

    Cute, shallow - a bit like rich kids at Harvard?

    It took four Harvard graduates to write this slight, slick amusing little piece of fluff. I guess you can't teach literary talent, even to the more affluent of America's grade-getting youth. Could it be that the authors' attraction to the establishment, coupled with their own sense of entitlement, has rendered their collective sense of humour a bit dulled? Supposedly one of the writers for the Simpsons is a Harvard grad, so they can't all be this stolid and unremarkable.

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