Friday, July 17, 2009
As a graduate alumna of an Ivy League university who just went through the college application process with my daughter and will soon to embark on it again with my son, I was intrigued when I saw Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel, Admission (Grand Central 2009), on the New Fiction shelf in the bookstore. The story explores the moral dilemma of a Princeton University admissions officer, Portia Nathan, whose encounter with a brilliant but atypical Princeton applicant forces her confront a difficult secret she has carried, alone, since her own college days at Dartmouth. Having served as an outside reader for the Princeton University Office of Admission for several seasons, Korelitz fills her novel with behind-the scenes details that help demystify what admissions officers do as they struggle to put together an incoming class. I must admit I enjoyed this book immensely. After spending so many months reading college guides and application manuals, it was fascinating to see the entire process fictionalized and tied to broader societal issues. The novel's opening sentence has become one of my all-time favorites: "The flight from Newark to Hartford took no more than fifty-eight minutes, but she still managed to get her heart broken three times." If you're looking for some good non-historical reading, give Admission a try. I will definitely be looking into more of Jean Hanff Korelitz's work.