Friday, November 11, 2011

Separt* (for Separat*, Depart*)

A young person of whom I'm very fond informed me recently that she'd just read the John Knowles novel, published in 1959 and beloved of high school English teachers ever since, A Separate Peace. (The title comes from a line in Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.) Somehow having missed this perennial assignment during my own tender years, I found myself finally settling down to read it on Veterans Day. This poignant memoir is set in 1944 at a tony New Hampshire prep school known as "Devon" and is loosely based on the author's experiences at Phillips Exeter Academy (one of the characters bears a resemblance to fellow alumnus Gore Vidal). It's an idyllic coming of age before going to war, and the personal/political tragedy that punctuated and defined it. Protagonist Gene Forrester movingly tells the story of his close and complex relationship with his roommate Phineas and how they were ultimately separated amid classmates' departures into a world dominated by defense departments. There were 26 cases of today's typo (usually but not always for separate, etc.) in OhioLINK (half a dozen or so being transcribed instances of antiquated spelling) and 681 in WorldCat.

(A Separate Peace, 1960 MacMillan edition, courtesy of Whitmore Rare Books.)

Carol Reid

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