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Seated around the table, ready to gorge on the conversation if not the food cocaine, the Pernod of its era, is a notorious appetite suppressantberets swapped for sunglasses, were the neo F. All three were in the class of All three were, at various times, infatuated and disappointed with one another, their friendships stimulated and fueled by rivalry. Every prodigy needs his or her very own Gertrude Stein or Sherwood Anderson—i. Bennington had those in profusion, teachers who were also artists: journalist Joe McGinniss; novelists and short-story writers Nicholas Delbanco and Arturo Vivante; and poet, mystic, and self-chronicler Claude Fredericks.
It was so isolated and so beautiful, and it was green and surrounded by mountains. At the center of campus was a building—tall, white, very grand, with columns and a bell clock—called Commons. And then, if you looked straight ahead, a long, lush, rolling lawn lined by lovely, New England-y clapboard houses, creating this visual corridor so that your eye was drawn to the end of it, where the earth suddenly fell away, just— poof —vanished.
Not really, of course, but it looked as if it did. The rumor was that the campus was the site of an ancient Native American burial ground. Supposedly it was one of the few spots on earth where all four winds met at the same time.
And there was something sacred about it, something haunted. It was like all of us, collectively, were tapping the source. It was amazing. The people around him would all wear Wayfarers too. Growing up in L. My strongest memories are of my first two or three days. New England was so different from southern California—the physicality of it, the sentiment.
It was a giant shift for me, and it was overpowering. And God, Bennington was small. There were in my freshman class, maybe, if that. He had a lot of talent. He had a lot of problems. He also had a suitcase full of drugs. I had a crush on him. A lot of women did.
The dining hall was this huge social thing, especially weekend brunches. Bret had a table, and the people around him would all wear Wayfarers too, and listen to him make commentary. I think I got in on a short story I sent in. Nobody I know would have been there if they had required SAT scores. That was part of the reason I went to Bennington. Like, I got in because of my drawings, because of the pictures I drew.
I spent my entire senior year carving marble in the sculpture workshop. It was my girlfriend who brought me a Bennington application. I fell in love with the idea of Bennington because of the way it billed itself. Essentially, it was self-selecting. Bennington was, for me, almost a perverse ambition. I liked that it was famously expensive. In some oblique way, I was taking revenge on my father. They gave me a good scholarship. Kids who were literally from the Pilgrims, whose families had traveled over on the Mayflower. That was her hobby. Bennington had the highest tuition in the country.
Also one of the highest attrition rates. Mark was from the fabulous world of Santa Monica and Crossro [progressive private school].
That first night, there was a mixer. They were in a band and wore miniskirts under plaid shirts and had gelled hair and were unbelievably cool and punky and exciting. He was quiet, a bit of a pretty boy, a bit of a dandy, great hair.
Brixton went after him hard. She and I spoke across a temporal gap, none of her cultural references newer than J. Barrie, none of mine older than Foghorn Leghorn the only southern accent I knew.
I exaggerate. Donna was a transfer student [from the University of Mississippi], had enjoyed the mentorship of [writers] Willie Morris and Barry Hannah. Eliot and so could Donna. We were a very brief thing. It was finished the first month of school. We fondled around in bed. It was just—it was a little weird. She told this story about being forced to go to home-economics class at Ole Miss.
All the girls had to go around the room and say how many children they wanted. Once, during freshman year, she invited me to a martini hour in her dorm and she was wearing a black brocade skirt-suit and high heels, and smoking from a long, slender cigarette holder—very feminine, very elegant. She was mysterious. Scott Fitzgerald about a Mississippi boy of modest background who is sent east to boarding school and befriends the son of a fabulously—and frighteningly—rich man]?
Donna was like the main character in that story, very conscious of being from the South. Sure is hot down there. We'd go after people. I wrote a novel on it when I was fifteen. From that point on, I knew I was a writer. Donna was there too. We passed notes. One was about my girlfriend who initiated our relationship and whose father was gay.
Another was about this guy I was secretly seeing who was aggressively straight and whose father was into religion.
They were written in the style of Joan Didion, ambiguous, nothing explained ever. Not like, My feelings for Matt were complicated. Like, Matt invites me over. He wants to go skinny dipping. The Jacuzzi's turned on. We open a bottle.
I was delighted, but I was freaked out, too. My dad had just sold the U. Steel Building for which his commission was something like forty million dollars. He flourished in the Reagan eighties, and suddenly he was spending so lavishly.
There was a party where this guy spiked the punch with MDMA and bit a girl, Brixton, on the neck so badly she had to go to the infirmary. I named names, and the piece caused a shit storm. People were making copies of it and talking about it. I was hated, I was revered. My mom was bad, his dad was bad, and our childhoods were so wrapped up in money and trauma that we automatically bonded. Bret was incredibly shy then, almost socially phobic.
Also, he was a million miles from home and his family was falling apart. He used to scratch my window with the new Stevie Nicks albums. Not that Larry David-—another Larry David. He and Bret were really good friends, like BFFs.
I need you. At eighteen, I had a handsomeness, and I was kind of groomed, and I was kind of sexy, and I was inundated with date requests and people wanting to take my picture. But inside I was a wreck. And I was alienated because I was a writer, because I was gay. And then there was my crystal--meth addiction. It was awesome! Still, people were throwing themselves at me. I had girlfriends, I had boyfriends. I really got around.
I identified with Miles, but I was more attracted to Bret. The room was divided in half by a line of broken bottles. It was like a Berlin Wall of broken glass. Outside their room was a little hallway, and one of them was always sleeping there, Miles with branches sometimes. God, Miles was such a hippie. He would cut out newspaper stories about plane crashes.
They papered his wall along with Interview magazine covers. Interview was huge for us. It was our style, what we aspired to. Occasionally someone would shed blood on the glass, but not often. A lot of the parties were mixed with teachers and students because teachers were fucking students, students were fucking teachers. A friend of mine had a year-long affair with his French teacher.
Stephen Sandy came on to me and Ciaran, saying his wife was away and that we should go back to his place and have a threesome. People were developing in such eccentric ways, and so many professors were encouraging that so strongly—this kind of willful self-formation.
It almost felt like a finishing school for people who wanted to forge an identity so that after graduation they could move to New York and knock the world dead in some artistic venue or other. Brixton was a perfect example of this.Bennington girl wants sex
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The Secret Oral History of Bennington: The s' Most Decadent College