“When an American sets out to found a college, he hunts first for a hill.” Thus Percy Marks begins a novel that attempts unsuccessfully to be an indictment of American higher education in the jazz age. Marks writes:
The college is made up of men who worship mediocrity; that is their ideal except in athletics.
In a nutshell, the plot of The Plastic Age is this: A wholesome, American farm boy named Hugh Carver goes to a college founded so men might “find the true light of God and the glory of Jesus in the halls of this most liberal college.”
Hugh loses the faith he entered college with, finds nothing to replace it, and graduates without enough education to even decide on a career.
Hugh does, however, learn to drink, smoke, gamble, and swear.
The novelist seems to equate the educational system represented by Sanford College with Prohibition era drinking and casual approach to sex. That’s a questionable equation.
But however he defines the problem, in order to skewer the system that produced it Marks must make readers care about its victims.
Percy Marks isn’t writer enough do that.
The novel never gets any better than its opening line.The Plastic Age
by Percy Marks
Grosset & Dunlap, 1924
1924 bestseller #2
Project Gutenberg EBook #16532
My grade C+
Photo credit: The photo is from the screenplay of Marks’ novel.
© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni