The college years are a rite of passage for many kids. Not so for Lance Rally who has some pretty big dreams inside his head with no clear-cut goals or objectives. Without the slightest idea of how to get to where he thinks he should be, Lance spends his time chasing girls and bumming around with the school’s biggest ne’er-do-well. Hailing from a solid upper middle class home, his parents have certain expectations of where Lance should be headed and what he needs to do to get there. However, Lance simply refuses to do the work required to make even the slightest headway. As Lance continues to live large inside his head and kick around on a directionless path, time passes him by. No one is more surprised than he when four years of college are over and he is left without an answer to the unending question: “What are you doing after graduation?”
In many ways, Lance is a typical, spoiled kid who has never had to fight for anything. I could almost feel pity for him because although he has so many of the opportunities not afforded to most, he lacks the ability to see any of them. Although Lance does learn important life lessons along the way, it is cringe worthy to watch him simply throw away an education. It becomes more obvious as the story progresses that Lance should have never gone to college or, at least, waited a year or two before starting.
Having grown up in the ’80s, the promise of the story’s cultural references of that time period enticed me enough to want to read The Pursuit of Cool (February 2012). However, none of those references jumped off the pages. They were woven into the landscape, taking on a decidedly background flavor. There was no jolt of remembrance, no nostalgic moment, or any joyful remembrances. This story could have taken place at any time and would be relevant today. The writing was solid and technically sound, but the pacing was very slow. There was no climax, no crescendo, and no fevered pitch. It was the antithesis of a page-turner. I found myself having to read in short bursts, taking it bit by bit so that I could actually finish it.
To those with kids who are just going off to college or who are currently attending institutions of higher learning, reading The Pursuit of Cool may provide a unique bird’s-eye view of their experiences at school. I recently read somewhere that thirty is the new nineteen. With so many college graduates unable to find much more than menial jobs (for which no formal education is required) and having to move back home to live with their parents indefinitely, it would seem that Lance is in good company nearly thirty years later. The Pursuit of Cool, in this case, could be viewed as a cautionary tale.
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