Bill Smith is a young man from Iowa whose family saved money to send him to college, where he hopes to fulfill his dream of studying Engineering. He grew up helping his father repair engines, so he wishes to understand how machines work. He arrives at Montebank University filled with energy and wanting to become a good studnet. Alas, it is not to be.
“Bill Smith Goes to College” is a short book (about 150 pages long according to my Kindle), written in the first person, about Bill’s first few days in college. It is a parody about academia, written from the perspective of a freshman overwhelmed with the “parallel universe” in which he finds himself. Everything he thought college would be like turns out to be wrong.
Stag exaggerates young Bill’s experiences to make his views known about various aspects of academia. A few examples: Bill keeps losing his way on campus, taking hours to find a building he’s looking for; every line he stands in to get some help from the university’s administration staff is miles long; the food served to him in the dining room is a mix of pastes in different colours; and his room is a tiny closet-like structure with no door. Everything is exaggerated.
The most scathing reviews of university life (and some of the wittiest in the book) are found in the passages describing the classes Bill manages to attend before giving up on college. Stag makes fun of several areas of study by conjuring up absurd dialogues and monologues in the classroom. The philosophy teacher proves that “there is no such thing as the truth”; the chemistry teacher is so disillusioned about his profession that he resorts to reading to the class from a book about post-renaissance art; the psychology teacher reaches the conclusion that drugs are good for you and then has a nervous breakdown over a small technical glitch; and so on and so forth.
A most amusing character in the book is Sunir Orlattur, a foreign student from the fictional county Jumeirah, who is so infatuated with the US that he insists putting a positive spin to all the absurdities he encounters at Montebank University. Bill and another student, Clay, go to painstaking lengths to explain American life to Sunir. For example: “The good thing about football is that you can just sit back and enjoy the violence, even if you don’t know what’s going on”.
Unfortunately the book is full of typos and grammatical mistakes, none that a careful second read couldn’t have solved. But aside from these annoying mistakes, this is, all in all, an enjoyable read. If a book makes me laugh out loud a few times, I consider it a good book. “Bill Smith Goes to College” made me laugh a couple of times, so I can only recommend that you read it.