An irresistible, entertaining peek into the privileged realm of Wordsworth and Wodehouse, Chelsea Clinton and Hugh Grant, Looking for Class offers a hilarious account of one man's year at Oxford and Cambridge -- the garden parties and formal balls, the high-minded debates and drinking Olympics. From rowing in an exclusive regatta to learning lessons in love from a Rhodes Scholar, Bruce Feiler's enlightening, eye-popping adventure will forever change your view of the British upper class, a world romanticized but rarely seen.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
June 03, 2003
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Looking for Class by Bruce Feiler
Town and Gown
Down in the town off the bridges and the grass,
They are sweeping up the old leaves to let the people pass,
Sweeping up the old leaves, golden-reds and browns.
Whilst the men go to lecture with the wind in their gowns.
-- Frances Darwin
"Autumn Morning at Cambridge," 1898
Knock, knock, knock. The pounding door rattled me from my dream like a rock being skipped across my forehead and sinking to the sludge of my sleep, Knock, knock, knock. Kick.
"Who is it?" I called from the seat of my bed.
"It's me," came a muffle that began in the hall outside the door and without as much as waiting for an invitation stormed through the lock and into my rooms like a tempest bearing tea. I looked down at my watch -- seven-fifteen -- and when I looked up, I saw staring down at me an elderly woman dressed in pale pink whose disapproving glare and proprietary stare reminded me of the Little Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe.
"I'm your bedder," she said.
"But I'm in bed," I said.
"Not to worry," she said. "I don't make your bed. I just take out the bin." She marched to the far wall between the two windows, reached beneath the desk, and retrieved my metal litter bin, which was devoid of any litter but strewn with stacks of still-soggy New York Timeses. "My name is Edna," she said. "How about you?"
"Are you American?"
"Can you tell?"
She looked at me sprawled on the unmade bed.
"I've met a few over the years ... Now let me just tell you a few of the rules in V Entryway."
Edna was a short, sturdy woman with thinning white hair and a bulging pink apron. On this morning, like a hundred hence, she smelled more of smoke than disinfectant.
"I arrive every morning at seven," she said. "Have me a cup of tea downstairs with the ladies and then go round to the rooms. I should be arriving here around quarter past. I empty the rubbish every day, wipe out your sink in the comer when I have time, and Hoover the floor mat once a week ... "
If I did not wish her to come into my rooms every day, she continued, I could leave the bin outside the door as a sign for her not to enter. Which reminded her, fresh milk would automatically be delivered to the door every morning in pint-sized bottles. If I would like to stop this service, I should notify the housekeeper immediately. Did I have any questions?
"Well, yes, actually. Is there a shower?"
"Oh yes, the shower. I'm afraid there's only a bath. There was meant to be a shower in this entryway last year. I had already made the fitting on the tub. But it was during exam time, you know, and the students" -- she glanced down the arch of her nose, mustering as much reverse snobbery as she could -- "well, the students did not approve." Anyway, she would see what she could do. In the meantime, there was a shower in U Entryway.
"But be careful," she warned. "My daughter is the bedder over there and she will get on you if you don't clean up after yourself." She glanced at my clothes in a pile on the floor, and tiptoed over them toward the door.
"Well then, see you tomorrow, Bruce."
She slammed the door with a migrainous shock and dragged my bin along the plaster walls until she arrived at the rooms next door and banged her fist dictatorially on my neighbor's nameplate: H.L. YANG.
"You look like you need a cup of tea."
When I knocked on her door an hour later, Halcyon Yang was sitting quietly with a book in one of two grey corduroy armchairs, sipping tea with milk and nibbling a biscuit, which she said was a scone and which she pronounced, royally, as "skahn."
"Very British," she said with an exaggerated, self-mocking roll of her tongue. "Would you like a taste? Edna lent me the tea ... What a card."
As I stepped into the room, Halcyon marked her place with a bookmark from her lap and pursed her lips in a piercing grin.