Campus Tramp

Campus Tramp

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From the author's afterword: "Now my agent informed me that a new publisher, one Bill Hamling, was starting a company to be called Nightstand Books, & that I’d been chosen to write for them. Midwood had been paying me $600 a book & Hamling would pay $750. I decided a college novel might be just the ticket. I’d been trying to figure out what to try for Fawcett/Crest–––they, after all, had paid me $2000 for that lesbian novel. But on some level I didn’t really believe I was good enough to write for that good a house, & that kept me from trying. I’d been thinking my second book for Crest might be set on a campus, & when Nightstand came along I took that idea & aimed it at them & wrote Campus Tramp in a couple of weeks. The only college with which I was familiar was Antioch, so it was an easy decision to set the book there––or at its fictional equivalent, which I called Clifton. &, to amuse myself & any other Antiochian who might read the thing, I gave every character in the book the name of an actual Antioch dormitory as a surname. Since most of the dorms were named after people, guaranteeing them the immortality of, say, Louis J. Bennett, it wasn’t a stretch to fasten their names to human beings, albeit fictional ones. &, while I was at it, I named the buildings on Clifton’s campus after some Antioch people. I finished the book, walked a block & a half to 5th Avenue, & turned in the manuscript to my agent, who dutifully sent it to Hamling, who thought it was just fine, even if it didn’t have anybody screwing in a grease pit. I was invited to pick a new pen name, & chose Andrew Shaw. & Mr. Shaw now had an assignment to produce regularly for Nightstand, even as Mr Lord was still very much in demand at Midwood. The only place that didn’t want me, it turned out, was Antioch. It was not long after I turned in Campus Tramp & started writing something else that a letter from Antioch’s Student Personnel Committee reached me at the Rio, informing me that a review of my performance the preceding year left them with the sense that I might be happier elsewhere. I thought that was damned perceptive of them. I would indeed be happier elsewhere, no question about it, & wasn’t it considerate of them to point that out to me? I’d already tried to drop out once, had been talked out of it by my parents, but now I had the perfect excuse. I’d been, as the British say, sent down. (It sounds much nicer than expelled, doesn’t it?) &, having been sent down, I could stay down. I was free. I think––& thought at the time––that I could have talked my way back in. The tone of the letter suggested as much. But why would I want to do that? I had books to write. & then a curious thing happened. Campus Tramp was published, & word got around Yellow Springs that it was my revenge on the school, that I’d savaged the place as a way of getting even. Getting even for what, for God’s sake? For expelling me? That was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me. For schooling me for several years? I can’t think where I might have more enjoyably or profitably spent those particular years. I had no quarrel with the place, & if it was anything vis–à–vis Antioch, the book was a wink & a nod, a veritable homage. Besides, when I wrote it I still fully expected to return to Yellow Springs in the fall. I had a year to go, & then I was scheduled to graduate. I didn’t much want to go back, but I’d planned to do it anyway, so I certainly didn’t think of myself as burning any bridges with Campus Tramp. Go figure. Over the years, the story of Linda Shepard became a part of campus folklore. I’ve heard of copies commanding unlikely prices at Senior Sales. A young woman I know--she’s since become a Facebook Friend--has been known to give dramatic readings at alumni gatherings."

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