by Dodie Katague
Memoir — Creative
Three Clover Press, 2009
Cloyne Court is a creative memoir. As stated on the copyright page, “Although seventy-five percent of this memoir is factual, liberties were taken with the other twenty-five percent for plot purposes. That is where scenes were recreated from memory when they were not clearly defined in the journals written by the author in the 1970s and 80s.” I bring this up for a reason, and I will come back to it later in my review.
Cloyne Court was a large student co-op for the University of California, Berkeley that went co-ed in 1972. It housed 150 students, and a little less than half of those students were women. Dodie lived at the co-op from 1977-1979 while he attended the university, and Cloyne Court is his memoir about his experiences there. As a co-ed facility, everything was shared: the showers were co-ed and so were the bedrooms, and for the most part the students handled this very well and with a good amount of maturity. On the other hand, remember that the second wave of the feminist movement started in the 1960s and was still going strong in the 70s. Women were still fighting sexism and they were still fighting for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment which had passed both houses of Congress in 1972. Imagine a co-ed student housing facility full of women who were fighting to be seen as equal to their male counterparts and not just objects, but also full of a bunch of horny college guys who just wanted to get laid and who still objectified those women in many ways. You see where this is going, right? Uh huh.
Dodie’s story is not entirely unique. It is the typical coming-of-age story of a college kid, living away from home for the first time, lusting after the majority of women he comes across, partying it up with his college buddies, and still trying to find the time and the motivation to concentrate on his college work and get semi-decent grades. In that way, parts of the story were pretty funny and enjoyable to read. At the same time, there is a reason why I didn’t go away to college to live in a student co-op or a dorm; Cloyne Court reminded me of why I made that decision all those years ago. There were quite a few parts of the book that made me say “UGH” and roll my eyes a lot.
This is where the creative memoir part comes in: I feel like Dodie took a lot of liberties describing the different characters, how they felt, and what they said. It seemed to me that the book was full of awful stereotypes. Honestly, I need to believe that at least half of the conversations in this book were fictionalized. Now, because the story is about his college days, it was written through the narrow lens of a first-time-living-on-his-own-in-a-coed-house kind of guy and that’s fine. I have my share of male friends and I know what they were like at that age. Except I was waiting for the revelations and introspection now that he’s an adult writing this book, and that never happened. In fact, there are a few footnotes in the book that crack jokes about certain things in the book and even those sounded like they were written by a seventeen-year-old. I was warned before accepting this book for review that it “isn’t for the easily offended.” I have never been easily offended, and I wasn’t necessarily offended by any of it…I was just pretty irritated by some parts. I feel that there were some things Dodie wrote about that could have been left out (they weren’t really important in the scheme of things) and the story would have been more enjoyable without them.
Overall, Cloyne Court was…ok. It had its merits and Dodie is a decent writer. I think my issue is with some of the subject matter and not with the book itself. It was enjoyable to read about this time in our history and the ways in which different students handled the times and its politics. I enjoyed reading about the women who were taking the feminist movement very seriously and the students who were standing up for what they believed in politically. There were parts that were very interesting and entertaining. I just think that Cloyne Court wasn’t the right book for me to be able to enjoy objectively–as a whole–without letting go of my own beliefs and open-mindedness. (I know that sounds weird because if I’m open-minded I should have been able to read the book with an open mind, right? It’s hard to explain without giving too much of the story away, but you would understand if you read the book.) This was the 1970s and I was a young kid during those times, so I didn’t live it as a teenager/college student. This could very well be what things were like at UC Berkeley at that time and I could be totally off-base with my opinions about the possible stereotypes and comments made by characters in the book. Maybe the reason I didn’t enjoy the book more comes from some kind of misunderstanding on my part. What it all boils down to is that I know there are people out there who would love to read this and would get a lot of enjoyment from it–it just didn’t end up being my cup o’ tea.
Suggested reading level: Adults only. Not for the easily offended.
(To learn more about the author, please visit the official website
for the book.)