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New Book Looks at Elite Universities Through a Satirical Lens

In a conversation with Jeffrey Brown, novelist and NewsHour essayist Roger Rosenblatt discusses his new book, "Beet," which takes a satirical look at college life. The novel focuses on a fictional elite university of the same title, which looks for new ways to regain its past glory.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight, a novel called "Beet," a satirical take on college life. Jeffrey Brown has our book conversation.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Longtime NewsHour viewers know that Roger Rosenblatt specializes in casting a sometimes sharp, sometimes amused eye on various aspects and institutions of American life. In his new novel, "Beet," the spotlight is on a small, prestigious liberal arts college in New England that has gotten itself into a world of trouble.

    Roger is here now to tell us about it.

    Welcome.

  • ROGER ROSENBLATT, Author:

    Thank you.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    I happen to know that you have been called Professor Rosenblatt many times in your life.

  • ROGER ROSENBLATT:

    Yes.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Does that have anything to do with writing a satire about academic life?

  • ROGER ROSENBLATT:

    No, it's just people on the street calling me Professor Rosenblatt as I go by. Yes, I've taught a long time and always have enjoyed it. And now actually I'm getting good at it. It takes a long time, at least in my case, a long time to know what you're doing when you teach.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Your fictional college, Beet College, started by Nathaniel Beet…

  • ROGER ROSENBLATT:

    Yes.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    … who was the wealthiest pig farmer in the New England colonies?

  • ROGER ROSENBLATT:

    Yes, and he was a New England divine, as well, so he left his fortune of 100 books, and some land, and some pigs, which were worth more than the books, to establish this college.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And this is a place where many of the bad things we hear about in academic life today — political correctness, an emphasis on money — have sort of run amok, right?

  • ROGER ROSENBLATT:

    Did I only cover many? I was hoping I'd covered all.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    You'd covered all of them? Well, I'm going to tick off some of the courses that are available at this college: communications arts; Native American crafts and casino studies; the sensitivity and diversity council; ethnicity, gender, and television studies; humor and meteorology.

  • ROGER ROSENBLATT:

    Yes.

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