Rebecca Harrington’s ‘Penelope’: A pinker shade of crimson

Rebecca Harrington’s “Penelope” hits stores Tuesday.

Rebecca Harrington’s debut novel, like its heroine, shouldn’t be judged by its girlish cover. Dotted with classical literature in-jokes, “Penelope” is a clever read about the absurdity of the Ivy League experience: the hookups, the all-night “pregaming” and the waffle irons branding the college crest on students’ breakfasts.

Based on Harrington’s own experience at Harvard, the book also touches on the isolation often felt by college freshmen. Penelope O’Shaunessy arrives on campus a blank slate: She has no friends, and she hasn’t reviewed her all-important freshman orientation packet. She spends the first few weeks eating alone, watching detective movies on her laptop and sniffling through allergy attacks brought on by her goth roommate’s feral cat. This puts her, of course, in stark contrast to her ultramotivated peers.

“I wanted to have her be there as a counterpoint to everybody else,” Harrington tells us. “I was using a lot of English campus novels as models, where the hero is usually male and they usually never explain how he got to Oxford or Cambridge, and he doesn’t seem particularly motivated.”

But while Penelope falls prey to the usual drinking- and dating-related college mishaps, she never abandons her dorky core in favor of Harvard manners. As in the classic campus novels Harrington references,  virtue is rewarded and the villains get their comeuppance.

While “Penelope” is an ideal read for the class of 2016, it will also resonate with those navigating life after graduation. “I think feeling left out of things is so incredibly universal,” Harrington says. “I think it’s more about that than Harvard specifically.”

“But,” she says, laughing, “I do think it’s a good primer if, let’s say, you’re sort of a nerd.”

Harrington is now the college editor at the Huffington Post — another institution itching for parody. Will it inspire a second book? “No,” she says. “The thing about Harvard is that there are so many absurd elements to it. It was rife for satire.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Trump Plaza in Atlantic City to close, adding…

Trump Plaza booked less than half its rooms in the first quarter of 2014, and had the lowest gaming revenue of any of the city's casinos in May, according to…

National

Debut 'supermoon' hangs in the summer sky

It was the first of three times this year the full "supermoon" will orbit closer to earth and appear unusually large and bright.

National

Exclusive: YouTube weighs funding efforts to boost premium…

By Ronald Grover and Lisa RichwineLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - YouTube has embarked on a new round of discussions with Hollywood and independent producers to fund…

National

Pot farmer charged with starting California wildfire

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 37-year-old man accused of starting a raging wildfire in Northern California while tending to his marijuana farm was arrested and…

Going Out

NYC's Best Bar: Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club?

Having actually played shuffleboard on the beach on Royal Palm Boulevard in South Florida, we expertly approve this hipster hangout.

Going Out

Cocktail of the Week: The Royal Palms Shuffle

The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, in Gowanus, Brooklyn, created this drink to feature Brugal Extra Dry.

Going Out

NYC's Best Bar: Hill & Dale?

Every bar should be the best at something: What's Hill & Dale's angle?

Music

Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' was sexual, but not…

  Robin Thicke has a certified dud on his hands with "Paula," the follow-up album to his multiplatinum "Blurred Lines" and its eponymous title track that…

MLB

Yankees All-Star break report card

The first half of the season rarely went as planned for the Yankees, right down to a massively disappointing injury diagnosis to Masahiro Tanaka in…

NBA

Nets lose Paul Pierce to two-year deal with…

Paul Pierce is taking a gamble on joining a franchise on the rise.

NBA

GIF: LeBron James returns to Cleveland so deal…

To anyone out there who is upset about his decision, this .GIF is for you. Enjoy.

World Cup

A game of two popes: Vatican plays down…

By Philip PullellaVATICAN CITY (Reuters) - With Argentina meeting Germany in the World Cup final, the Vatican on Friday brushed aside talk of soccer rivalry…

Food

Taco Bell goes totally off-script with new breakfast…

Taco Bell is betting that you, or someone you love enough to take there, wants healthier options. At least first thing in the morning. For…

Wellbeing

Sex or drugs, it's all the same to…

Pornography triggers brain activity in sex addicts similar to the effect drugs have on the brains of drug addicts, researchers said on Friday — but…

Lifestyle

Pets: Dogs die in hot cars! Be careful…

Leaving animals in a car even with the windows cracked, even in the shade, can cause heatstroke, which can be fatal.

Home

Bring on the flea market

The editors at Wayfair show us what to do with cute flea market finds.