Tom Wolfe may deny that his novel is about Duke, but having spent 20 years there I know a few things about the school. Wolfe’s “Dupont University” has the same number of undergrads as Duke, the same fraternity-sorority dominance of the social scene, the same veneration of basketball, and a dozen other similarities. For almost 700 rollicking, mocking pages, Wolfe nails university life—or at least a segment of it.
At Dupont, mechanistic, positivistic neuroscience is the queen of the sciences. Teachers are irrelevant in this collegiate world where late adolescents are in the hands of the most totalitarian group of all—their peers. When faculty do appear, they are inconsequential, hypocritical old people who are engaged in mostly trivial pursuits that they pass off as intellectual.