The prose is purple, and the author – one hopes – the personification of poetic licence. It’s a story on speed: luxuriating in language as it exaggerates (please let it be a gross exaggeration) its depiction of life in a private school for the supposedly immensely privileged, viewed through the eyes of a young teacher sensitive to the sufferings and excesses brought about by a degenerate student lifestyle lived while acquiring an impressively academic education (that side of the school’s affairs is barely touched upon).
The lifestyle enjoyed/endured during term time by a significant proportion of the boys and girls at this easily identifiable school in New England is almost completely (and deliberately) hidden from parents investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in an educational experience more than likely to turn their sons and daughters into lifelong drug addicts, and get a fair proportion of them stoned, flipped, raped and/or sodomised during adolescence.
“…it soon became clear to me that parents have no idea what the hell their children are doing at prep school. They think it’s the upper echelon of academia and athletics, and indeed it is, yet they never hear the whistles of porous cartilage in desecrated nostrils, the relentless debauchery and degeneracy, the whole stories headmasters hide from the public with more puppetry and pageantry than nefarious third world governments.”
I was reminded of Lindsay Anderson’s satirical 1968 film “If”, and also of Bernard Foong’s account of the English public school he attended in 1960s, where the headmaster ran a secret society that groomed suitably inclined boys to provide sexual services for male members of the Bahraini Royal Family and other wealthy celebrities. You could not make this stuff up without being accused of gross exaggeration, and perhaps Matthew Dexter may be so accused.
But even allowing for vast amounts of authorial licence, the goings-on inside at least some of these bastions of educational excellence for the sons and daughters of the immensely privileged make my hair stand on end. No state school comprehensive could hold a candle to any of them when it comes to drug abuse, adolescent depravity, the collusion and corruption of at least some of the teachers, and the deliberate lies and cover-ups by the headmaster and his staff in order to preserve the school’s reputation and keep the endowments rolling in.
Having been a popular teacher myself in a previous professional life, I understood the pressures on the author – ‘Mr Newry’ in this story told by him. He tries to understand and gain the trust of the students already addicted to drugs and in serious danger of being booted by other deans eager to catch as many of them as possible. In doing so, he is drawn inexorably towards the very patterns of behaviour it was his professional duty to expose and root out. I would have halted that slide towards the same degeneracy long before he did. I feared for him as he navigated his way through hideously awkward situations in which as a teacher he had allowed himself to be seriously compromised.
He “sped down the Adirondack Trail, faster, always faster” during his time at this school which since 1906 “has been the playground of many of the most deviant delinquents, atavistic athletes and ravenous addicts in boarding school history.” Some members of the staff fare no better. “The headmaster, like many teachers, was a notorious drunkard, known for red-nosed debauchery that would put the behaviour of the wildest students to shame.” The athletic director and varsity football coach was “a savage bastard” whose only friend was his golden retriever (destined through no fault of its own to be drugged by the students and have “Chinga su madre” shaved into its fur).
‘Ritalin Orgy’ is a fascinating, no-holds-barred depiction of life at that school, where “boarding breeds the worst out of everyone; nobody is immune to the peer pressure and deviance…” It was an experience for the author that left him wondering whether his simple dream of teaching had lost all meaning. “Half the student body would not be able to pass a piss test. Popularity and power were held by the ones who devoured the most drugs”. The idealistic young teacher’s journey takes him to the point where he too is doing drugs, stealing demerits, flipping and being flipped in the dead of night, ringing the chapel bell and spinning a single-edged razorblade on his tongue.
Do read the disclaimer at the beginning: “The story included in this publication is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.”