Voiced by an off-kilter chorus of the young and desperate to belong, Benjamin Nugent’s provocative collection pries the fraternity door off its hinges, daring us to peer inside with amusement, horror, and also love.
In a Massachusetts college town stands a dilapidated colonial: Delta Zeta Chi. Here, we meet Newton, the beloved chapter president; Oprah, the sensitive reader; Petey, the treasurer, loyal to a fault; Claire, the couch-surfing dropout who hopes to sell them drugs; and a girl known, for unexpected reasons, as God. Though the living room reeks of sweat and spilled beer, the brothers know that to be inside is everything.
Fraternity celebrates the debauched kinship of boys and girls straddling adolescence and adulthood: the drunken antics, solemn confessions, and romantic encounters that mark their first years away from home. Beneath each episode lies the dread of exclusion. The closeted Oprah’s hero worship gives way to real longing. A combat veteran offers advice on hazing. An alienated young woman searches for a sanctuary. And the shadow of assault hovers over every sexual encounter.
About the Author
Benjamin Nugent is the winner of The Paris Review’s 2019 Terry Southern Prize. His stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review. He has written for n+1, The New York Times Magazine, Time, and other publications.
"Disarmingly lovely . . . Fraternities may be collegiate America's biggest shame, but Fraternity is a revelation."
—Bobby Finger, The New York Times Book Review
“Dark and daring . . . Funny and melancholy, while also provocative and unexpected, these stories decline to pigeonhole a secretive subculture often seen as monolithic—and they refuse to let it off the hook.”
—Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire
“Nugent treats his frat boys with such interest and insight that they become—against all stereotypes—complex, even sympathetic. These characters’ bravado belies a desperate need to belong . . . Nugent’s prose is as sensitively crafted as his characters . . . To render Greek campus life as Nugent does, with empathy and heart, makes Fraternity a quietly significant achievement.”
—Andrew Ridker, Bookforum
“If university is where we finally grow up, what role does the college campus play in creating the adult American man? In these dark, witty, and sharply written stories, Benjamin Nugent takes an unflinching look at that strange tradition, the all-male fraternity, which, in his gifted hands, begins to look like a very strange and insidious social experiment. Take a boy, transform him into a ‘bro,’ and then release into the wild…”
—Zadie Smith, author of Grand Union
“A winning collection . . . [Fraternity] pulses with energy, Nugent commendably weaves humor and drama to shine an unflinching light on the young adults convening behind fraternity walls. One can almost smell the stale beer on the page.”
"The comedy in Fraternity, as befits its subject, is dark, uncomfortable, even disturbing . . . Nugent understands that satire is a means not only of exposing or ridiculing its subject, but of making [fraternity members], using the rules of their own skewed logic, understandable, even sympathetic . . . Nugent manages—the mark of the master satirist—to be simultaneously compassionate and ruthless. Splendid.."
—Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Reading Benjamin Nugent’s stories doesn’t resemble any other experience I can think of—the paragraphs of Fraternity pivot easily from mantra to gut punch to slapstick to heartbreak, sometimes swelling into tenderness so acute it makes me avert my eyes, it feels so private and human and true.”
—Leslie Jamison, author of The Recovering
“This striking, intimate book is not what it seems. Very funny, and ostensibly about Greek life, with its Kappas, Deltas, disgusting kitchens, and pregaming, it holds at its center a small bomb of realism. Here we have the terror of privileged young people facing uncertain financial futures who find themselves involved with other young people unsheltered by college and all its mythologies. Strangely—for a collection called Fraternity—it is the young women who shimmer in recollection.”
—Mona Simpson, author of Casebook
“A lovely sequence of stories, moving, dark, and funny.”
—Emma Cline, author of The Girls
“From the already legendary opening story, Fraternity only deepens on every front: humor, compassion, syntactical intensity, observational brilliance, and satirical vision. Benjamin Nugent has bided his time, and the wait was worth it. This moving, daring and frequently astonishing debut will be remembered—and emulated—for many years to come.”
—Sam Lipsyte, author of Hark and The Ask