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.
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.