alcoholism, Ball, Beer pong, book review, Chris Knight, college, college culture, Crispus Knight, Dartmouth College, drinking, drinking culture, drug abuse, drugs, frat, frat brothers, frat row, fraternity, Games, hazing, Ivy League, New Hampshire, self publish, self published, ship, sorority, Three for Ship, Three for Ship: A Swan Song to Dartmouth Beer Pong
Perhaps the most misleading element of this story is its title. “Three For Ship” is less of a swan song, and more of a battle cry. If you are expecting a carefree tale of frat brothers battling each other in a grungy basement to vintage rock, look elsewhere.
Instead, “Three for Ship” is more of an unearthing, a grim stripping of the walls erected between the world behind the Ivy League gates of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and the real world which every depraved alcohol-soaked Greek life member will eventually be expunged into- whether gracefully, or with disciplinary action, as in the case of Chris Knight, or, as dubbed by his Chi-Gam brothers, “Balls.”
Written in the first person, Chris Knight enters Dartmouth a conscious minority student, determined not to have a minority experience. As a freshman, Chris expects to have “a Dartmouth experience,” one devoid of race, class, or other distinction. Yet the magnetism of Greek Row teaches Chris that a new social order does exist- one with rankings based on fraternity membership that dominates the campus. Here, in this new social order, Chris ekes out his identity his freshman year in hundreds of games of beer pong, the classic college drinking game, which takes on new meaning as Chris struggles to move up from the lowly “Junior Varsity” tables in the back room of his chosen frat house, to the coveted “Varsity tables.”
As Chris’ relationship to beer pong intensifies, it slowly crosses the line to his identity, and his transformation to the apathetic, alcoholic, “Balls.” Written in the third person, “Balls” has no aspirations beyond returning to the Chi-Gam basement to blackout and boot heaps of steamy vomit.
A memoir written in a timeline, “Three for Ship” is the unveiling of the darker side of Ivy League, and college culture. Battling alcoholism, “Balls,” continuously asks those around him, “Did Dartmouth do this to me? By being here was I committed to this fate?” His university becomes his scapegoat and beer pong the meaning of his life, pulling away the curtain of the elite held by the Ivy League. In the midst of the college scandals ranging from Dartmouth to Texas Tech, in which plights of hazing, binge drinking and date-rape are consistently coming to light, and college culture is being analyzed as never before, “Three for Ship” seeks to analyze one man’s college experience, and address these questions as someone who lived through the thick of it.
Brutally honest, with scenes describing locking pledges into the trunks of cars, being ruthlessly vomited on in a frat house basement, and spending fifty man hours creating beautiful beer pong tables, “Three for Ship” cannot be viewed as an epic describing the college experience, or a condemning of the Greek life system. Instead, “Three for Ship” is a memoir at heart, filled with personal reflection, but also an odd justification of the actions of the brothers of the fraternity based on the status quo. Incredibly, the tone of the novel resonates with the members of the frat house, adding an authenticity and realness to the book which is at once intriguing and disturbing. To bear witness to the destruction of a life through literature is painful to read, but the honesty and fairness given by Chrispus Knight to his college experience makes “Three for Ship” worth reading, not for the non-existent morals gained from the story, or the uplifting ending, but for the outpouring of the soul of a culture that is currently being picked at by college administration, law enforcement, and the general public.
While the subject matter may be familiar, the bleakness of the presentation of “Balls” experience creates a vastly new and interesting look at the competitive college experience. In the midst of an environment riddled with stress, alcoholism becomes the only escape for a man once obsessed with his identity, but now content with the shell of his existence as destroyed in the basement of Chi-Gam. Read from a distance, “Three for Ship” is the perfect insider’s view at a problem that is unlikely to be resolved, but will continue to be analyzed by the public for years to come.
Read without a sense of morality, only an interest in the true culture of college basements and youthful mistakes, and you will not be disappointed by this battle cry.
Number of pages: 248
Recommended for: the weekend before a college reunion, a bedside table, anyone interested in collegiate politics or fraternities
Enjoy it with: A can of Mickey’s, Zoloft
For fans of: Zoolander, American Pie