Voice In The Dark: Richard Frede’s Entry E, 1958

“Entry E” is something of a pulp novel, telling a tale of Ivy League life in America that was considered startling on its release in 1958. But for all the adolescent angst and raucous action in this story, there is plenty of mid-century Ivy League style and quiet consideration of the “Ivy Man,” described in knowledgeable detail by the book’s author, Richard Frede, a Yale graduate.

Set in the residence hall Entry E at the fictitious Hayden University (an unconvincing alias for the real Entry E in Timothy Dwight College at Yale, where Frede resided during his time in New Haven), the novel follows Ed Bogard, an average student who becomes aware of an unsavory plan: A group of men in his entry are preparing to drug a visiting college girl over the weekend with grain alcohol and Benzedrine, rendering her defenceless to their advances. Will Bogard speak out, or will he be another example of America’s “silent generation”?

As Bogard wrestles with the typical challenge of discovering himself at college and finding his voice to speak out, there is the introduction of the “Slide Rule” and “Third Person,” imaginary entities that appear at times when Bogard feels most challenged, depressed or conflicted. But it is telling that the most interesting manifestation of his conscience, the Third Person, is a perfectly turned-out handsome man whom Bogard sees for the first time at a country club dance while at prep school:

In his mind Bogard stared at a handsome, patently omniscient paragon of a man; a man who had just stepped out of some mists Bogard had never before noticed in his mind a man dressed in a white dinner jacket and Bermuda shorts and a bow tie of the same brilliant yellow, orange, and red plaid; a man who grinned omnisciently back at Bogard and said, “The plaid of my ancestors, a warm and noble group, both emotional and adventurous, a trait which, I am afraid, you and your friends do not understand.” A man with a horrendously straight and cynical grin; a man who grinned omnisciently back at Bogard and patiently said once again, “Why don’t you go over and ask her for a date.”

Bogard doesn’t get the girl, and this love/hate relationship with the Third Person reaches its fever pitch upon enrolment at college, not least because this was Bogard’s chance to become just as well attired as his imaginary nemesis.

Bogard learns quickly that there is a very strict criteria that links clothes to campus cachet. He gets himself khakis and white bucks (which are especially popular in the rain), and quickly learns that shirts are to have a number of specific attributes:

Then he stripped off the shirt he was wearing and went to his chest and took out another — a favorite shirt, fresh from the laundry, a soft and medium-heavy almost lumberman’s shirt, except that it was button-down and even had a button in the back of the collar; probably, as Bogard figured, to attest to the fact that he’s paid twelve bucks for it at one of the custom shops just off campus. Every time he wore it he felt a deep sense of luxury and well-being, its softness warm and well-fitting against his body, like an ever-present caress. He called it his Controlled-Euphoria shirt, and he had bought two others like it since he’d first gotten this one freshman year.

But just as Bogard doggedly observes these Ivy League style tips, he also quickly notices those students who don’t follow the rules. Red River Dawson, Bogard’s neighbour, strolls around Entry E “corduroy-jacketed, bejeaned, and with his thumbs stuck in his western belt,” and is perpetually denied entry to the dinner hall because he refuses to replace his Texan string tie with a proper one. For all his sartorial faults, Bogard admits he likes this “Lone Ranger of the Ivy League,” even “in spite of the fact that somehow you just didn’t make friends with a guy like this at a place like this.”

Nonetheless, it takes the perfect Ivy League ensemble, companionship and activities to enable Bogard to finally defeat the Third Person:

So delighted with himself that, late in the afternoon of the day before the new term began, he and two friends, all three of them just-showered and fresh shaved, and wearing their best tweed jackets, best J. Press button-downs, best-pressed softest charcoals, and best-shined cordovans (all three happy duplicates of one another except for the precise pattern of their tweeds and the precise repp of their ties), followed their faire sunnes into the darkly paneled beersmells of Tim and Art’s, where they drank long bourbons on cracked ice and forgot to eat dinner and got so deeply involved in nothing Bogard was eventually able to say to The Third Person, you are not here, man, I mean, you’re just plain nowhere.

Proper shirts, khakis, flannel trousers and ties for dinner become his mainstay college uniform, and key to his campus identity. But his confidence also allows him to stand up and speak out against the terrible actions of his entry mates, intervening to get the girl sobered up, delivered back to her college, and then report the offending young men to campus security.

In its review of “Entry E,” the Harvard Crimson wrote, “The assets of the book life lie chiefly in its small touches — description of the weather and of Yalie breakfast conversation.” It might be right, especially given the author’s personal connection to Entry E and Yale, but these numerous dress details, too, provide an insightful period look at the style of the Yale Man of the 1950s. — REBECCA C. TUITE

Pictured above is author Richard Frede with his sister at Vassar College, 1959.

11 Comments on "Voice In The Dark: Richard Frede’s Entry E, 1958"

  1. Really enjoyed putting this piece together – Richard Frede’s sister, Karen Frede Nangle, shared that great photograph with me while I was researching for my Vassar book and I love that it’s a perfect blend of Yale Style/Vassar Style – she is wearing classic commencement Vassar dress (white was a requirement, and here she is in a crisp, white cotton, peter-pan collared shirt; perfect late 1950s waist-cincher belt and midi-length pleated skirt) and her brother is looking every bit the newly graduated Yale man. Not to mention the great cars and Vassar’s always impressive Main building in the background.

    Actually, ‘Entry E’ is worth a skim for its Vassar references, for those who might be interested in that – especially given the author’s personal connections to and knowledge of the school.

  2. I may be biased, but Ms. Tuite is England’s best writer and researcher on the Ivy League Look.

  3. Button-down Mind Strikes Back | September 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm |

    She’s easy on the eyes as well…

  4. @Rebecca

    From what I can see, this book doesn’t really make the grade as pulp fiction and I suspect – other than its own existence as an artefact of its time,- it’s of little sociological significance. Does its handling of clothing give it historical importance from a sartorial perspective, and thus make it worth reading?

  5. I read the book and it was pretty much what you’d expect of a forgotten novel from a specific time and place.

    Which is precisely why its value is more sociological than literary.

    The sartorial passages are few and are primarily cited above. I prefer the passages in Geoffrey Wolff’s “The Final Club.”

  6. Button-down Mind Strikes Back | September 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm |

    I think it should be exceedingly obvious by the cover that it’s pulp fiction. Not that there is anything wrong with that per se.

    it’s just a time capsule arty-fact of interest.

  7. Christopher Landauer | September 29, 2011 at 1:07 am |

    Good work, Rebecca!

    It seems that these ridiculous fights between America and Europe are over.

  8. When I read this book in 1958-1959, it was not “cool” to rat out your friends or acquaintances even for reprehensible conduct. But it was not difficult to understand the point that doing the right thing even if it is not the cool thing which still resonates. The atmospherics of mid-20th century America were clear.

  9. The 1958 review in the Harvard Crimson, available online, by future professor Charles S. Maier, refers to a plan to “gangbang” the drugged-up girl.

    Was the concept of a nonconsensual “gangbang” really already a plausible scenario for Ivy League undergraduate life in the 1950s? Yikes.

  10. How did you happen to land on this post from over a year ago? Are you researching the book? If so, we’d all be curious to hear about it.

  11. Old School | June 4, 2017 at 12:59 am |

    One wonders if it was really made into a movie:

    August 21, 1960 – The Literary SPOTLIGHT | Chicago Tribune


    ​”​”Rick” Frede said he also had just sold his other novel, “Entry E,” to another movie company, but he did not disclose the price.”

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