The Magazine

Remembering Oxford

Paul West's schooldays.

Apr 14, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 30 • By TRACY LEE SIMMONS
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Much of this may explain why West went back, many noisy years later, only to find it "haunted." One senses from his book that Oxford is a city of shades and shadows. "I was among ghosts," he says upon returning, "old stones, hallowed sites available to everyone, and I had missed them until I went back, astounded to find how close the university had been to the church, to an Old Testament full of threats." West sets out in this florid, well-composed memoir to obey an old injunction: Exquirite antiquam matrem, seek out the ancient mother. Her visage is chipped, but still he finds her.

Tracy Lee Simmons is director of the Dow Journalism program at Hillsdale College and author of "Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin."