New York Times book critic Dwight Garner reviews Andrew Ferguson's latest, Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College:
Mr. Ferguson is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, and he’s a valiant guide through this emotional territory. He’s got a big, beating heart, but he tucks it behind a dry prose style that owes a little bit to Mark Twain and Tom Wolfe — to name the first two white-suited writers who come to mind — and also to Dave Barry (whom I suspect wears Dockers).
He made me laugh early, and often.... “Crazy U” is a chronicle of Mr. Ferguson’s attempts to help place his son, who is 16 when this mini-odyssey begins, in a decent college. Mr. Ferguson’s boy (he is never named) is only an average student, and his father fears for him in a process that’s become a nationwide talent hunt favoring teenage extroverts and self-marketers. “I wasn’t sure,” he writes, “my son had the personality for it.” He means that as a compliment.
As this story moves forward, Mr. Ferguson makes short, shrewd detours into areas that include: the history of American education, how college guidebooks compile their rankings, the SAT tests and its critics, and the headache-making intricacies of college loans and financial aid. He talks to an expensive admissions guru who learns of his late start and fumbling progress and says, smiling: “Oooooh. Baaaaaaad Daaaaaad.”
These detours might have been, as they often are in memoirish surveys like this one, potted histories: breaded, deep-fried, dead on the palate. Mr. Ferguson’s taste buds are wide awake as he samples this material.