Skip to Content

A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Once Upon a Time… At Bennington College

Available on Apple Podcasts / Podcasts

In 1982, Bret Easton Ellis left Los Angeles for Bennington College, a tiny school in nowhere Vermont, with a suitcase of narcotics and a Joan Didion–inspired manuscript about the high-school friends he’d enjoyed those drugs with. As luck would have it, Didion’s daughter would end up his Bennington classmate. Or, maybe, as AIR MAIL Writer at Large Lili Anolik ventures in her new podcast, it wasn’t luck at all. One Gen X literary star in the class of 1986 is a fluke. But three—Ellis (that manuscript became Less than Zero), Donna Tartt (The Secret History), and Jonathan Lethem (Motherless Brooklyn)—means there’s something in the water. It wasn’t just cocaine—though, there was a lot of that. Anolik describes Bennington as “an academic institution that scorned both academics and institutions,” where du Ponts, Gettys, and the heir to Baskin-Robbins attended parties with professors—and, sometimes, classes. She offers salacious anecdotes about mid-80s campus life, but Anolik goes beyond dishing out dirty details. The 14-part series, a C13 Original, is a “portrait of an era,” a look at the aspirations and values of the Gen X–ers who defined 1980s and 1990s literary culture. —J.D.

Start a New Search
Subscribers Only

Start your free trial to access the full Arts Intel Report

Subscribe to Air Mail to access every article
and search our entire Arts Intel Report.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in here.