On Wednesday, Jan. 15, at the Kenyon College Bookstore, a celebration was held for P.F. Kluge’s ’64 new book “Keepers: Home and Away,” where Kluge read aloud and discussed several essays from the new book before answering questions from the audience. For many years, Kluge was a notable journalist, having worked for both the Wall Street Journal and Time magazine. He is also the author of several acclaimed novels, including “Eddie and the Cruisers,” which was made into a film of the same name. Kluge also co-wrote the Life Magazine article “The Boys in the Bank,” which inspired the Academy Award-winning crime drama Dog Day Afternoon.
Kluge’s experience as a journalist informed much of the book’s content. “Keepers: Home and Away” is a collection of nonfiction essays centered around the ideas of travel and location, which connects to the exploration necessary for journalism as a profession. Kluge said that his memorable travels are “not over until they are written about,” speaking to the more personal aspects of his adventures.
One of Kluge’s essays, “My Private Germany,” discussed an area in Austria that he and his wife visit every year, and the joy he finds in returning to such a familiar place. The essay also focuses on the stage of life where one can appreciate familiarity. Kluge uses the essay to explore how his parents felt when they were his age, and how growing into that stage made him feel closer to them. “My Private Germany” continues to explore Kluge’s complicated relationship with his family, as the essay discussed his discovery as a child that he had relatives who had fought for Nazi Germany in World War II. The essay discusses how the experience “complicated [his] view of good and evil,” but also developed Kluge’s interest in history and learning about each side of historical events.
Following his career in journalism, Kluge returned to Gambier, working at Kenyon as a creative writing teacher and writer-in-residence. Kluge noted Ransom Riggs ’01 and John Green ’00 as some of the notable students he taught during his time as an instructor at Kenyon, and how he marveled at the successes they had found. The reading was attended mainly by the writer’s friends and former colleagues.
“I was struck by the number of retired faculty members and Kenyon alums in the audience—it was a testimony to the community that Fred [Kluge ’64] and Pamela [Hollie] have helped to build here over the years,” noted Professor of English Adele Davidson ’75, a long-time colleague and friend of Kluge. In an essay inspired by Kluge’s time in Gambier, he wrote of the necessity of community in such a small area where word travels fast, how “extreme states, love and outright hate, are dangerous here.”
“Kluge manages to be simultaneously cynical, engaging and idealistic,” Davidson said of the essay. “As was true, I believe, of his views about Kenyon and Gambier, where there is a genuine affection that comes through despite an awareness of the College’s shortcomings and occasional failure to be as good as it could be. What institution can ever be as good as its potential?”