A Higher Ed, The Lost e-mails of a Generation is the story of four young men seeking to blaze their own path through life. Told through e-mail letters between great friends during their last year of college, Ed Slattery leads the way with angst and laugh filled letters that bare all about girls, love, sex, college, work, partying, traveling, creativity, society, family, and spirituality. This group of fun-loving yet philosophical individuals lay out their wildest dreams, hidden fears, and secret desires through captivating monologues and dialogues that burst with passion and humor. 

Inside the Heads of the Youth
By Kelsey Lauer 8/10/09     Northern Express Weekly, Traverse City, MI


A Higher Ed, The Lost e-mails of a Generation

By Michael Darigan

Skellum Imaginations, Inc.

264 pages — $11

“It’s about getting off the track and onto something different, maybe not a road, maybe something we never knew was there, unless we try to see it,” writes Josh Meritz, one of four young men in A Higher Ed, The Lost e-mails of a Generation.

And that is exactly what the four close friends — Mike Darigan, Josh Meritz, Cleveland Winfield and Perry Panzarella—proceed to do over the course of a year as they study at four different universities—step off the beaten path and onto one of their own making to escape the pressures of modern society and learn who they truly are.

Through a series of e-mails, A Higher Ed tells the story of their adventures and misadventures with learning, love and life in general.

“It’s a collection of useful dreaming and a desire to be an individual, to live life to the fullest and look at life with a sense of humor and adherence to being creative,” says author Mike Darigan. “Carpe diem would be a summation of the general theme of the book.”

Darigan currently lives in Suttons Bay, where he is working on a book tentatively called La Femme and is starting an organic farm in Northport.

WHO’S WHO

At Emerson College, Mike Darigan is in the final year of a winding, six-year-long college career that began in 1990. Recently returned from studying abroad for a year as an associate student at Oxford University, Darigan discovers e-mail in 1995 and begins to correspond with three friends, one of whom he met while in England, one of whom he grew up with and another in his first year of university in England.

Also recently returned from Oxford University, Josh Meritz details his experiences of trying to fit back into a typical American university after his year abroad, which has transformed his expectations of life and given him the ability to question the norm.

Cleveland Winfield, who has known Darigan since the age of six, is a senior political student at the University of Rhode Island and brings a good deal of life experience to the table, thanks to having studied in Wisconsin, served in the army as a tank driver and spent two years in Nevada “slanging dope and getting married.”

Reading for a master’s degree at Whitefriars College, Oxford University, Peregrine “Perry” Panzarella has recently graduated from Providence College, where he and Darigan lived three doors down from each other as freshman; Darigan credits Panzarella with his introduction to writing.

COMING OF AGE

In places, A Higher Ed fits neatly into the coming-of-age genre personified so well by authors such as Jack Kerouac in On the Road. The concept of coming-of-age spans every generation, for no one really knows who they are until they have lived long enough to make mistakes and fall off—even briefly—the path that they planned to be traveling.

Like some of Kerouac’s works, A Higher Ed offers an unedited thought-stream that allows for a deeply personal glimpse inside a character’s life. But it differs from Kerouac’s works in that it details the lives of several students in the first generation to reach adulthood just as technology, such as the Internet, became more prevalent.

E-mail allowed each person writing to attain a spontaneity and realness that can be hard to find in a traditionally-written literary work, even one that is autobiographical; informal writing with at-times entirely lowercase letters means that the language is occasionally hard to follow, but this adds to the authenticity of each man’s correspondence.

Nearly every page inspires laughter due to one outlandish experience or another or, alternatively, delves deep into a thought-provoking examination of one of life’s many aspects, which Darigan says is exactly what he intended.

“It’s an entertaining book with some funny stories and outlandish acts in terms of the partying,” he says. “It’s a blend of humorous anecdotes mixed with thought-provoking passages. You’re either going to laugh or think about your life a little bit and as Emerson said, ‘an unexamined life is not worth living.”

ROADMAP

At a time in life when college students or any other 15 to 25-year-olds are struggling to discover who they are and where they are meant to fit in the world, backpocket e-pistles serves as a useful map through some of the rougher patches of life.

It’s no self-help book—and wasn’t meant to be, according to Darigan—but the amusing anecdotes can put a smile onto even the most serious face and teach you a little about life in the process, the main lesson being “...for people to have confidence to adhere to the prompting of their own hearts, within the matrix that we all live in, that is constantly and subtly exacting pressure to conform,” Darigan says.


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