The raucously sweet sequel to At the Shores
Jerry Engels is in his junior year at Penn State. He lives with his fraternity brothers, flunks his classes, lifts weights, and thinks about women—constantly. Insatiable, Jerry devours the Kinsey Report in full, and sets out to test its findings wherever possible, grilling his brothers on their homosexual experiences, getting crabs from a prostitute, posing in the nude for art classes, and romancing a good friend’s little sister. Yet Jerry is not a rake but a carnal saint, delighting in life in a careless, grateful manner. When Jerry does find love, this remarkable comic novel of lust becomes a romance.
Rogers first introduced "erotic pantheist" Jerry Engels in his marvelous 1980 novel, At the Shores, in which Jerry, a 17-year old Chicagoan, lost his virginity to a bleary prostitute and botched an honest attempt to drown himself in Lake Michigan after a failed romance. In this, the winsome second installment of his ineluctable Bildungsroman, Jerry is a 21-year-old junior at Penn State. Rather than study, however, Jerry eagerly digests the Kinsey Report (the novel is set in 1951 and 1952), floats around with his frat brothers, pumps iron, composes amateur verse and poses a nude model for a campus art class. Of course he also chases women, including a Philadelphia hooker who gives him crabs, a confused lesbian, his buddy's vulnerable younger sister and Elizabeth Grant, his blustery freshman English professor with whom things eventually get quite serious. Irresponsibly confident yet enviably cocksure, Jerry lets his own heart guide him, publicly ignoring well-established legal, social and sexual mores. To Rogers's credit, however, Jerry rarely stinks like a sordid letch. And though it's somewhat hard to believe in an adolescent male who so audaciously fetes sex (even homoerotic encounters) during the Truman years, Rogers-who is still vastly underappreciated-nonetheless manages to suspend our disbelief with a superb comic vision of a shameless, harmless, lovable lothario who refuses to inherit the world's cynicism and who, foolishly or not, is his own man.