Delivered by Walter Wager (CC 1944) at the Bicentennial Dinner of the Philolexian Society, April 11, 2002:

"I'm delighted to see that John Hollander was here. He's grown up to be quite a nice fellow. John and I have had a tenuous relationship for a long time -- I think one of mutual admiration and very little acknowledgment. John, of course, is a high-end artist, and I write suspense novels. Some years ago, I received from John a long spy poem. That's my turf. I was defensive, and with the efficiency that has made me a living legend, I lost it. I told John about this tonight, and he said we're lucky -- there's a new printing. So we can all look forward to that.

"When I was an undergraduate here, I was about to go off at the end of only three years of college to the Harvard Law School. If you don't keep track of how many points you've taken, you can suddenly discover you're ready to graduate. This was not my idea. It was not aggression; it was incompetence. I didn't see John much after that until some years later, when I was invited to a party at a home filled with literary critics. And I remember speaking with the wife of a very famous literary person -- a Columbia graduate, I suspect a Philo, who had just published his memoir. And I said to her, making small talk, as I am wont to do, 'I'm reading your husband's book.' She said, 'What do you think of it?' I said, 'Well, I'm reading it in short 10-page takes.' She said, 'Oh, you're reading it in the bathroom. That's the right place for it.'

"Subsequently I started to think, 'What was Philolexian?' I went through it so fast, along with members of these war-torn classes, that we really didn't have the fun that most of you had. And then I had a theory. I thought it was people who wrote and cared about literature. Eventually, I started to get semi-curious and I had some notion, vaguely, that I must have been in this thing.

"It all became clear about four or five years ago when I was standing outside an ATM machine on Broadway. A kid in a Columbia sweatshirt was standing there with a pin that said, 'Defy authority'. And I said, quite impulsively, 'Who the hell says so?' He was crushed. He gave me the pin. Then I knew that I was in Philolexian."

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