During the Vietnam War, a pacifist who wanted to help young men take advantage of college deferments from the draft founded a college in Maine. Grover Cleveland College thrived during the war. But once the war was over, enrollment dwindled until it was on the brink of collapse — no, really, for real this time.
Then the founder, college president Cyrus Cleveland, took ill and died, leaving the college to his nephew, Marcus, a used car salesman from New Jersey. And Marcus? He has just 100 days to save the college before creditors sweep in. That’s the premise of a new book written by a University of Maine at Augusta professor.
Billed as a humorous fiction book, “Long Live Grover Cleveland” by Robert Klose quickly sweeps you into a story about academia that’s an exploration of the extremes of personalities you’ll find on college campuses and a story of relationships in a light, irreverent tone.
But was this fictitious college modeled after a real one? Klose says no.
“It’s a composite of experiences that I think are very common to colleges and universities — the idea that every problem needs to be addressed by a committee,” Klose said.
The characters, which are almost caricatures of different personality archetypes, are common characters you’d find on a campus, Klose said.
Klose said he was inspired to write this book — his fifth book but first novel — because of his experience as a professor.
“There’s an old tenet in writing, which is write about what you know, and I have been kind of marinating in higher academia for about 30 years now,” Klose said.
This labor of love took about four months to write a first draft and 18 additional drafts to get it just right, “just to make sure the way a character was characterized was consistent but had room for growth,” Klose said.
The hardest part of dipping into fiction? Klose says nonfiction simply is “a different beast.”
“If you are writing fiction, about a fictional trip to a nonexistent country, you have to lay the groundwork for that county and keep it constantly in mind,” Klose said.
The experience, however, apparently was worthwhile. Klose said he already is working on another novel that also involves academia.
Klose will be speaking and signing books at an upcoming Brown Bag Luncheon scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, at the Bangor Public Library. He also will be giving a talk at the Blue Hill Public Library at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29.
His book is available from booksellers around the state and online, including Book Marcs and The Briar Patch in Bangor.