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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 1. 6th March 1974

Teach Yourself Prune:

Teach Yourself Prune:

In this day and age it is perhaps felt that a book on Prune is somewhat unnecessary. Stogewater himself, a notable prune for a great many years, would be the first to admit that the present generation of prunes is amongst the best this country has seen. Nevertheless, it would indeed be a shame if the standard should decline through lack of instruction. There have recently been a vast number of radical publications whose philosophies eat away at the very core of the only correct way of living, and it is indeed gratifying that Dr Stodgewater should have accepted the responsibility of producing this volume.

The book commences with Stodgewater's early days as a budding prune, and bids us observe his mistakes with great care. He recalls an incident when, in his first year at Oxford, he had encountered serious difficulty in understanding one of his assignments; in his own words "I didn't have the jolly foggiest what the old guy was getting on at!" He observed due propriety in not bothering his fellows with the question, but mentions with shame one of the most embarrassing blunders in his career as a prune.

"Well, I was fairly young you know. One does these things on impulse, without thinking of the consequences. One minute I was standing there, wondering what the blazes this was all about, and the next I was knocking on the prof's door and asking him! Well of course the old fellow was dreadfully put out. I mean any fool knows you just don't do that sort of thing. Imagine if every halfwit were to go and ask his lecturer what to do when he didn't understand something! Utter chaos! But there was like an idiot, asking him. He should have kicked me out then and there, but no, he explained it and I just sat there. It was only later that I realised just how damn cheeky I had been, and I still haven't got over the mortification of that episode."

Brave words indeed. Stodgewater stresses throughout the book the vast importance a true prune places on appearances. "Let's face it. No-one will ever give a damn what you're really like; no-one will ever know, for that matter. Not unless some traitor knifes you in the back as they did to poor Nixon. What they want is punctuality, a clean appearance, and show some interest in the subject. Now I must make this point quite plain. Of course you're not expected to have any real interest in what's going on. This is what has confused a great many prunes: they tend to confuse reality with the appearance, when of course the latter is infinitely more important. Real interest in a subject is a highly detrimental thing. Any lecturer worth his salt should be able to weed out those who show signs of it, but nevertheless it has got through, sometimes as far as the third year, where it has done untold damage. I have seen magnificently constructed syllabuses crumble into ruins simply because some fool has let himself get really interested in something. The result is obvious. Hours of non-syllabus activity, reduced concentration on examination topics, failure and waste of the taxpayer's money."

There is a lesson for all of us in this. Stodgewater teaches us, in the first ten chapters of this highly detailed work, of the immense value a cultivated appearance may have. If you are one of the unfortunates who have been accused of signs of intelligence, this book is for you. Chapters 11-14 deal exclusively with the problems of subjugating the difficulties of awareness by hard work at punctuality, clean appearance, and, above all. Discipline, With these traits, claims Stodgewater, one should have no difficulty in becoming a fine upstanding prune; and by the end of the volume the reader too will have little doubt of this.

In short, this book is a very timely summary of the attributes demanded by this growing field. Stodgewater deals with each problem from his own experiences wherever possible, but it is easy to see that little has happened to Stodgewater which has not happened to everyone else, and very frequently, and this I feel is one of the most endearing qualities of one of New Zealand's most eminent prunes. His work is above all practical. One cannot doubt the powerful logic of chapter 17, for instance, from which I quote once more:

"I have been approached by numerous persons, engaged in student affairs, who have deplored the loneliness of the average student, especially in his first year, and I have replied to each one. Utter poppycock! The student—especially in his first year—is no more lonely than you or I, I know for a fact that I have no problems whatsoever, but I envy the idyllic state of these youngsters. I know good prunes who have got right through university without speaking to another soul there, and fine upstanding citizens they are now. For instance, it's always a good idea to go private boarding. That's not a solution in itself of course; I've known many failures in the same situation, hut it does reduce the danger of human contact which flats and hostels offer. Prunes have survived very well there of course, by spending every possible hour in the library. My God! What fool could claim to be lonely with the wisdom of Socrates for company? The joy of Gibbon's "Decline and Fall"? Why, even those deprived of these masters have often become good solid prunes—engineering, architecture, science—anything requiring good solid hard work, firm attention to surface appearances, logical fact, cleanliness, punctuality and discipline will produce prunes of the first order. Look at the National Party!"

Now that his book has become a set text for the majority of university courses this year there is little doubt that it will achieve the popularity it deserves. With close attention to Stodgewater's simple instructions, one's life may-easily be reduced to a suitable routine capable of eliminating all superfluous activity. This (along with punctuality, clean appearance, and Discipline) is surely the highest aim of any prune, and Stodgewater's appreciation of the issues involved renders this book an invaluable investment.

—Reviewed by Marty