Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—Peter Pouncey, the president emeritus of Amherst College, recently published Rules for Old Men Waiting ($21.95, Random House, New York, 2005), a novel about three wars of the 20th century and a marriage. According to novelist and memoirist Frank McCourt, it is “a deeply sensual, moving, thrilling novel that calls for a second and third reading—it is that rich.”
Robert MacIver, the protagonist of Rules, is a recently widowed and rapidly aging historian grieving alone in the winter in an unheated Cape Cod house “older than the Republic.” The house is perhaps more debilitated than MacIver is: when the frame of his dwelling starts collapsing, he formulates his “Ten Commandments for Old Men Waiting.” Because one injunction is to “Work every morning,” he writes a short story about the suffering of soldiers in the First World War, drawing on materials he gathered for an oral history of victims of poison. Rules for Old Men Waiting is a story within a story, an invented tale of the Great War that prompts MacIver to reflect on his role in the Second World War and his son's in Vietnam. The Times of London praised it as “an intense, memorable little book.”
The president of Amherst College from 1984 to 1994, Pouncey is a classicist by training. Born in China to English parents, Pouncey was educated in the Greek and Latin classics in English boarding schools and at Oxford. He taught at Fordham University and Columbia University, specializing in classical historiography. He served as dean of the college at Columbia during the politically active 1970s.