I must admit, I have not seen Animal House (1978) as many times as I should have. My dad was always a big fan, but I’m guessing he didn’t want me to watch it considering the questionable moral content. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have wanted me to read one of the Animal House writers Chris Miller’s book The Real Animal House (2006).
The story is that Miller wrote a bunch of stories about his fraternity experiences at Dartmouth for National Lampoon (yes, it used to be a magazine). At some point the NL folks wanted to make a movie so Chris, Harold Ramis and Douglas Kenney pooled every story they ever experienced or heard about fraternities and created Animal House, one of the greatest comedies of all time.
Well, Miller’s The Real Animal House collects all of his memories and stories. Part autobiography, part oral history, Miller switches from first to third person as he gets to college and becomes Pinto. The shift is a bit distracting, but once you really get into the tales of Adelphian lore, you don’t really notice it anymore.
And let me tell you, there are some gross stories in here. If you thought the movie had some risque moments, you might not want to check the book out, but if that kind of stuff doesn’t bother you, I really recommend this book. Aside from being highly entertaining and funny, it’s really interesting to be transferred to the wild world of fraternity life in the early 60s as rock and roll was really taking root and students were trying everything they could to make the cold New Hampshire winters pass in the at-the-time all male world of Dartmoth. I’m not saying this was necessarily how all college life was in the 60s, but it’s a cool look. Plus, it reminded be a little of my fraternity days back at Ohio Wesleyan. We were never as crazy as either the book or movie fraternities, but there are definitely some characters and moments that echoed my experiences, though, luckily I never got stuck with a flattering nickname (we pretty much called everyone by their last name all the time, with a few exceptions).
Anyway, if you haven’t seen Animal House you really should. It’s the rare movie that doesn’t really have one central character and yet you never really seem to notice. All the actors deliver stellar performances and there’s something new to laugh at every time you check it out. I also recommend viewing the special features, one of which catches up with the characters, the other interviews many of the actors a few years ago about their experience with Animal House, even Kevin Bacon.
I picked the book up at my local Barnes and Noble in hardcover for around 6 or 7 bucks and I highly recommend it if you can find it for that price, otherwise the hardcover is $24.99. I tend not to buy new, full price hardcovers because I’m pretty cheap, but the low price, the subject matter and the super cool cover (Google it, uploading pics is a pain) all encouraged me buying it and I recommend you do too.