This humorous, satirical novel is set against the turbulent and violent events that punctuated the end of the sixties and the start of the seventies which churn around Gray, the narrator. The Last White Horse is a detailed, diverting, and discursive account of these troubled times and the diverse number of people who interact with him during his sophomore year. Gray slowly falls in love with Kate while desperately trying to hold on to the last vestiges of a familiar and comforting past, meanwhile, the world around him eagerly and willingly divests itself of those traditions and mores, replacing them with convenient and selfish forbidden fruits. As he awkwardly and clumsily attempts to make sense out of the senseless - trapped by his ability to see both sides of every issue - events of the times make it harder and harder for him to reconcile all that is happening around him.
There is a distorted perception of life in 1969 and 1970 which this historical novel corrects. When these times are portrayed, everyone is depicted as wearing tattered bell bottoms, having shoulder length hair, being stoned on acid, and constantly engaged in recreational sex. While some of this is true, there were the majority of young people who were adjusting to enormous social changes. The humor arises out of Gray's actions and observations of the many other characters - some typical, some otherwise - and events rarely depicted in modern, stereotypical treatments of this time.
During the Fall of 1969, Gray's feelings for Kate grow as he tries to deal with his selfish roommate's excessive overindulgence in recreational sex and is confronted by more serious concerns some of which are: the proliferation of marijuana use, the October Moratorium, the November March on Washington protesting the Viet Nam War, the constant threat of being drafted to serve in a war that no one understood, the legalization of abortion, the relaxation of moral standards, the weakening influence of organized religions, the divisive and dividing generation gap cultivated by the Nixon administration, and Gray's stunning realization that the world was acting emotively and not rationally.
The horrific 1970 New Year's party signals the beginning of the traumatic events of the Spring: an illegal abortion, a violent campus demonstration, New York's first abortion law (April 10th), the first Earth Day(April 22nd), the Cambodian Incursion (April 30th), the March on Washington (March 4th), the Kent State massacre (May 8th), the Jackson State massacre (May 22nd), the volatile and dangerous state of the colleges causing the abrupt end to the semester, and the obscene graduation. The novel is a description of these troubling and forgotten times.
Alexander Belisle was a young professor at Becker College when the events depicted in the novel occurred. He wrote this novel in the early seventies while his recollections of these times were still fresh. He graduated from Clark University with a B.A. in English, received a M.A. in English from Assumption College, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Rhode Island. His doctoral specialty is Old and Middle English Literature with other areas of specialization in Renaissance Literature, 17th Century Literature, the American and British Novel, and American and English Literary History. During his 38 year career at Becker, he taught American and English literature, Philosophy, Ethics and Western Civilization II.
When he retired in 2006, he was designated Professor Emeritus of English and Philosophy. In 1986, he and his wife Andree started The Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, a local weekly newspaper.