make itself more engaging than Brodkey’s. The author of a play called Caryatids has been assaulted each time the play has been produced, so that it has never been done in its entirety. It has never been done professionally. Only three attempts have been made. The fictional author leads us through a nooked and crannied history of these attempts sidelined with anecdotes, running brawls, possible meanings. In the end the night has been talked through and the author must be off for Philadelphia. He says: story is some of the best writing in the book. “The Universal Fears” centers on a schoolteacher’s first day at a tough dockside school for dockyard girls. They beat shit out of him. He nails a couple of them. He splits. A concept is introduced: “juicy rough.” Means sex, down and dirty. But it emblematizes something else too, something like a plateau along the sinking road to the absence of illusion. Something like that. In the end schoolteacher goes back for more. The story is quick, and although it constitutes a partial return to Hawkes’ old stenchy stomping grounds, I liked it. The aroma is unmistakable. Ginsberg’s long “Ecologue” is after Hawkes’ piece, and it is printed sideways in the book. I object to printing things sideways. Sidewaysness is nearly always unpleasant, in my view. Reading something printed sideways is a pain in the bum. The poem is harmless and don’t seem to call for no sideways printing whose idea was this? Ah, well … they’re doing a play of mine . a young group . . . I’ve been on the point of mentioning it a dozen times. I’m rather excited. I feel . . . well you see .. . well actually they are doing Caryatids, and I think … I think a new spirit is in the air. I think they will perform it right to the end. I think it will be understood. Yes. Truly, I believe it will. It is a stock but pleasant end. The story is a gentle spoof underlaid with insight: a picture of the artist viewing his work-as-child, seeing in it everything that is and can be seen, warding off its nothing aspect, and finally settling into the comfort of a future something. All told in the lightly inflated tone of copious self-interest that is at once a put-down and an exaltation of the self. The work is good, and with judicious editing … better. Poems follow. Then an interview with Karlheinz Stockhausen. Jonathan Cott does the interviewing. In his introduction Cott writes that “what Stockhausen has done is to reconnect the musical impulse with its cosmic source.” Stockhausen’s conversation reflects such. After some historical skirmishing, the composer rids himself of a thought on electricity: “Physical death wouldn’t be an absolute necessity … if we were able to lead the electric current which is always available outside of ourselves, into the body and into all the limbs, and their particles.” He talks about statistical, aleatoric composition. He recalls the technically unrealizable “Sound Swallower,” the principle of which would be the production of the negative of the wave of the sound you want swallowed. He goes into the uses of sound for expansion of consciousness, for healing, and for “very particular things.” The interview is interesting if not clearly informative. You get shreds of ideas, bits, rocket balls of implication. It is like a vague gesture, a sweep of the hand indicating the area and the direction where Stockhausen may be found if you want the particulars you’re going to have to look over there \(gesture, A tangential pleasure here is the way in which the vastness of historical time is manhandled, indicated by one beautiful sentence Stockhausen spoke: “Ligeti lived at my house after the Hungarian Revolution.” 22 The Texas Observer CONTORTION GIVES way to an essay on poetry which is technical and poetic and not something I would read except at bombpoint. Followed by a poem which disintegrates in five pages unfortunately. It had a chance. Then “God of Many Names,” by Peter Schneeman which looks like a 1968 TV movie script. Poems. Then Kenneth Bernard’s blessedly thin pieces which are a fabulist’s work, packed and crammed with zigged images and zagged ideas: “Who has been bitten by a bee’s mouth?” Or: “If my wife’s sexual part is a frog \(or a moth or a bee does a snail what is my wife?” The two stories are oversweet, but short \(2 1/2 look like red nipples on sallow breasts can be seen for miles. Then a poem \(do you wish they would put all the poems which is not good. Poems. Then a story by Maxine Kumin called “Buying the Child.” It is a tender story in which a bull calf plays a part. The chick saves this calf, see, and it grows up and gores a dog, so she has to sell it . . . and that’s the end of her country life. The prose is readable; the story is . . . unadventurous. Topical. Moral The final piece in the book is Ralph Ellison’s “Cadillac Flambe.” It is from his next novel. If there is disappointment connected with this work it is the absence of Ellison’s high-energy firecracker & thunderbolt \(I don’t remember Invisible Man too well; I’m just trying to cover the evangelism. Or perhaps it is unheard of for a black writer to come on this comfortable? God knows “Cadillac Flambe” is , not exciting. On the other hand, it is pleasant. So. An outline. AR 16 holds up . . . all right. I found things of interest. The lead story is surprisingly bad, but that seems to be characteristic of recent issues \(“Mawrdew Czgowchwz” in NAR 13 was unaccomplished; “Detritus” in NAR 14 was sloppy; “Catholics” in NAR 15 was if Solotaroff, in his right-minded effort to advance the cause of new, lesser-known writers, can’t find any new writers able to withstand the glare of the lead spot in the magazine. Other stories in the book are variously interesting, satisfying, and tolerable. Most of them are overwritten, involving the use of ten words for two. None strike me as searing, bone-chilling, terrific, nitro-explosive, dreamy fiction. None are absolutely world class. 3 Solotaroff writes in his introduction to American Review 16 that the prestige of the magazine \(that which makes it viable in the popular press. He is pleased by this it means that “NAR and now AR stand for and bear out the democratization of the literary culture,” a process in which AR’s role is “finding writing of quality that is accessible and Various enough to appeal to the common reader.” Now you can either support or loathe the “democratization of the literary culture,” as you please, but that business about “quality writing” for the “common reader” rings false. Because: quality writing is good art, and good art is, of necessity and by definition, elitist ain’t nothing common about it. Good art is involved with itself and its history, with invention and economy and magic and hooliganism and cries in the night anything but untransformed commonness. In literature, art is language which communicates with rhythm, tone, timbre and time a mood which is meaning. The art is the hem-haw warp-woof bark and bite of the words. Simply: If you set out to make Cadillacs for commoners you’re going to end up making Chevrolets. Sure as shit. The dilemma: AR is to a noticeable degree defining current prose, if only by being the surviving market of consequence for current prose writers. I am not satisfied with the definition. Too much of the writing in AR leaves me cold, spiritually speaking. What is a responsible posture for a boy so plagued? Buy the book. An imperfect solution, but … you don’t have to read it. Not all of it. Buy it because intentionally American Review 16 is superb, because it’s all we’ve got, because compassion is Godlike, because hope is a better way of life, because writers need your money. Buy it because every effort deserves response. Buying is imperfect but honorable like the magazine.