28/ CHRONICLES OF CULTUREnCOMMENDABLESnZeus, WhoevernHe IsnWalter Burkert: Greek Religion; HarvardnUniversity Press; Cambridge,nMA.nWalter Burkert may be the world’s leadingnauthority on the religion of thenancient Greeks. Like several predecessorsnin the field—notably FriedrichnNietzsche and Walter Otto—^Burkertnwrites almost as an enthusiast. In anseries of important works, he has paidnthe Greeks the very high courtesy ofntaking them seriously.nBurkert is a sort of high churchnsacramentalist on the subject. At thenheart of his vision is the blood sacrifice,nthat primitive act of ritualized violencenwhich—he believes—lies at the originnof human civilization. While somenconservatives speak warmly of the Eisenhowernyears, and there are even anfew reactionaries willing to defend thenHapsburg Empire or the antebellumnSouth, in defending the customs ofnpaleolithic man Burkert may be thengreatest reactionary of our time.nGreek Religion, a translation of anGerman work published in 1977,nis—by its very nature—less brilliantnand controversial than most of hisnbooks; it is meant as a one-volumenintroduction to religion of the classicalnperiod. It is, nonetheless, a remarkablensynthesis of scholarship studded withnthe author’s characteristic insights. FornHumble Pie a la ModenIn a speech given recently at GeorgetownnUniversity, Supreine Court JusticenWilliam Brennan described thenconstitutional views of Attorney GeneralnMeese as “arrogance cloaked as humility.”nYou see, Meese is arrogantnbecause he thinks interpreters of thenConstitution should take the views ofnthe framcrs into consideration, whilenLIBERAL ARTSnBOOKSHELVESnhim, the sacrificial ritual is the Greeknexperience of metaphysical equality:nThis is not an exchange of giftsncelebrated by a hierarchicalnsociety of gods, kings, priests,nand commoners: together onnthe same level, men andnwomen stand here about thenaltar, experience and bringndeath, honor the immortals,nand in eating affirm life in itsnconditionality: it is thensolidarity of mortals in the facenof immortals.nNo one who wants to appreciate thenmeaning of the Greek contribution tonour own civilization can afford to neglectntheir religion, and no one whonwants to understand Greek religion cannafford to ignore Walter Burkert. (TF)nFaith and Freudnin the Bayounby Michael JordannJames Wilcox: North Gladiola; Harpernand Row; New York.nA comic religious novel. North Gladiolantreats the same region of southeastnLouisiana and some of the same charactersnthat James Wilcox introduced tonhis readers in his first novel, ModemnBaptists (Doubleday, 1983). The protagonistnof the first novel, bumblingnMr. Pickens, plays a minor role in thensecond, as do meddling Donna LeenKeely and the fiery redhead, Toinette.nRrennan is humble because for 29 yearsn(it seems even longer) he has beennreading into the Constitution anynmeaning that suits his own peculiarnpoint of view. Brennan is even humlilenenougli to support every measure thatnincreases the power of liis Court overnthe private lives of Americans. Rumornhas it that in liis next speech Brennannwill explain wliy freedom is siaer. ccnnnFamiliarity with the first novel willnenhance the reader’s enjoyment of thensecond, but is not essential.nNorth Gladiola is set in a region thatnhad always been a backwater but now isnconfronted with giant water slides, withnmoral and theological relativism, withnwatered-down religion, with fast-foodnchain restaurants, with lesbians, Freudiannand pop psychology, and unisexnhairstyling stations—in short, with modernity.nNowadays, these ugly signs ofn”progress” can be found in most regionsnof the United States, even in the backcountrynSouth. And whenever the traditionalnand the outlandish flourish togethernside by side, amazing conflictsnand incongruities arise, arousing ournsense of the uncanny.nMuch of the humor oi North Gladiolanderives from the frequent and absurdnclash of the old and the new: Duk-Soo,na Korean existentialist, loves Mrs.nCoco, once a Baptist but now an oldfashionednCatholic married to a nominallynCatholic Italian. Her husbandnadvocates the power of positive thinkingnand annoys his son by subjecting him tonvarious of the 29 Ways to Have WholesomenFun With Your Son, an inanenself-help book for unimaginative fathers.nThe son marries a bisexual whononce won first prize in a Miss HousingnDevelopment beauty contest. At anothernbeauty contest, she places secondnand is awarded two free lube jobs at thenTula Springs body shop. Father Fua, annold Samoan priest, blesses mobilenhomes and presides over Our Lady ofnthe Flowers, where the old statuary hasnbeen “replaced by twelve modest Stationsnof the Cross, semiabstract aluminumnmodules with Pac-Man-likenRoman soldiers.” On Mrs. Coco’snbookshelf, the Douay Bible sits besidenTeilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenonnof Man, and out in the country sheepngraze next to satellite dishes.nWeaving her way between these hilariousnjuxtapositions is Ethyl MaenCoco, whose crisis of faith and herneventual discovery of a Christian resolutionnprovide the serious center for ancomic novel. Once out of touch withnherself, her faith, her family, and herncommunity, Mrs. Coco finally findsnherself through humility and love.nBrought to realize that pride and angern