tion of the “attitudes” that were sharednby that generation of satirists who, innthe wake of the Great War, followednMencken’s lead. As such, it succeeds.nMartin perceptiely notes, for example,nthat while Mencken and such fellown”debunkers” as Lewis and Don Marquisn”ridiculed American provincialism,nPuritanism, and the traditional, moralnvalues of Americans,” they themselvesnbelieved in progress, culture, andnlearning—“a basic triptych on the altarnof American faith.” Moreover, Martinnnotes, one finds in much of their writingn”a persistent love and nostalgia fornaspects of what they ridiculed and for ansimpler, rural way of life.”nStill, Martin does describe many ofnthe lesser-known satirical writings of thenMencken era; and so, like a good “survey,”nhis study provides a real sense ofnwho was mocking whom during thenHarding, Coolidge, and Hoover yearsn—a time when newspapers and magazines,nseeking truly mass circulations,nfirst began their breathless co’erage ofnstarlets and geniuses-of-the-month.nSuch quirky but intriguing works asnWest’s The Dream Life of Balso Snelln(which ridicules aestheticism) and WilliamnE. Woodward’s Bunk (which targetsnmediocrity in general) deserve atnleast the limited attention that Martinnaccords them. ccnBriaa Murray is professor of Englishnat Youngstown State University.nIN FOCUSnRed Sunsetnby Clyde Wilsonn28/CHRONICLES OF CULTUREnOliver Lange: Defiance: An AmericannNovel; Stein & Day; Briarcliff Manor,nNY.nThis 1971 novel, originally entitlednVandenberg, has been reissued in annapparent attempt to capitalize upon theninterest aroused by the film Red Dawn.nLange tells a convincing tale of thenoccupation of the U.S. by the SovietnUnion. Not great literature, it is angenuine novel and, as they say, “a goodnread.” Skillfully told with a variety ofnviewpoints and devices, it recounts thenexperiences of an alcoholic middleagednartist who is disillusioned by hisncountrymen’s passive acceptance of occupationnand who futilely attempts tonmount a guerrilla resistance in the NewnMexican mountains. Aside from a goodnstory, the novel’s chief merit is its sober­ning and all-too-plausible scenario of thensurrender of a sybaritic, solipsisticnpeople — hypnotized by media, burdenednwith gadgetry, enervated by topheavyninstitutions and ethnic heterogeneity,nand immobilized by the habit ofnexcusing others’ atrocities and their ownninaction. ccnClyde Wilson is editor of The Papersnof John C. Calhoun and professor ofnhistory at the University of SouthnCarolina.nGood Beginningsnby William C. RicenPeter Davison: Praying Wrong; Atheneum;nNew York; S9.95.nPeter Davison’s greatest asset may be thenfact that, unlike most contemporarynAmerican poets, he’s spent his adult lifenoutside the academic world. His positionnas poetry editor at The AtlanticnMonthly — one of the few largecirculationnmagazines still giving spacento contemporary poets—ensures thatnhe gets enough bad poems in the mailnevery day to know how to avoid thencommon errors that poets make.nThe first point of optimism—thatnDavison is capable of a wide audiencen— is borne out in his most recent book.nPraying Wrong, a collection of his worknfrom 1957 to 1984. Davison writes notnof sabbaticals and professorial ennui,nnor of vacations on Cape Cod and briefnsexuo-intellectual entanglements. Instead,nhe writes about animals, friendship,nreligious faith, marriage, children,ndeath, and the passage of time.nHis language isn’t marred by the Latinatencant of English departments; insteadnit is graced by Anglo-Saxon precisionnand liveliness. And his tone isngenerally placid, unself-conscious, thenvery opposite of the tedious egocentrismncommon to new poetry. The best of hisnrecent work, such as “RememberingnEurydice,” a eulogy for his deceasednfirst wife, even attains primitive simplicitynand chilling beauty;nI ha e lost the best of women.nOnce again the water irrigatesnthe scars, the gravel. . . .nNow we can barely remember,nwhile woods and grassesnwhich remember nothingnoffer us all we have to keepnbut the stone that cries hernname.nBut unfortunately, the second causenfor optimism — that Davison mightnnnavoid the pitfalls common to currentnverse—goes large ly unfulfilled. If hendistinguishes himself by language independentnof mainstream solipsism andnby unmodish subjects, he’s still, in hisnlack of poetic form and lack of clarity,nindistinguishable from the general runnof poets today.nThe earliest poems in Praying Wrongndisplay respect for the conventions ofnmeter and rhyme. They’re verse in thentraditional sense, intelligible on firstnreading:nThe corner of the eyenIs where my visions lie.nA startle, or a slantnFrom squirrel, bird or plant.nTurns hard and fast if seennBy eyes asquint and keen.nBut Davison quit writing poems in strictnforms some time ago. With the exceptionnof two good villanelles, the mostnthat can be said for his rhythms is thatnthey never jar. It is a gracefully brokennmeter that differs little if at all from freenverse.nThe lack of clarity is een morenfrustrating. Davison would probablynlike to distance himself from the cult ofninaccessibility that isolates contemporarynpoets from the common educatednreader, for his poems do hang togethernbetter than most. But he hasn’t gone farnenough. All too often, we are left puzzled:nWhat is he talking about? Unlikenother poets, Davison isn’t glib in hisnindirectness, but he does too little tonelucidate the sources of his inspiration,nto help the willing reader toward annappreciation of his art.nThe very license of indeterminacynthat Davison appropriates, however,nturns against him as his poems—manynof them long by current standards—nprogress. They often have good beginnings.nBut then, rather than create antext as one would architecture or anpiano sonata, Davison unleashes hisnassociative faculties, to the befuddlementnof the reader. The poem offersnlittle coherence from this point, referringnonly now and then to its nownobscure or even lost origins. When thenconclusion comes, it is sudden, toonoften seems strained, weak, or perfunctory.nThe childhood recollections ofn”Questions of Swimming,” after excursionsninto a landscape of intellectualnpuzzles, are forced into a vague sort ofncliche at the close: “Which is the othernshore? / Could it be the place where anboy could watch / a man . . . / set out,nswimming, for a farther shore? ” Inn”The Ram Beneath the Barn,” Davisonnterminates his entertaining anthropomorphismsnwith bathetic suddenness:n