Having ItnNeither WaynIrwin Shaw: Acceptable Losses;nArbor House; New York.nby Allen BrodskynIrwin Shaw has caught himselfnin a bind. He wants his novels tonhave mass appeal, so he adornsnhis characters and plots withnadolescent fantasies. Mild-mannerednmen are incredibly attractivento beautiful women andnhave aflfairs with one .glamorousnbeauty after another. Shaw’snheroes are often men who obtainnsexual pleasures and materialnwealth to fantastic degreesnwith littie, if any, exertion. Thenprotagonist oiAcceptable Lossesnis typical. He is married to anjuvenile’s dream of the perfectnwife: a sexy woman who gladlyntakes care of all her husband’snneeds and who never hasslesnhim, no matter how many othernwomen he sleeps with.nBut Shaw also wants hisnnovels to express seriousnthemes, so he presents a worldnthat is often brutal and unfair. AlthoughnAcceptable Losses is setnin contemporary peacetimenAmerica, the novel suggests thatnmen are still in a state of warnwith one another. Apparentlynthe point is that violence andnanger are permanent parts ofnman’s nature, so we need to findnways of living with them insteadnof pretending they don’t exist.nThe novel implies that the wartimennotion of acceptable lossesnholds for peacetime as well. Innother words, one must strugglento succeed. This is less than annoriginal theme, but it is a salutarynone, and one that is expressedninfrequently in public discourse.nTelevision shows and much currentnfiction express the oppositenMr. Brodsky writes fromnPhiladelphianview: the world owes you everythingnyou want, and more. Thenbind for Shaw is that the twonsides of his work contradict eachnother. A hero who is half adolescentnmale fantasy and half representationnof traditional Americannvalues (even though a simplisticnrepresentation) is incoherent.nThe fantasy side of Shaw’snworks contributes to their popularity,nbut it strips the force fromnhis themes.nThe reason for the cross-eyednquality of Shaw’s fiction is hisnlimited understanding of art, evidencednby some thoughts aboutnAristotle that improbably appearnin Acceptable Losses. To gainnsome respite from his worriesnabout a stranger’s threats, thenhero takes his wife out to see anfilm. They find the film deeplynmoving, and the protagonist isnimpressed by the director’s abilitynto bring the audience to tears:n”Catharsis through pity and terror,nhe thought.” But the herongoes on to oppose the fictionnwith the reality of his life. That is,nhe carries a list of possiblenenemies, about which he thinks,n”that was reality, not the formulanfor pre-Christian Greek playwrights;nthere was terror … innhis pocket, but no pity and noncatharsis.” This is a false opposition.nThe Poetics argues thatncatharsis arises from the skUlfiilnrepresentation of reality. Indeed,nthe example Shaw uses to ilfustratenhis point, the Australiannfilm ‘Breaker” Morant, is basednon real people and real events.n(Morant is an Australian hero.)nShaw does not realize that he cannmove his readers and gain a largenaudience by writing well aboutnreality, rather than by sneakingnhis view of life between insipidnfantasies. In the best fiction,ntheme is effect deepened; afternall, life has meaning. DnNonsense fornNonsexistsnstories for Free Children;nEdited by Letty CottinnPogrebin; McGraw-HUl; New York.n”My first and last philosophy,nthat which I beUeve in with unbrokenncertainty, I learnt in thennursery,” wrote G. K. Chesterton.n”I generally learnt it from annurse; that is, from the solemnnand star-appointed priestess atnonce of democracy and traditioanThe things I believed most then,nthe things I believe most now,nare things called feiry tales.” Nornis Chesterton the only one to understandnthat a culture’s fairyntales and legends, despite theirnseemingly fabulous elements,nprovide a profound educationnfor children in a folk wisdomnaccrued through generationsnand history. Bruno Bettelheimnargues in The Uses of Enchantmentnthat such stories providenan invaluable emotional andnimaginative preparation for anworld really inhabited by variousnsorts of trolls, ogres, giants,nand witches—^as well as by shiningnknights and beautifiil princesses.nThe value of this folklore,nBettelheim warned, is greatlyndiminished, however, whenn”unpleasant” elements arenexpunged. Children must learnnthat giants do eat people and thatndragons do more than singe theneyebrows of unsuccessfiil warriors.nUnfortunately, the aim ofnMs magazine and its editor Ms.nPogrebin in compiling Storiesnfor Free Children is precisely tonshield children from a mostnnn”unpleasant” feature of traditionalnchildren’s stories, theirnpervasive “sexism.” So instead ofna daring prince rescuing a feirndamsel, we have a very tall princessnwho “stands on her awnntwo feet” as she looks down at anshort, thin, and “elegant” princenwith “large brown eyes.” Insteadnof the couple who marry andnlive happily ever after, we haventhe model career woman whon”does not need marriage” andnworks happily ever after. Gonenare Paul Bunyan, Pecos BiU, andnDavy Crockett, as we “bring sexequitynto our dreams of greatness”nwith prefab “new legends”nabout women sailors, baseballnplayers, and suflragettes. Unlikenthe usual stories for juvenilesncelebrating the masculine-femininenpolarity which has for centuriesnadded tang and zest to ournlives, this collection repudiatesn”the foolish business of dividingnhumanity into pinks and blues”nwith a story about “X,” an androgynousnchild who grows up totallyn”fulfilled” by never being classifiednas boy or girl. While mostnjuvenile literature helps the childnfind identity within the contextnof a social and historical heritage,nthese Polonius-like authors lecturenthe “free child” on the neednto “be true to yourself’ by resistingn”other people’s ideas of whatna girl or boy is ‘supposed’ to be.”nA few selections—^including onenon handicapped children andnone on the retarded—are sensitivenand worthwhile, but mostnare merely echo chambers Jfornthe slogans of trendy feminism.nThese boring pieces commandnnone of the imaginative powernwhich informs real feiry tales,nthough they do share with certainnfairyland witches the power toncast one spell: nothing could putna child to sleep faster. The endnresult is a caricature of both lifenand letters from which a childnescapes to the trivial world ofntelevision—where at least peoplenlook as if they are divided intongenders. (BC) Dnii^S3nMay 1983n