Still, Mrs. Gibson rightly emphasizesnOdets’s own psychological preoccupations.nLater plays such as Golden Boy andnRocket to the Moon are far more concernednwith ego release than with economicnor political liberation, with Freudnrather than with Marx. It is in factnarguable that from the first, communismnfunctioned for Odets, as it did fornnumerous members of his and subsequentngenerations, as a solution to personalnproblems, a way of wiping the slatenclean and creating conditions in which annentirely new person might emerge un­nburdened by the weight of the past and’nby the limitations of existence and circumstance.nAgainst such illusions Southernnwriters, at least, have long been inoculated.n”We have had our Fall,” FlannerynO’Connor once observed. “Wenhave gone into the modern world with anninburnt knowledge of human limitationsnand with a sense of mystery whichncould not have developed in our firstnstate of innocence—as it has not sufficientlyndeveloped in the rest of our country.”nShe might well have added:nespecially not in New York. DnThe Acceptance of Nothingnessnand NobodiesnJohn Updike: Rabbit Is Rich; Alfred A.nKnopf; New York.nThomas Berger: Reinhart’s Women;nDelacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence;nNew York.nby Betsy ClarkenWhite , middle-aged Protestantnmales have been out of style for somentime. Though never precisely articulated,ncultural sentiment suggests thatnthis overprivileged bunch is not what itnused to be — and probably never was.nSociologists now tell us that Asian andnSouth American immigrants possessnmore drive. Catholics and Jews demonstratenmore intelligence. Women ownnmore of the nation’s wealth and all of itsnvirtue. Though they continue to sit at thenhead of our government, Protestantnwhite males are portrayed on film andntelevision primarily as nazis or slavenowners (or their moral equivalent) or, atnthe other extreme, psychotic weaklings.nModern literature makes reference tonthem mostly as the oafs who drove theirnex-wives to therapy and ruin. Broadwaynignores them completely.nMiss Clarke is a free-lance writer.nBut hark! John Updike and ThomasnBerger have brought forth further episodesnin the lives of two of America’snallegedly best-loved fictional characters:nHarry (Rabbit) Angstrom and Carlon(Carl) Reinhart. Though neither is anynlatter-day George Washington or AbrahamnLincoln, the white, now middleaged,nProtestant Angstrom and Reinhartnhave been endowed with engaging personalities,nintelligence and even a redeemingnsocial value or two. Firmly entrenchednin the problems of middlenage—namely grown, maladjusted children—nthey nevertheless have acquired anpresent. Though capable of ethnic humorni la Mike Wallace, they are remarkablynfree of prejudiced ill will, and eachnhas had a close relationship with a blackncontemporary, now deceased. Both havenbeen too dependent on the largess ofnfamily members, and neither has beennan exemplary husband or parent.nNeither is college educated. The lives ofnboth have been directed by women.n(“What’re you going to do when you runnout of women to tell you what to do?”nRabbit asks his son. “Same thing you’llndo. Drop dead,” Nelson replies.) Haifancentury of living notwithstanding,nneither Rabbit nor Reinhart achieves anynreal independence until the conclusionnof these chronicles.nThen too, the world they see now isnnot as nice as the world they once knew.nValues have eroded (not without helpnfrom the protagonists, incidentally),ndowntowns have decayed, “the world isnmnning out of gas.” So the charactersnspend a fair amount of time lookingnbackward. The Angstrom householdntelevision is tuned mostly to reruns.nReinhart shows respect for has-beennmovie actor Jack Buxton, now a mmorednpervert, since in his films he “embodiednthe old-fashioned virtues until both henand they went out of fashion, to benreplaced by nothing and nobody worthnmentioning.” Updike and Berger portrayna world of changed mles, a societynwithout stmcture: every man for himself.n”… it is difficult [for Updike] to make exciting fiction out of the compromises—or thendecencies—of maturity.”n—London Times literary Supplementnserenity that eluded them in their youth.nThe libido isn’ t quite the presence it oncenwas, and certain inhibitions have fallennby the wayside.nUpdike’s straight narrative andnBerger’s sustained irony display distinctnstyles; the authors’ characters havenreached different stations in life. Yet thenform and substance of the protagonists’nstories overlap in some intriguing ways.nBoth Rabbit and Reinhart are the nicest,nmost interesting people their authorsnnnIn the end, they accept the world ofnnobodies and give absolution tonnothingness. As everyone knows, we’rennot in Kansas anymore.nIxabbit Is Rich, the third of the RabbitnAngstrom novels, is actually a misnomer.nAngstrom, who, thanks to hisnwife’s inheritance, runs a Toyota dealership,nmakes not quite $50,000 a year—anhealthy sum, certainly, but not the kindnof bread required for the purchase of.nMay/June 198Sn