character’s statement when she recallsnher husband’s romp with a chambermaid:n”My heart is broken. It’s turned tona piece of stone. I’m no good. That’snwhat’s as bad as anything, that I’m nongood anymore.” And that’s precisely thentrouble with most of Carver’s people:nthey’re no good anymore, and theynprobably never were. The banality ofntheir talk is symptomatic of their sterilenlives. In a few stories, however. Carverntells some intriguing tales. “EverythingnSticks to Him,” in which a father tells hisngrown daughter about a marital quarrel,nsuccessfully gives a comic twist to an incidentnseen from the softening perspectivenof twenty years. In “The Calm” a boynwitnesses a barbershop squabble whichnintroduces him to the adult world. Andnin “The Bath” the telephone voice at thenend of the story creates a haunting ambiguitynabout the fate of a small boy seriouslynhua in an accident. Unfortunately,nmost of Carver’s characters provide usnwith only Archie and Edith Bunkers tryingnto play Hamlet, and, as in “Tell thenWomen We’re Going,” in which twonmaritally bored young men murder twongirls, we end up in an appallingnboredom.nJTerhaps the most interesting amongnthese three is Amos Oz, often named asnone of modern Israel’s best youngnwriters. These eight stories, translated bynNicholas de Lange and Philip Simpson,nwere first published in the early 1960’s.nTwo threads which run through all ofnthem are those of spiritual isolation andnsexual alienation. In “Where the JackalsnHowl,” a girl is seduced by a greasy oldnman who claims to be a father, a man shenboth loathes and loves: “Love and hate,nthey both breed surrender.” In “ThenNomad and the Viper,” a woman becomesninvolved in a steamy sexual fantasynwith a filthy goatherd. A fortyish divorceenin “Strange Fire” tempts her futurenson-in-law (and a later son of her firstnhusband) with an incestuous proposition.nAnother girl, in “The TrappistnMonastery,” is the sexual plaything of annIsraeli army unit. And in “Upon this EvilnEarth,” one of the Old Testament j udgesnis more driven by his sexuality than by hisnlove of God. All of these stories arenpermeated by a nihilistic view mostnforcefully expressed by a character inn”The Way of the Wind”: “how senselessnis the hand that guides the vagaries of ournown fate, that of the individual and thatnof the community alike.” Or, as thenauthor himself says somewhere else,n”The days of a man’s life are like waternseeping into the sands; he perishes fromnthe face of the earth unknown at his comingnand unrecognised at his passing. Henfades away like a shadow that cannot benbrought back.”nThe people in Oz’s stories are as grittynand hard as the cruel and arid Israelinlandscape in which they move. But Israel,nas Oz describes it, seems to be a landnin which the “voice of reason, the voice ofnmoderation, the voice of common sense”nThe Waterloonof the Liberal ClaquenWe might also call it the triumphnof old Hollywood, of thenWaspish sense of dignity and thenJewish sense of moral rectitudenthat were at the core of the oldnHollywood cultural product. Anyway,nKeds—the movie about annAmerican who helped the RussiannGulag contractors (the obligatorynlingo of liberal propaganda labelsnit as a film about “youthfulnidealism”)—did not win. In spitenof the liberal promoters’ well-orchestratednclaque, all those agitpropncocktail-party operatives.nVogue’s desperate travails and thenhberal reviewers’ brotherhood.nReds lost its longed-for Oscar to anmovie about religion, and humanndignity. Apparently good sensennncannot be heard amid “an orgy of arrogantnaffluence” indulged in by the intoxicatednmasses and “their jubilant leaders,nall of them skipping with yells of triumphntoward the abyss.” The beasts ofnthe book’s title await them: “Thus it isnthat we cannot see the jackals as theynspring out of their hiding places.”nX hese collections suggest somethingnof the state of modern fiction. As with sonmany contemporary writers, Gardnernand Carver seem to be afflicted with annuncertainty as to where they stand,nneither of them able to provide any kindnof moral perspective from which their fictionncan be read and judged. Like Oz andntoo many other moderns, they can givenus a vision of human life only as “waternseeping into the sands,” where it can givenus neither refreshment for the mind nornlife for the spirit. DnLIBERAL CULTURE 1nstill lives somewhere in the tributaries of WilshirenBoulevard. Dn^——^^^^nMay/June 1982n