wife. The Peter Jenkins in New Orleansnis very different from the Peter Jenkinsnof Alfred, New York—he grew up alongnthe way. He survived a bitter Appalachiannwinter and buried his “forevernfriend” Cooper-Half-Malamute.nNow, it is up to the burnt-out childrennof the ’60s and ’70s, Jenkins’nerstwhile comrades-in-arms, whethernor not this book will fulfill its mission.n(BK) DnWaste of MoneynDidion’s NumbernJoan Didion: The White Album;nSimon & Schuster; New York.nShe is often called “a libertarian” orn”individualistic Westerner” by befuddledncritics, and is credited with restrainednconservative sympathies.nSome of her views on society and culturenmight possibly justify this reputation.nHer cool and sensible assessmentnof existential traps, feminism or internationalnchaos could lend her somenserious credentials. But these are onlynornaments on a fagade. Behind it arenintellectual infrastructures of cheapnplywood.nA new breed of writer has becomenprominent during the last 15 years. Theynenrich neither culture nor us. They actnas vibrators. Joan Didion and DavidnHalberstam, from different perimetersnof creativity, are the best specimens ofnthe breed. They emit quasi-intellectualnand pseudoemotional frequencies whichnbring their professional buddies in Manhattannand Beverly Hills into blissfulnadulation, which is easily packaged laterninto the New York Times and Los AngelesnTimes critical quickies, studdednwith meaningless superlatives. JohnnLeonard, the classic New York literaryndildo, once compared Didion to T. S.nEliot. Such hype makes it extremely unfashionablento notice the plastic qualitynof Didion’s “anxieties” or Halberstam’sn”concerns”; their “fragility” or “robust­n30inChronicles of Culturenness” becomes an instant product. Andnthey sell. The intellectualoids feelnobliged to buy, and best-selling authorsnare fabricated. They get shrilly publicizednin the heartland where sobernEnglish department professors ask themselvesnwhether all this is for real, andnwhy something as “natural” as a rubbernsex aid should be acclaimed as introspectionnand sensitivity. They should benimpressed, though; they are facing anwoman who has turned her vacuousnessninto a literary personality.nIf we are already submerged in whatnProfessor Lasch calls the culture ofnnarcissism—and are drowning slowly,nsplashing playfully in the cultural mudn—books like those of Ms. Didion arenpart of our swampy disintegration. Thenmuch-vaunted subtlety of her vision,nanalysis and inferences is none othernthan the postidealistic mist of art nouveauxnEurope, dismissed after WorldnWar I as shoddy rather than sinister.nMs. Didion always wades in the samenboring neuroses; every boil on hernmind is equated with an existentialncatastrophe, and the discomfortingnmucus in her conscience ascends to thenstatus of perdition. We should notnforget that her career was founded onna novel whose cognitive and moral focusnwas a female moron. Moron as the centernof modern sensitivities resulted innimbecility as the best metaphor fornbeauty and integrity, a measure ofnreality. The fact that that made her ancelebrated novelist proves somehownthat she was perceptive, and that hernsuccess is not just the outcome of blindncoincidence. According to the NewnYork Times Book Review, she possessesna “highly vulnerable sense of herself.”nWe doubt it. Anyone who knows how tonmarket one’s own vulnerability is actuallynpushing some pretty sturdy merchandise;nit only looks frail—just like anMcDonald’s hamburger doesn’t lookngreasy on a television commercial. Thisnis why even the dictum “the queen isnnaked” seems improper in this instance.nIt may suggest a bit of undeservednflattery. (CC) DnnnWills’ NumbernGarry Wills: Confessions of a Conservative,’liouhledayn& Co.; New York.nBrilliance, insights, style, affectionatenaugustinianism, Jeffersonian expertise—that’snone side of Mr. Wills andnhis book.nAnother.-*nWhat do we call it when someonenuses a shield emblazoned with a distinctnmotto to defend ideas and persons directlynopposed to what that motto promises.’nPhilosophical incoherence? Ideologicalnconmanship.” Ebullient imposture?nWe would settle for an unsavory lacknof dignity—a not-infrequent featurenamong talented erudites. “Dignity,”nP. G. Wodehouse once wrote, “is a sensitivenplant which flourishes only undernthe fairest conditions.” Mr. Wills hasn’tnhad it easy in life; it is sufficient to saynthat he wishes to flourish in the inclementnsoil of left-liberal periodicals. Somethingnhas to be sacrificed, so dignity goesnoverboard. Mr. Wills proclaims himselfna conservative and is out to shield (withnthis alleged allegiance) Soviet crimesnand Lillian Hellman from our revulsion.nThe left is an inveterate snob everywherenand clever apostasy was alwaysnbound for a career in its pastures. Onnthis recognition, Stalin organized hisnnefarious “Peace Movement,” studdednwith senile English theologians andnCalabrian princes who, for a modestnsalary, lent the communist circus a reactionarynbut properly redeemednsplendor. The New York Review ofnBooks gives its franchise for anticommunismnonly to former Stalinists andnTrotskyites. Those who never servednBaal, like Solzhenitsyn, are not anticommunistsncomme il faut. However,nanyone who accepts Che Guevara as anfreedom fighter will have no trouble innaccepting Mr. Wills as a conservative.nThe New York Times, for example, acceptsnhim as such with gusto. By in-n