amateurish and generally atrocious thennovel is, the truer it is to life, or atnleast to the literary stereotype of annAmerican salesman.nI have no alternative, therefore, exceptnto refer to the author of the booknunder review as Price-Becker. Obviously,nit is unfair even to single out Price-nBecker’s book for a separate review.nThe narrative is a microscopic dot innthe vast quagmire of impersonal verbiagenpublished these days as thousandsnof books under different names. Even anrecent Russian emigre in New York hasnimmediately caught onto the fashionnand written a narrative, no differentnfrom Price-Becker’s, except for inessentialndetails.nOnce, in search of literary talent, sonrare in every country at any time, I readnfive volumes of the “best Americannshort stories,” written around the turnnof the century. The collection was anliterary desert: no American scholar ornbookworm of today knows the name of ansingle author of a single “best shortnstory.” Many stories were about how he/nshe was going to become wicked, butnsomething happened (the scarlet fever ofnhis/her children) and made him/herngood. It was not that these writers werenparticularly good or sensitive to goodness.nIt was simply the literary fashion ofnthe day, and literary fashions are thenbiggest sewage pipes of mediocrity, asna Russian critic said in the ’20s. Price-nBecker’s novel is an impersonal articlenof fashion. A hundred years ago thenPrice-Beckers wrote about a suddennscarlet fever which made everyone good.nToday they write about a sudden lavatorynexperience which makes everyonensick and “alienated.” A Russian friendnof mine was amazed that three differentnAmerican ladies wrote poems aboutnabortion almost on the same day. “Don’tnyou understand.”” I said, “Abortion isntoday’s nightingale. A hundred yearsnago three such ladies would have allnwritten abqut the nightingale. Fashionsnchange. Mediocrity, conformity, imitativenessnremain.”nOn the dust-jacket photograph, thenauthor (Mr. Price, I presume, not Mr.nBecker) wears a kind of uniform: a zipperednleather jacket and a chain necklace.nThe uniform belongs to the legionnof the current fashion. It is odd to expectnother two-thirds the boy visits singlesnbars and massage parlors, rambles aboutnNew York and, at the end of the book,nis going to become a homosexual—asnpredictably as a Price-Becker protagon-n”}lv finds ti’inporary relit-f thanks ui a self-massage sex parlor, a sore hooker,nand frequent bathroom masturbation. A sympathetic and likeable narcissist.”n—IJhrary Journaln”. . . wiity and shrewil.”n”Kenny Ik-iker i.s a [KTtectiy conceived charactern”Price is a |iowerfu! populist writer.”nThe eu- Yorkern—Ilurper’sn— Village Voicen”What keejis us reading Lnl/cs’Mun is . . . Mr. Prices inventiveness as anstoryteller and thi- absolute authenticity of the jieople he creates.”n—‘etf York Times Book Revieun”[Despite the sexual chaos. Lul/cs’ Mm never seems to go too far. nevernshocks.”n— Rolling Stonen”. . . a trenchant commentary on ways we WVKf’.^—Omtnic/cs oi Culture’snexclamation! | live and de.stroy ourselves.”n— Publisher’s Weeklynthat the narratie would belong to anythingnelse. It is as standard, impersonal,nconformist as the author’s fashion uniform.nThere is a widespread belief innNew York literary circles that if, insteadnof saying “Good morning,” onenutters a string of obscenities, one isnunconventional. Actually, if many arenalways unconventional in the same way,ntheir bad manners become more conventionalnthan good manners, for badnmanners are more obtrusive and reiterative.nIn Price-Becker’s narrative a boynmeets a girl. The girl wants to be a popnsinger, though she has no ability (ornwhatever is required) for this career.nShe believes the boy smothers her. Thenboy and the girl do their best to disgustneach other. She leaves him. This is aboutnone-third of the book. Throughout thennnist a hundred years ago would have beenngoing to become a missionary after hisnchildren’s scarlet fever.nSo what is Price-Becker’s book reallynabout.” Why have I undertaken to renview it.”nFor the first time in human historynthere is an enormous number of peoplenwho are wealthy (even a New York welfarengrant is wealth by the standards ofnmankind at large), whose material needsnare all taken care of by industries andnservices, and are in good health. Ofncourse, a Mozart would have made goodnuse of such wealth, leisure, care andnhealth. The trouble is that not allnAmericans are Mozarts, shocking asnthis cynical revelation might be to some.nIndeed, PriceBecker’s girl cannot evennbe a pop singer and Price-Becker cannotneven be an interesting conversationalist,nlet alone a writer at the level of Kuprin.nmmmmmmmmimt 9nChronicles of Culturen