“novel.” It is filler, padding, waste paper.nWhat is it about.” Nothing. Or perhapsnit’s about certain irrelevant,ndesultory episodes in a country whichnwe may call Phony land.nIn Russia many writers draw theirnpropaganda novels not from life, butnfrom previous propaganda novels. Notnunsimilarly, Irwin Shaw draws thesen340 pages from mass culture—bad Hollywoodnmovies, pulp novels, sugarynmagazine stories.nIn Soviet Phonyland a hero willinglynsacrifices his salary to benefit society.nIn Irwin Shaw’s Phonyland Mike, a NewnYork business executive, knocks outnsomeone’s teeth—and never thinks forna second (“almost forgets”) about thenpossible legal consequences of his actionnuntil the court summons is served tonhim. Everyone who lives in New Yorknknows that this is as phony as a hero’snsacrifice of his salary for the benefit ofnsociety in a Soviet novel. It is cowboysnin Hollywood or television movies, notnNew York business executives, whonnever think about legal (or any other)nconsequences of knocking out someone’snteeth.nAll in all, compared with Soviet inhabitantsn(who are always under thenburden of some invisible strain, oftennon the defensive for physical survival,nusually ready to yell, grab, fight), Americansn(except for criminals whom I havennever seen off the television screen)nstrike me as hothouse orchids, Chekhov’snRussians, gentle (oh yes, gentlenpeople), trying to avoid even a triflingnunpleasantness, and on occasion upsetnor reduced to tears by, say, a salesgirl’snrudeness which a Moscovite would takenfor politeness incarnate.nYet because of Soviet Phonyland, anlarge section of the world perceives thenSoviet inhabitant as a gentle, law-abidingnaltruist; because of American Phonylandnit perceives the American (e.g. anNew York business executive) as anHollywood cowboy, noble in his ownnway (Irwin Shaw’s Mike interceded forna molested girl), but as oblivious ofnlaws as a newborn baby.nJ. here is one piece in this 340-pagenPhonyland that could be interpreted asnrelevant. Mike’s childhood is sketched,nexplaining his love for mortal dangernto prove his male independence. As wencan readily guess, the explanation isnthat Mike’s mother overprotected him.nIrwin Shaw narrates an inverse moralitynstory about a goody-goody boy and hisnevil mother. In a straight moralitynstory, a goody-goody boy plays the piano,nwhile a wicked good-for-nothing boynruns away and plays baseball instead.nIn Irwin Shaw’s inverse morality storynit is sinful, if not evil, to play the pianoninstead of playing baseball, or to “go onnBooks in the MailnGustave Le Bon: The Man and His Works edited by Alice Widener; Liberty Fund, Inc.;nIndianapolis. Some first translations and excerpts from tfie works of the 19th-century Frenchmannwho founded social psychology and made major contributions to physics and politicalnscience.nDemocracy and Leadership by Irving Babbitt; Liberty Fund, Inc.; Indianapolis. A newnprinting of Babbitt’s work, first published in 1924, on political and moral philosophy.nE Pluribus Unum: The Formation of the American Republic, 1776-1790 by ForrestnMcDonald; Liberty Fund, Inc.; Indianapolis. An examination of the decision to politicallynunify the United States.nTwo Roads to Ignorance: A Quasi Biography by Eliseo Vivas; Southern Illinois UniversitynPress; Carbondale, Illinois. A personal analysis of the flaws and falsehoods of thenphilosophical naturalism of John Dewey and the dialectics of Marx.nNight Trains by Barbara Wood and Gareth Wootton; William Morrow & Company;nNew York. Set in a Polish town during World War 11, this novel is based on a true incidentninvolving the use of a fake typhus epidemic to hold back the nazis.nShall America Be Defended? SALT II and Beyond by Daniel O. Graham; ArlingtonnHouse; New Rochelle, New York. A look at the history of U.S. defense policy, the SALT IIntreaty, and its implications for the future.nnnextended tours of museums andnchurches in France, Italy, and England.”nYet this is what the evil mother imposednon her goody-goody son.n”The result was to be expected,” IrwinnShaw concludes with sanctimoniousntriumph. “Michael was a fat, secretive,nclumsy boy, melancholy and precociouslynbright in class” (the latter being alsonevil, of course). But Mike was a goodygoodynboy. So he rebelled against evilnthings like good manners, began to fightnand swear (“It was like a stream of purenmusic and he listened to himself marveling,”nexclaims Irwin Shaw withnunctuous rapture) and thus turned intona handsome, slender (Hollywood) heronwho can knock out a villain’s teeth likena Hollywood actor does (on stage, ofncourse, not in real life). “Sports … begannto capture his imagination, such asnskiing, surfing and sex” (sex as a varietynof skiing.”). Yet at the same time, hen”won the first prize in mathematics”nand was granted a degree summa cumnlaude from Stanford. The Hollywoodnskiing, surfing, sexing, fighting cowboy-mathematicianncombines beautynand nobility and strength and couragenand intellect. A goody-goody boy hasnbecome a prodigy of Hollywood malenvirtue owing to his goodness and despitenhis evil mother.nIt is inconceivable that Irwin Shawndoes not notice how sickening, sugary,nand infantile his (inverse) sermon ornparable is.nAll the other episodes filling then340-page filler are irrelevant to the contentnof the book, unconnected with eachnother, redundant, and take place in thensame Phonyland where a business executivenknocks out someone’s teeth andn”almost forgets” about it.nIn Phonyland, phony Americans eatnand drink in expensive restaurantsnalmost around the clock (the food andndrinks are described with the elaboratenessnof a magazine gourmet column)nand indulge (also almost around thenclock) in what Russians call “Africannpassions.” This cardboard food-drinks-nJanuary/February 1980n