Church by having the theological articlenwritten by a psychologist) in termsnwhich celebrated the rise of “liberationntheology,” relied on John Updike for thendefinition of theology, and attributed thenacclaim with which the faithful havenreceived the forthright teachings of thenPontiff to his “winning instincts fornpublic relations.” (Time magazine alsoninsisfted on reducing him to a mediasizednphenomenon, “John Paul Super­nBetween Two Chairsnand into PhonylandnIrwin Shaw: The Top of the Hill;nDelacorte Press; New York.nby Lev NavrozovnWhenever it is said in New Yorknthat a good writer in the West todaynsells several thousand copies of his booknand cannot live on it, while a hack sellsnmillions of copies of his hackwork andnis photographed in magazines with hisnnew mansion or yacht in the background,nthose who contest the pointnmention first of all the name of IrwinnShaw. Here is an author who has beennsitting on both chairs—the chair ofnselfless service to literature and the chairnof lucrative mass-cultural deals.nI also thought this way when, oncenupon a time, a Moscow theater askednme to find and translate an Americannplay. I read five volumes of the “bestnAmerican plays” of the last half-century.nAlmost all the plays were unacceptable,nnot because Soviet censorshipnwould not pass them (to the contrary:nno Soviet censor would object to a singlenline of Lillian Hellman), but becausenthey were parochial and/or boring and/nor primitive and/or unprofessional (likenLillian Hellman’s Watch on the Rhine).nThe only exception was a pre-WorldnLev Navrozov, a Russian writer andncritic, now lives in New York.nS4inChronicles of Culturenstar.”) The Times went on to tell of then”chilling effect” of Pius X’s encyclicalnagainst modernism, calling it “a determinednbattle . . . against intellectual inquiry.”nNo doubt James Hitchcock willnone day be hailed as a threat to freenthought—no modernist could read thisnbook without experiencing the “chillingneffect” of slightly sweaty palms gropingnfor a response to one of the finest piecesnof cultural analysis in years. DnWar II play. The Gentle People by IrwinnShaw. The author sat on the two chairsnwith ease and grace. A mass spectatorncould well take the play for a “thrilling,”n”exciting,” “highly amusing” farce ornvaudeville. A connoisseur could see itsnsubtext of subtle, tragic poetry. Bothncould agree that the plot was unexpectednyet spontaneous, the characters werentypical yet alive, and the dialogue wasnrevealing yet natural. The Gentle Peoplendefeated mass culture on its own battlefieldnand wed it magnanimously. It wasna successful American hybrid.nAlas, it is not only a mass appeal thatnmass culture requires. It also insistsnthat an author must publish a new booknevery year, or at least every two yearsjustnlike the apparel industry must comenup with new models of shirts everynseason.nI realized this with horror as I talkednwith an editor from Scribner’s. I toldnhim that I was working on my booknwhich had been published once before.n”But what for?” he asked. “I thoughtnthat Scribner’s would like to publishnit.” The tears of humiliation rang in hisnvoice: “Do you mean that we wouldnpublish your old book?” It was exactlynas he might have asked: “Do you wantnus to wear your old shirts?”nBooks must be as brand-new as shirts.nAnd this is where mass culture hasncaught up with Irwin Shaw.nnnY es, here is a brand-new novel bynIrwin Shaw. Please remember that Inam an admirer of Irwin Shaw as he revealednhimself in The Gentle People,nfor example. So I desperately tried tonfind something good about his latest,nThe Top of the Hill, which surely isnbrand-new.nLet us first suppose that 340 pagesnof the 346-page book have been mercifullyntornout and destroyed. What wouldnbe left? Three pages at the beginningnand three pages at the end. Neither thenplot nor the content of the book wouldnsuffer as a result. Mike, a New Yorknbusiness executive, is tired of businessn(his audits lead to the firing of inefficientnemployees) and he loves mortalndanger in parachute jumping or skiing.nHis wife objects to his derring-do. Henleaves his wife, his business, and NewnYork and settles in Green Hollow, ansports resort. The elderly owner of theninn where he stays also loves mortalndanger. He skis off the top of a hill,nbreaks his leg, is about to freeze tondeath in the snow, yet he fights desperatelynfor his life. This accident curesnMike of his love of mortal danger. Henbecomes a local hotel manager, andnphones his wife in New York to comenup to Green Hollow and give their marriagenanother try.nThis six-page story would be publishednby The New Yorker with delight,nthough I wonder if The New Yorkerneditors themselves remember the shortnstories they publish. The trouble is thatnthis six-page short story is not a hybridnof high culture and mass entertainment.nIt is neither of the two. It is brand-newnold hat (since Hemingway, how manyntimes have we heard about husbandsnsmothered by their wives and provingntheir men-without-women independencenvia sports or hunting?), unconvincing,nartificial, boring, andnconventional. Yet into this six-pagen”nice New Yorker story” Irwin Shawnthrusts 340 pages of pulp.nIts only purpose is to convert a sixpagen”short story” into a 346-pagen