quick look in Dissertation AbstractsnInternational confirmed my hunch.nTrue Love, etc., had been a 1977 dissertationnat Rochester before being rewarmed,nwith abundant foundation support,nfor serving again in 1980.nxVlthough I found Leach’s worknmostly just boring, occasional Aspects ofnit were downright silly. One of thesenwas the apparently central idea that .nmuch of the progressivism to be seennin American culture has its roots innfeminism. The author does offer evidencenthat many progressive ideas werenheld by feminists (though a good few ofntheir notions were absurd, such as advocatingnclothing described as “a grotesquenblend of Turkish and Quaker,”nCliches as MerchandisenThomas Fleming: The Officers’nWives; Doubleday & Co.; New York.nby Otto J. ScottnOr ne reward for watching old moviesnon late-night television is that one cannsee how the passage of time and changesnin fashion cruelly expose the artificesnof writers of the past, making outmodednassumptions appear both remote andnridiculous. Much the same can be saidnof aged novels. In recent months somenlong-held fashionable attitudes havenundergone a seemingly abrupt change,nand arguments once assumed to bencontemporary have, nearly overnight,nbeen rendered faded and antique.nThis shift in intellectual fashion hasncaught, among others, Thomas Flem.ing’snThe Officers’ Wives. When initiallynconceived, it must have impressednthe editors at Doubleday asnbeing a surefire hit, to use the jargonnof the trade. First, it would be aimednat women, who buy most of the novels.nMr. Scott is a frequent contributor tonthese pages.nor worse—such as active admiration ofnGerman “eugenics” laws). However,nto demonstrate logically and convincinglynthat the one movement not onlynfollowed, but followed from the othernit would be necessary to demonstratennot only that some feminists held progressivenideas, but also that there werennot any significant numbers of progressivennonfeminists. In failing to do thisnLeach’s arguments giving retrospectivenvalue to the earlier feminist movementnseem quite unconvincing. True Love,nas a result, stands as a not-terribly-interestingncatalogue 6f curious customsn—rather like those 19th-century tractsnon the ways of life of the world’s curiousnsavages. Perhaps that’s why the designernchose a purple dust jacket… DnSecond, the women in the book wouldnbe better than the men, who would notnbe worthy of such fire, passion andnsacrifice (with the possible exceptionnof one intellectual rake, who wouldnbe irresistible while harboring all thenfashionably liberal positions). Third,nvirtue and courage would be rewarded,nand bastards would be punished, butnnot in a fashion too crude for credibility.nFourth, there would be many maritalnscenes in which sex would appear, butnnot in ugly language. Finally, the author,nwith ten previous novels and eight previousnnonfiction works in print, wouldnbe able to provide such verisimilitudenthat Hollywood scriptwriters wouldnhave virtually no problem in turningnthis 645-page opus into a film.nUnfortunately the country changednbetween the time of conception and thenprinting of the novel. A book intendednfor the continuation of Carterland hasnappeared during Reagantime. And thatnshift in the attitudes of this nationnmake the artifices of author Flemingnand his novel seem not only awkwardnand distorted, but also the very paradigmnof what, for so long, has beennnnwrong with so many American novels.nAlthough it was published in 1981nwith a 1950’s setting, when three recentnWest Point graduates marry threenwidely assorted women in the famousnChapel, The Officers’ Wives echoes thenattitudes of the 1920’s, more specificallynthose made famous by Sinclair Lewis.nEach of the officers, with one exception,nis a Babbitt working for a hugenand ridiculous corporation called thenU.S. Army, in which promotion isngained by any means except honorable.nThe women in the novel are all, withnone exception, Carol Kennicotts (MainnStreet): superior to the men, literatenif not literary, brave and essentiallynhonest, able—through second sight andnintuition—to see through the foiblesnof men and society alike. All are entwinednin marriages that should notnhave been formed and are essentiallynunhappy. The women face up to thisnproblem; the men—in the main—donnot. Only one of the men is literate innthe true sense, which means that henleans toward Zen, extramarital affairsnwith the wives of his friends and rebellionnagainst the Pentagon. He comesnto a predictably bad end and his widown— a simpleton—turns to Jesus for comfort.nThe heroine, the author’s favoritenamong his female characters, strugglesnbravely to be independent, even as annarmy wife, and teaches school. She repudiatesna Catholicism that is depictednas narrow and stupid, and is rewardednby widowhood when her obtuse butnbrave husband is killed in Vietnam.nThis enables her to marry again andngives the brave woman a second chancento snare a major-general. Thus doesnlife reward virtue.nThere are other subplots and persons,nof course, but these are sufficient tondemonstrate the author’s penchants.nInnumerable sketches, scenes and observationsnmake it clear that the novelndepicts a nation sans subtlety of feelings,nsans honor among men, and picturesnwomen as suitable for better menn. from a better culture. That message,nhowever, like many other themes innii29nJanuary/February 1982n