fact (or history) and fiction, illusionnand reality. One game is with cycles innmyth, history, individual lives. The universitynin which two members of thencast teach is built on an Indian burialnground; its Latin motto is variouslyntranslated as “The past fertilizes thenfuture” or “The past craps up the future.”nThe Cook-Burlingame family alternatesnbetween names with each newngeneration and each male heir gives hisnlife to overthrowing what he perceivesnas the purpose of his father. Each heirnin the Mack family is a radical activistnwhen young, a conservative entrepreneurnwhen old. Mensch, a novelist,nwrites books based on myth cycles andntries to liberate himself from his pastnby ritual re-enactment. Lord Jeffrey Amherst’sngift of smallpox-laden blanketsnto Indians is placed parallel to contemporarynbiological warfare.nAppearance and reality, a theme asnold as literature, interweaves with thennewer concern with the media and thenway it alters perception and reality.nThe phrase “death of the novel” is as oldnas Samuel Richardson, Barth tells us,nyet he continues to bemoan that slowndying. One character programs a computern(with such material as thenMonarch Notes) to produce the RevolutionarynNovel. Another produces anscreen scenario based on Earth’s pastnwork, work in progress, and prospectivenfuture work. But the director assertsnindependence by refusing to read thenscript. In turn, the writer plans a novelnbased on the film. In addition, we havencommunication by letter, Xerox copiesnof letters, logos, mottoes, bumper stickers;nrecorded on tape, in code; deliverednby bullhorn, telegraph, and laser beam.nMany messages are forged; most arensuspect.nReturning again to 18th-century tradition,nBarth gives us the old trick ofnconcealed identity. All Cook-Burlingamenmales act in disguise, impersonatingnothers. Three charactersnfinally merge into one. Any agent innthe novel may be a double agent; anynservant of the King, the Confederacy,nor the Third Reich may be secretly anservant of the Continental Congress,nthe Union, or the Allies. Any terroristnmay be secretly an FBI counterterrorist.nIn the same line, no child knows hisnown father, although he can safely betnhis father is not his mother’s husband.nOn another level of the appearance andnreality theme, all definitions are blurred.nHistory becomes fiction, and fiction altersnhistory. Sanity and madness shiftnacross an uncertain border. Inversionsnoccur within inversions. Harrison Macknin one state knows himself to be HarrisonnMack fancying himself to be GeorgenIII mad; in another he fancies himselfnto be George III fancying himself HarrisonnMack sane.nThere is much speculation on codes,ncyphers, cryptograms. There is littlenon astrology, oddly enough, but a greatndeal on possible meaning or realitynglimpsed through patterns in history.nFew dates are given without a listing ofntwenty or more famous or infamousnmen born on that date, twenty or morenmajor or minor events occurring on it.nAll this mystification (never risingninto mystery because mystery requiresnsubtlety and depth in characterization)nis a game Barth apparently enjoys. Itnalso serves notice that here is a seriousnwork, worthy of review in the Times andnsuitable for interpretation in scholarlynjournals. To attract a wider audience,nBarth falls back on the dependable staplesnof sex and politics. Sex is abundantnand, in a word used by Professors ofnEducation, innovative. In an effort tonbe original at all costs, Barth gives usna leading lady who has been deflowerednby H. G. Wells with a capped fountainnpen. Others mate in academic officesnwhile telephoning. Every time lawyernAndrews takes his boat on ChesapeakenBay some lovely woman jumps on boardnand stimulates his aging lust. He isndelightfully surprised each time. Thenreader is not. As a final fillip we arengiven a scene of possible incest—anothern18th-century tradition. In the 18th centurynthe affair is either not consum­nnnmated or the relationship is disproved.nHere, the question of relationship is notnresolved, but it does not matter. Whennall sexual restraints have been abolished,nincest adds neither thrill nor horror,nbut only an additional weight ofnboredom.nThe politics are conventional andnpredictable liberalism. We are givennreports of atrocities on both sides innthe American Revolution, Indian wars,nthe War of 1812, but not in the war innVietnam. There, all atrocities are attributednto Americans. Ho and his causenare still sacred. Even when he steps fromnhis 1969 timeframe and speaks in 1978,nBarth shows no recognition of how manynleftist slogans of that war era have beennproved false. It is a comment on bothnEarth’s ethics and his politics that Andrews,nwho seems to be his moral norm,naccepts earnestness (at least earnestnessnon the left) as proof of moral value,nAndrews dies a willing sacrifice to thenexplosives of young Drew Mack. Hisnfinal hope is that the man trapped withnhim is an FBI or CIA agent. Clearly thisnbook is meant to sell to a hundred thousandnconventionally unconventional andnobediently rebellious junior professors.nIn 772 pages there are occasionalnaccurate insights into our age and manynflashes of wit. One of the latter is thenname of a novel by a Spanish lady ofnthe Napoleonic era who somehow wandersninto this novel: The Woman BeforenWhom the Man Before Whom AllnRome Trembled Trembled. But thendominant impression is of wasted effortnand intelligence. As I have suggested,nthe novel fails in its characters. Onlynone, Germaine Pitt, aging Britishnscholar and sexpot, arouses liking ornsympathy. And she is certain to be attackednby feminists as a Patient Griselda.nAs might be expected from a novelistnwho admits to more interest in formnthan in language, and in language thannin the world it reports, other charactersnare not people but representatives ofnthe novelist’s ideas and additionalnspokesmen for those ideas. No freedomn•^^•••HMMallnJafluary/February 1980n