utterly incompatible with traditionalnmoral and social values. Whatever thenmerits of this analysis, it seems unlikelynthat the McGovern-Kennedy coalitionnof feminists, abortion advocates, andncounterculture intellectuals can currentlynoutbid the right in accommodatingntraditionalists. As Irving Kristol andnMichael Novak have realized, the capitalistnright is the only place wherentraditional morality and religion arentaken at all seriously in contemporarynAmerican politics.nThe most thoughtful of Steinfels’snneoconservatives, Irving Kristol, hasnrejected an already partly dated classificationnby declaring himself tout simplementna conservative. Kristol nownadvocates a “conservative welfare state”nthat combines capitalist productivitynwith republican virtues. Some of hisncritics have properly noted the Utopiannaspect of this project. As M. StantonnEvans has observed, Kristol’s unwarrantednpremise is that the welfare statencan be made to reverse its previous recordnof impeding efficiency while expressingnantitraditional impulses. Althoughnthis critical observation may bencorrect, it must not cause us to losensight of that profound cultural concernnbasic to Kristol’s proposal. In an agenof convenient politics and blurred distinctions—whenntraditionalists and libertariansntry to bury their differencesnon the right, and when some neoconservativesnstill doggedly pursue Democraticnbandwagons on the left—Kristolnhas sounded a defiant call for consistency,nnnConventional Unconventionalityn& Obedient RebellionnJohn Barth: Letters: A Novel; G. P.nPutnam’s Sons; New York.nby Earl Hiltonnoerious subjects—Time, History,nthe Fate of the Novel, Being and Becoming,nIdentity, Revolution—flocknthrough Letters. In 772 pages of rathernsmall print they have room to flock.nLong before the end the reader wishesnthat, having flocked, they would migrate.nIt cannot be sheer coincidencenthat the novel appears at the same timenas Coppola’s Apocalypse Now with itsnostentatious invocations of Conrad andnEliot. Heavy investors in the entertainmentnindustry must believe there is anlarge market for seriousness and HighnCulture.nHimself a character in the novel,nBarth is in a position to discuss his theorynProfessor Hilton teaches British andnAmerican literature at Northern MichigannUniversity.nlOinChronicles of Culturenof the novel, and he does so at length.nSince he tells us that his chief interestnis in form, form is a good place to begin.nLetters is an epistolary novel. With thisnbow to Samuel Richardson and the 18thncentury, it can be traditional as well asnmodernist, or perhaps ultramodern bynbeing traditional, although, in keepingnwith the modernist tradition of conceal-n”I’m I unviniiil rli.ii ii i-. ii v.ujk nl uciiiii’..nment, Barth mocks modernism and presentsnhis heavy subjects in a tone ofnbitter comedy. Letters features sevennwriters, including Barth, but not includingnwriters whose work is transmittednto us by their descendants. Certainlynthe book abounds in letters: between thenauthor and his fictitious creations, foundnin bottles; to dead fathers, unborn children,nmissing children; from the writernto himself; from men believed dead. Onenwriter may be a computer-aided insect.nnnOne writer, Todd Andrews, is a lawyer.nOthers are novelists, academics,nand one family whose sole occupationnis intrigue. The cast expands in thenpresent time-setting (most letters arendated 1969) to include others whosenlives touch on the lives of the writers.nThus we meet heirs to an agribusinessnconglomerate, film directors, activistsnblack, white, and disguised as red (reenactmentnof the Boston Tea Party),npsychiatrists, and one lone workingnman, a stone mason. But he is carriednoff by cancer. Through the characters’npreoccupation with history, the timenembraced by the novel moves back to,nroughly, the period of the AmericannRevolution. Through asides by the authornit moves forward to the Bicentennial.nThrough one character’s preoccupationnwith myth (an old concern ofnBarth’s) we meet Perseus, an early discoverernof the generation gap. Historicnpersonages in the resulting cast of hundredsninclude George III, Napoleon,nMme. de Stael, Tecumseh, Lafitte, LordnJeffrey Amherst. Intermittently, pastnand present, lives touch. Germaine Pittnhas been married to a recent JeffreynPitt, Lord Amherst, and bears the samenfirst name as her chief subject of historicalnresearch, Mme. de Stael. An earlynmember of the Cook-Burlingame familynhas rescued Mme. de Stael from thenterrors of the French Revolution andnbeen seduced by her. Almost every malen— Ihoiiiris K. Iilwiirilsn.'( //• ‘