ened, sometimes out of control. Morrisngives her a device that works well bothnto provide humor and to reveal essentialncharacter—^an unexpected undercuttingnor change of direction at the end of anparagraph or the begiiming of the next:n”If my life with Mark was one of simple,nchangeless passion, my life after he leftnme became equally simple—a. rathernstraightforward and primitive desire fornrevenge.” And Morris periodically succeedsnin getting her own langu^e andnvision into her narrator’s voice withoutnintruding: On meeting the woman whonhas seduced her husband, Debbie reports:n”She was transparent and tough as anspider’s web and with about as muchnsubstance. I memorized her, the way anspy memorizes his instructions beforensetting them on fire.”nMorris is perhaps best with anecdotes,nlittle scenes of sudden revelation, likenthis one a few days after Debbie’s husbandnleft her:nI found a wet puppy shivering in thenrain. I took the dog by its clutch collarnand led it to the address on its tag. I rangnthe bell, and a tall, heavyset woman innblack toreador pants stormed downnthe stair, shouting at me. “What’te youndoing? Why did you ring that bell?’nWhen she saw my fece distort and sawnher shivering hound, she began apologizingnand even ran after me a littlenway as I dashed down the street In thenend, it was the dog and his screamingnmistress who made me feel lost andndestitute in the world, more thannMark and the note he’d left on thenkitchen table.nBut Morris, like Wachtel, suffers fromna lack of careful thinking and workmanship,nof intelligent fitting of means to desirednend. This feilure of both writers isnmost evident perhaps in their attemptsnat using an innovative point of view.nWachtel uses a narrative voice that triesnto have it both ways, moving from hisnown exterior vision into Joe’s mind andnvoice and back out: “Joe The Engineer’snsitting on one of the two toilets in thenmen’s room of Mary’s Bar and Grill try­ning to figure out why some things sticknin his mind while others pass freely and,ndammit, untraceably out of it.” The presentntense is sometimes intended to givenJoe’s experience timeless universality,nthe omniscient voice to give it meaning,nand the moving into Joe’s consciousnessnto promote sympathy. But the unusualntense is usually irritating and, like Wachtel’snintrusive voice, often productive ofnplatimdes rather than intelligent commentary:n’Joe never felt particularly dosento Sonny, but he was a star in the constellationnof adults that formed aroundnhim when he was growing up. Whennone goes out it always gets darker.” Andnby giving his voice and mind over to Joe’s,nWachtel not only is guilty of condescensionnbut also pays the price of imitativenform: trying to use language merely tonimitate experience—crudeness to copynthe crude, incoherence to suggest life’snirrationality, and boring, meaninglessnrepetition to reproduce its absurd blankness—surrendersnthe powers of langu^ento chaos. Language can do more; it hasnbuilt the munificent heritage of our literaturenby doing so. What one wants isnnot mere imitation of life—^however aptnor unusual, “broadening.” What onenwants from reading is understanding,nand the author must help.nMorris tries for understanding bynmoving in the opposite direction fromnWachtel: she starts with a sympatheticnfirst-person narrator who is limited somewhatnin her ability to provide understandingnby the very blindnesses andnperversities that help win our sympathy.nThen Morris tries to transcend that limitationnby inserting her own perspectivenand reaching for large meanings beyondnthe ability of Debbie to express. But thenedges of the patches show; the occasionsnwhere she wants to show more than hernnarrator sees and to judge her are toonobvious—^and Morris’s own moral conftisionnand ambivalence too pervasive—nto permit us more subtle judgments. And,nalthough she tries to extend Debbie’snsmall revenge to universal significancenwith nMoby-Dick reference or two, it isnsimply unbelievable that Debbie wouldnnnknow the book well enough for portentousnreflections and dreams about whitenwhales, which are obviously those of annEnglish teacher like Morris.nI ou simply can’t have it both ways.nYes, as masters like James and Conradnhave shown, a writer can increase sympathynby locating his narrative point ofnview in a central consciousness; but thenfiirther that consciousness is removednfrom the quality of thought and languagenthe writer is capable of, the more he isnhobbled. Point of view must be responsiblynmaintained by the author. Irresponsibilitynis shown when Morris andnWachtel, having given up straightforward,nintelligent narration and careful,nsubtle, moral assessment, compensatenwith efforts for meaning that are merelynsentimental or pretentious. Thesenauthors simply cop out concerning thencentral issue of their books: their sympatheticnprotagonists’ ability to controlnand take responsibility for theirnown lives.nFor instance, it is baffling how Morrisnand Wachtel can see so clearly the destructiveneffects of casual or lustfiil sex onntheir characters and yet not hold themnSend for your complimentaryncopy of The Rockford Institute’snAnnual Report featuringnthe work of the eminentnartist and designer WarrennChappell.nMail this coupon to:nNamenAddressnThe Rockford Instituten934 North Main StreetnRockford, IL 61103nCity State ZipniS3nOctober 1983n