T H E 1988 NATIONAL BOOKnAwards were a triumph for the literarynestablishment, especially for RandomnHouse and its editorial director, JasonnEpstein. Readers of the JanuarynChronicles may have thought we wentntoo far in calling the New York publishingnworid a cartel. This past year’snawards ceremony (November 29)nprovided the clinching argument. Thenmajor presses — Viking, HoughtonnMifflin, and Random House (with itsnAlfred Knopf subsidiary) —dominatednthe nominations. To add to the generalnrejoicing, Random House claimednboth awards: Pete Dexter’s novel, ParisnTrout, and Neil Sheehan’s A BrightnShining Lie. Both authors even hadnthe same editor, Robert Loomis.nMost of the nominations were entirelynpredictable. Robert Towers, innThe New York Review of Booksn(founded, of course, by Jason Epsteinnof Random House) praised DonnDeLillo’s paranoid fantasy of the Kennedynassassination “for its vision of annoutlaw element in American life devotednto -the well-oiled mechanism ofnsudden death” — and he’s not referringnto the Mafia. In the same publication,nRobert Adams described BrendanMaddox’s Nora (a plodding and whiningnlife of Mrs. James Joyce) as an”remarkable success’ even if it wasn”flatly written.” In fact, NYRB gavenmajor reviews to half the nominees —nthe rest are too recent. Of the twonwinners, Dexter’s novel is about —nwhat else — the murder of a black girinin — where else — rural Georgia. Then”lie” in Sheehan’s title is, of course,nevery defense of our presence in Vietnam.nOther great books nominatedninclude Marxist historian Eric Foner’snmalevolent and dishonest Reconstruction,nand Peter Gay’s Freud. The predictabilitynmay have had something tondo with last year’s upset, when LarrynHeinemann won out over the favorednToni Morrison. The panel of judgesnwas expanded and, as the chairman ofnthe fiction panel (who is also thenpresident of the John Simon GuggenheimnFoundation) explained to NewnYork Times writer Edwin McDowell,n6/CHRONICLESnCULTURAL REVOLUTIONSn”They all liked working with one another,”nand added that they were allnrespectful of each other’s opinions. Wencan only imagine.nMost of the nominees came to readnfrom their work, although two of thenmore deserving (J.F. Powers and AnnenTyler) wisely stayed away. It was annaltogether gala evening. Helen Hayesnand Swoosie Kurtz gave dramatic readings,nand the literary lights of the agenwere all in attendance: Arthur Schlesinger,nLauren Bacall, and ShirleynMacLaine. (Even the award plaquesnwere designed by Louise Nevelson.)nThe high point of the evening, however,nwas the awarding of the first NationalnBook Awards Medal for DistinguishednContribution to AmericannLetters to — who else—Jason Epstein.nMr. Epstein was lauded for his “extraordinarynand permanent impact” onnthe nation’s literature. Sounds like annincurable disease. In his memoirs,nRandom House president Bennet Cerfnsummed up his impression of the editorialndirector he had hired: “Jason isnpart of the literary establishment.n. . .He lords it around, butneverybody loves him.” With good reason.n(TF)nPERFUME -SOAKED ADS in upscalenmagazines — for Eternity ornBeautiful or Poison — are nothingnnew. But now Sassy is promoting itselfnby promoting the smell of itself. Younremember Sassy; it’s Jerry Falwell’snleast-favorite teenage girls’ magazine.n(Though if Rev. Falwell thinks Sassy isnthe only “frank” magazine for girls, henhasn’t been reading, say. Mademoisellenlately, which has published at least onenarticle that could have run in Playgirl.)nAccording to editor Jane Pratt, Sassynthe perfume will smell “sort of floralnbut with citrus overtones.” Ylang-ylangnand I dunno; kiwi, maybe?nThere’s no doubt that we are seeingnthe future and it is Sassy. Surely tonfollow is Glamour’s Glamourous andnElle’s Ellegant. The execs at NewnWoman will have to get creative.nMagazines were, once, ages past, fornnnreading. Then we moved into picturebooksnlike Life, then to de facto catalogsnlike the October Fall Collectionsnissue of Vogue. Now it seems they arenbecoming rectangular $1.95 air fresheners.nIt’s enough to make you positivelynhunger for a perfect-bound academicnreview with tiny black type, nonillustrations, and long sentences thatnbegin, “Ergo.”nT H E UNITED NATIONS hasnbeen back in the news. Despite ournrecent criticism (December 1988),nPresident Reagan used the last fewnmonths of his administration not onlynto begin paying the back dues owed bynthe US, but worse — traveled all thenway to Chicago to sign the enablingnlegislation for the Genocide Convention.n”I am delighted to fulfill a promisenmade by Harry Truman [that greatnRepublican President] to all the peoplesnof the wodd, and especially thenJewish people,” declared the President,nand added that he rememberedn”[w]hat the holocaust meant to me as Inwatched the films of the deathncamps . . .”nWhoever is writing the President’snspeeches should stay away from filmnmetaphors. The truth is, the GenocidenConvention is not going to help thenJewish people at all. Are Mr. Reagan’snadvisors completely unaware of thenrepeated attempt to identify Zionismnwith racism and to portray the Palestiniansnas the victims of Israel’s genocidalnpolicies?nThe real effect of the GenocidenConvention is to transfer a bit of USnsovereignty to the very body that isnmost likely to make war on the State ofnIsrael — the United Nations. The con-,nvention not only contains a provisionnfor turning over genocidal crimes to anninternational tribunal, but — just asnbad — includes in its definition of genocidenany acts “causing serious mentalnharm to members of the group.”nPresumably ethnic slurs would constitutenmental harm of a criminalnnature — as they do in the state ofnMassachusetts, where an ethnic slurn