8 / CHRONICLESnagents would always know when andnwhere to show up.nSome may still contend that divorcenshould remain a free private choice,nunencumbered by tax restraints. Butnalmost all of the arguments now usednto justify heavy taxes on other badnhabits — like liquor, tobacco, andnstudded snow tires—could with evenngreater justice be applied to divorcentax. Smoking may cause cancer, butndivorce produces juvenile delinquents.nLiquor gives us drunk drivers and alcoholism;ndivorce fosters depression andnpsychosis.nAccording to John McDermott,nprofessor of psychiatry at the Universitynof Hawaii, “divorce is now thensingle largest cause of childhood depression.”nVance Packard also reportsnthat children in one-parent homes arenmuch more likely to fail in school, tonbe sexually promiscuous, and to turnnto crime. Littie children especially suffernin divorce, typically blaming themselvesnfor their parents’ separation.nStanford sociologist Lenore WeitzmannOff the Rackn”Poetry is painting that can talk,” ornso Simonides thought, but it isndangerous to push the analogy betweennfiction and graphic art.nWhile Vermeer found beauty inntiles, tables, and fruit plates. Homernhad to recite the deeds of men tonkeep our interest for the past twonand a half thousand years. Words,nunlike images, talk of eternal news,nand when writers of fiction in versenor prose neglect this task, their onlynsuccess will consist of literarynawards. Both The Evening News bynTony Ardizzone (Athens, Georgia:nUniversity of Georgia Press; $13.95)nand The Boys of Bensonhurst bynSalvatore La Puma (Athens: Universitynof Georgia Press; $13.95)nhave won the Flannery O’ConnornPrize. For Floral Street by SimonnBurt (London: Faber and Faber;n$9.95), honors are probably just anmatter of time.nIn fact, except for a few idiosyncraeiesn(Burt has a predilection fornblames divorce for pushing millions ofnwomen and children into poverty andnnear-poverty during the 1970’s. Besides,none major study found that twonyears after the event, almost two-thirdsnof those who have been divorced thinknthat their divorce was a mistake.nA divorce tax could also be justifiednby the public expenses that divorcencreates. Richard Neely, West VirginianSupreme Court Justice, pointed outnrecentiy in The New Republic that “thenburden of divorce-related poverty fallsnon society as a whole. Welfare payments,nsubsidized housing, public sectornmake-work jobs, and salaries fornlawyers who collect support for womennand children are but a few of thenmounting costs we pay for other people’sndivorces.”nJust possibly, a divorce tax wouldnaffect the divorce rate itself. In thatncase, we’d have to find some other waynof reversing the dizzying deficit spiral.nAnd, too, thousands of lawyers, psychiatrists,nand juvenile probation officersnwould then have to find somenREVISIONSnthe macabre, Ardizzone for thenmawkish. La Puma for the erotic),nall the short fictions in these threenbooks could have been ground innthe same mill, as predictably downbeatnas anything on the eveningnnews.nDostoevsky was among the first tonbank on his youthful discovery thatnlife is not what it’s cracked up to be,nand it seems that modern fiction isndestined to be cursed with this fascinationnfor a long time. Of the three,nSimon Burt is the best storytellern(neither Ardizzone nor La Pumanbeing unaccomplished), but childhood,ncollege, and nightbatting arennnother line of work. Maybe they couldnsell U.S. Savings Bonds. (BC)nRockford, Illinois, is on most maps,nbut even Illinois residents sometimesnhave a hard time locating it. “Somewherennear Springfield?” DamenRebecca West once tried to convey thenremoteness and obscurity of a town innthe Balkans by comparing it withnRockford. Until recently, the remotenessnand obscurity of our locationnprovided a cover for our activities. Nonlonger. Early in March, a NationalnWeather Service “test” bulletin announcednthat Illinois’ second largestncity had been destroyed by a tornado.nWhen the bulletin was read over thenair by several Chicago radio stations,nthe only reaction was fear that thenstorm might hit Chicago.nTaking out a whole city just tondestroy a magazine seems like a desperatenmeasure, but next time aroundnthe bureaucrats had better make surentheir tornado’s loaded.npoor substitutes for experience, fornall their picturesque qualities. Insteadnof prancing pastoralism ofn17th-century French painting, ournmannerism drips with gore, pus,nand bile. Which is better dependsnon taste, though mannerism andnkitsch have little to distinguish betweennthem, although kitsch isnsweeter.nIf Homer was blind, it is safe tonsuppose he had earned it, whereasnmost of our contemporaries havenassumed their blindness like sunglassesnin a nightclub. Wordmongeringnhas ever been a holy craft,nleased to those who had somethingnto say. Whether the nonchalance ofna live-sex performer, obliged to copulatenwith his own son on stagen{Floral Street), or the ruminationsnof a college professor worried aboutnnuclear Armageddon {The EveningnNews) or a young Sicilian’s decisionnto become a priest after killing innself-defense {The Boys of Bensonhurst)nspeak to anyone but theirnauthors is open to serious question.n