GigolojusticenSince 1976 when the (;;ilifornia SupremenC^lourt established the conimunitypropcrt)nrigJits of couples who live togetliernwitli a nonmarital “contract,” thenfinancial security of mistresses hits beennbountifully assured. Now, in the name ofnevenliandedness, C^alitbrnia’s generousnjudicial system has extended the samengracious retirement benefits to their malencounterparts. Recently a Santa Monicancourt awarded S125,000 to British actornTrevor Hook for services rendered tonEsther ‘I’rynin while living with her, sansnceremony, tor 17 years until her death inn1981. No evidence existed to indicatenthat Ms. Trynin desired sucli a .settlement,nexcept for .Mr. Hook’s claim that .shennamed him in a will which she somehownnever got around to signing Nonedieless, an.spokeswom;in for his attorney was jubilantnabout the ruling: “To the best of mynknowledge, this is the first case in Califi:)r-nservations of the places, customs, andnpeople of the New Class, Fisher’s Hornpipenlacks a certain solidity at its center.nThe trouble begins with the title character,nabout whom we learn not enough.nWhere he comes from or what he believesnare never conveyed, in spite of thenfact that the narration is filtered throughnhis consciousness. Throughout he remainsnvague. An occasional outburstnagainst TV or commercialism does notnconstitute a vision or a value system. Unlikenthe other characters, Fisher seemsncreated not fi-om reality but from a mixnof literary abstractions (perhaps he is tonbe taken as a modem urban Thoreau)nand uncertain authorial projection. Hennever attains the curious depth of an evennmore outrageous misfit with whom heninvites comparison, Ignatius J. Reilly ofnJ. K. Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces,nwhose misanthropy is a sincere, thoughngrotesquely comic, revulsion at contemporaryncultural chaos, a revulsion basednon a vision of an ordered past, howevernChronicles of CulturenLIBERAL CULTURE |nnia or -.mywhere else in which palimonynbenefits have been granted to a man,”‘ shendeclared.nWe agree. However, the practice itselfnis as old as the Ionic capital. W hat’s new isnthat in C’alitbrnia a male of that professionnis coasidered a man. Dnideali2ed and unattainable. In contrast,nFisher’s anger—and consequently thenbook’s satire—is simply dyspeptic; lackingnfocus and real bite, it seems causednas much as anything else by that blow tonhis head on “Walden Pond. Without suchnan animating center of vision, Fisher’snHornpipe adds up to less than the sumnof its parts. Fisher, at the close, emergesnas a purely passive figure stuck in a kindnof suspended animation as he kicks sandnaimlessly on the seashore. He has resolvednnothing, accepted nothing, rejectednnothing. In a melancholy muddle,nthe novel simply stops.nThe book’s problem appears not tonstem fi-om any lack of technical skill orncomic sense: Fisher’s Hornpipe is bothnliterate and, at times, very fiinny. Rather,none suspects that McEwen has no allegiancento anything but the New Classnwhose foibles he mocks. Hence he mustnback away fi-om the conflicts of contemporarynurban America which his booknraises. Indeed, McEwen seems barelynnnaware of any portions of the city, let alonenany classes of people or values thesenpeople and neighborhoods might stillnhold, other than the chic downtown andnHarvard Square areas in which his trendyncharacters (and comic targets) move.nYet other people and values do exist. Tontake but one example: the author mightneasily have observed and followed upnon an old man with a sign who has fornyears stood in the sharpest contrast tonthe fashionable locale of the novel andnits new-age atmosphere. Though shabbilyndressed, he is no bum; his message,n”abortion is killing,” is, thou^ anathema,nno farrago of obscure protests. A pariahnamid the lunch crowds and shoppers patronizingnthe Market’s classy spas andnboutiques, he—not the rootless andnvague alcoholic “philosopher”—^rightlynsymbolizes the older values denied bynthe Market’s tasteful hedonism.nBut this sort of conflict McEwen cannotnor will not engage. Thus the comicnapocalypse in which the bums sack thenquiche-and-salad restaurants and thenlike emporia of New Class elegance has,nfinally, no real significance; for all thenbook’s seeming anger, it is but the counterpartnof a piUow fight, dissipating whatnhad given signs of a powerful satiric attack.nAlthough, and partly because,nFisher’s Hornpipe is an amusing andnpromising book, the weightlessness atnits core—^manifest in the title characternand the main external action—disappoints.nAft;er the laughter we have notnthe meat Fisher so longs for in the saladnbars of Harvard Square but somethingncloser to a comic quiche.nA o say that the comic fantasy of KellynCherry’s In the Wink of an Eye utterlynmismatches the book’s subject (SouthnAmerican revolution) and its maudlinndedication to “Oppressed Peoples Everywhere”nis to capture only a portion ofnwhat is wrong with this modish, brainlessnefiiision. Lacking even the excuse ofnbeing a first novel, the work’s style andnoudook do, in a way, cohere perfectly tonexpress the mentality of an updatedn”radical chic.” Thus the comic fentasyn