Nicaraguan revolution. He evennknows that the Sandinistas officiallynapproved of the crushing of Solidarity,nbut this is glossed over as a strangen”misunderstanding” on their part.nIt is hard to believe that this appallingn(and one suspects willful) naivetentowards a Leninist regime would havenbeen shared for very long by Grass’snearlier hero, Eduard Bernstein. Indeed,nGrass in this essay becomes anpolitical pilgrim of the worst sort,ngushing over a show-prison in Managuanof the type that existed in Moscownin 1933 and Havana in 1963, gushingnover the show-camps built to housenthe “displaced” Miskito Indians. Nornhas Grass’s attitude been changed bynthe eventual total suppression of civilnrights in Nicaragua. On the contrary:nin January 1986 he took the lead innwelcoming Omar Cabezas, the SandinistanMinister of the Interior, to anninternational writers’ conference innNew York (Gabezas is partially responsiblenfor the functioning of the Sandinistas’ncensorship system). It wouldnseem that, having lost faith and patiencenin staid democratic reform,nGrass has finally fallen in love with thendelirium of Revolution. In othernwords, he has become precisely thensort of irresponsible left-wing litterateurnhe was warning us against in thenlate 60’s. And, like many on thenGerman left, he is now explicit that henwants the Federal Republic to withdrawnfrom NATO. Neutralism, ofncourse, is the ultimate political effectnof the theory of “moral equivalence”n—which is why “moral equivalence”nis more than just a bitter joke, butnsomething very dangerous indeed.nWhen West German intellectualsnlose faith in the sober democracy ofnthe Federal Republic and becomenapologists for totalitarianism, then thenobservers of the West German scenenare justified in expressing concern fornthe future. Unfortunately, neutralism,nirrational though it is, has become innsome European quarters a means ofnnational self-assertion (this is certainlyntrue in Grass’s case). If the neutralistntrend continues, as Grass hopes, thennprospects for the West seem bleak.nAlienated and “romantic” intellectualsnwho no longer thought “formal democracy”nworth defending werenamong the foremost gravediggers ofnthe Weimar Republic.nMy America, MynNew-Found-LandnThey are all gone now, or almost,nthe practitioners of the Americannnovel, by which we used to meannmore than novels written by peoplenwho happened to have been born innthe USA. Unlike the best novels ofnEngland and France, most of thenmasterpieces of American fictionnwere explorations, sometimes selfconscious,nof the American experience.nSome of them are still read:nFitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby,nHemingway’s Nick Adams stories,nand the very self-conscious (andninterminable) An American Tragedy.nThe authors were not alwaysnkind—Sinclair Lewis should havenbeen tarred and feathered by a mobnof Midwestern Rotarians—but thenbest of them were, like MarknTwain, critically affectionate. Twonof the best American novels arenback in print, courtesy of ArbornHouse’s Contemporary AmericananSeries: Booth Tarkington’s ThenMagnificent Ambersons and GlenwaynWescott’s The Grandmothers.nIf I had to play the game ofn”who’s the most important” (really,n”who’s your favorite”) novelist, mynvote might have to go to Tarkington.nFitzgerald marveled at his facility,nand it is still astonishing tonrealize how good even an unknownnnovel like Mirthful Haven can be.nIn The Magnificent Ambersons,nTarkington managed to exploit severalnof the great themes of his fiction:nthe collapse of the old Americannorder, the rise of an energeticn(and in some ways admirable) plutocracy,nthe evil that results fromnconfusing class with virtue, and thenpossibility of redemption not just bynlove but by honesty. Orson Welles’snsuperb film version is still only anpallid reflection of the novel’s richnessnand power. If there is a “greatnAmerican novel,” this is it, and itnshould be required reading, alongnwith the Constitution, for aspiringncitizens.nREVISIONSnnnWescott’s The Grandmothers isnan exquisitely wrought gem of anbook. With the rise of rootssearchingnin America, this brilliantnattempt to make sense of familynhistory should receive a new leasenon life. In a brief but intelligentnintroduction, John Aldridge observesnthat Wescott’s modern readersn”have largely lost the concretensense of past history and familynhistory which he possessed, lost itnamid the overwhelming distractionsnof the present and our fearful preoccupationsnwith the future.”nThe Grandmothers remains an aestheticnantidote to the poisons ofnmodernity.nOther novels in the series includenHamilton Basso’s The View FromnPompey’s Head, Conrad Aiken’snGreat Gircle, James Purdy’s In anShallow Grave. Less impressivenchoices are the influential butnJames Jonesian Confessions of anSpent Youth by Vance Bourjailly,nDaniel Stern’s fashionably pretentiousnThe Suicide Academy, RichardnStern’s disgusting wishfulfillmentnnovel, Other Men’snDaughters (attractive college girl seducesnbrilliant professor—just whatnthese academic child-molestersnneeded to hear), and assorted fluffnby the likes of Terry Southern, NormannMailer, and Meyer Levin. Ifnanyone at Arbor House is listening,nwe are grateful for what they arendoing and would suggest addingnseveral more Tarkingtons, especiallynThe Plutocrat, Wescott’s GoodbyenWisconsin, Owen Wister’s LadynBaltimore, and The Virginian, andnreaching even farther into thenpast and obscurity, something bynthe once highly regarded EdwardnEggleston.nSEPTEMBER 1986 / 33n