at our luxury-priced but quite funky liotelrnin Treasure Beach with a cockroachrnhunt, competing intensely for the largestrnbag. I’hough the place had advertised arnbeach, the sand had disappeared in thernlast hurricane and left jagged rocks thatrnmade it difficult to enter the water, hispiredrnby the well-intentioned but naivernconcept of Conununity I’onrisni, thernmanagement encomaged the local inhabitantsrnto wander through the gardens,rnsplash noisily in the tiny swimming pool,rnand blast the reggae music. Some of thernguests were frightened by tiie unflimiliarrninterlopers. When one of them tried tornteach a young American child to swimrnand put on her hat to keep it dry, she exclaimed,rn”lake mv hat off your stinkyrnhead!”rnJamaica is very churchy. On weekends,rnlong processions of women in theirrnflowerv and flouncy Sunday or (in therncase of Scventh-l^av Ad’entists) Saturdayrnbest head for the abundant houses of worship.rnLarge crowds gather outdoors tornhear the Bible-thumping hellfirc preachers.rnDespite the strong dose of religion,rnJamaican attitudes to sex, marriage, andrnfidelity are elastic. Illegitimate childrenrnare common, and there’s no stigma attachedrnto them. It’s not miusual for arncouple to live togetiier for years, producerna brood of children, and then marry,rncomplete v’idi white dress and huge parti,-.rnThe goernment does not recognizernthe exi.stencc of tiie AIDS epidemic that,rnaccording to a public-health worker Irnspoke to, is ravaging the island. Nevertheless,rndie locals prey on the tourists,rnand man’ foreign girls feel their holidayrnexperience is incomplete without a briefrn”romantic” encounter. One trid broken-rndown man approached mv vomigrndaughter on die beach and brazenh’ said:rn”I gie vou my attentions. Keep yo’ bod’rnclean and ready.” LOodging die eveningrndope peddlers on the beach at Negril, Irn.saw a Jamaican stud .standing up behindrna fruit stall and having sex with a touristrngirl, who seemed oblivious to the smallrnaudience gathered to observe them.rnMore sinister events also take place onrnthe beach. A middle-aged American, onrnholiday with his wife and child, wasrnfound at 3:00 ,.VI., face down on thernbeach, his lungs filled with sand. Hisrnwallet and Rolcx watch had been stolen,rnbut the police — anxious to avoid badrnpublicits—claimed he had fallen downrndrunk or high and asphyxiated himselfrnThe results of die autopsy were inconclusive,rnand no one tried to determine if hisrnwife (sole beneficiary of a large insurancernpolicy) was involved in foul play. Whenrna second autopsy showed evidence ofrnstrangulation, a Jamaican was arrestedrnand charged widi murder.rnEvery night, we would watch thernevening news to keep up widi die latestrnhorrors. The bulletins were read by myrndaughter’s friend, who would dieii ringrnher cell phone to get her approval rating.rnThere were three recurrent stories.rnShootings b’ and of the police were veryrnpopular. The second concerned die grislyrnear accidents on horrendous roads:rn”Two Ladas collide and kill six people,rnvho were taken to the Kingston PublicrnHospital and pronounced dead.” Thernlast showed roadblocks to protest the staternof the roads, burning tires, and lootingdiernJamaican idea of a good time—andrninterviews with enraged shopkeepersrnwho had once again lost their entirern.stock.rnWhile I was there, Jamaica seemedrnabout to explode —and soon did. InrnApril, the government suddenly increasedrnthe gasoline tax by 50 percent,rnwiriiout adec[uatcly preparing the publicrnor explaining that die mone’ would (supposedly)rnbe used for road works and publierntransit. Prote.sters, going back into action,rnset up street barricades in Kingston,rnwhere four people were killed and 140 arrested.rnThe audiorities attempted to dealrnwith die looting and violence by inipo.singrna curfew and ordering soldiers intorndie streets. Airlines canceled flights, andrndie U.S. Embassy warned American residentsrnand tourists to sta’ off die streets.rnUnder British rule, Jamaica was poorrnand rural, but it had a stable currene’ andrnan effieient administration. Today, thernpeople are still poor, but expectationsrnlia’e been unrcalistieally raised bv independeneernand Maiile’-tpe nationalism.rnEveryone wants to lea’e, and the mostrntalented and ambitious young peoplernhave gone to America and Eaiglancl.rnSince the wealdi from tourism does notrntrickle down very far, those who remainrnare sullen, edgy, and aggressive. Theserntraits don’t lead to the sort of skilled servicernone gets in Europe, where such jobsrnliaxe a distinct tradition and status. Thernvacuum caused by high unemploymentrnand deep discontent has been filled bvrndrugs; and Jamaica, like Haiti, has becomerna criminal conduit from I^atiiirnAmerica to the United States and Europe.rnNo Jamaican would want to returnrnto colonial rule. But it will take a miracle,rnor a host of well-run industries, tornstem die tide of emigration, renew therneconomy, and make die island attracfivernenough to bring back large numl:)ers ofrntourists. Right now, it’s more like anrnAfrican country dian a Caribbean paradise.rnJeffrey Meyers, a Fellow of the RoyalrnSociety of Literature, has recentlyrnpublished biographies of EdmundrnWilson, Robert Frost, and HumphreyrnBogart. He has just completed a life ofrnGeorge Orwell for Norton.rnLetter Fromrnthe Argentariornhy Andrei NavrozovrnThe Show of ShowsrnSay what you will, there is no dame likernan Italian grande dame. Though basedrnon my own experience, this claim is easilyrnsupported by any amount of independentrnobservation as the number of subjectsrnto whom it applies, given diat thernhistory of the aristocracy in this countryrnresembles schematic representations ofrnnuclear fission in old physics textbooks, isrnsimply vast. Moreocr, the rest of Italianrnwomen —those who do not fit the hpcrnunder discussion for all sorts of reasons —rnnonetheless model themselves, and theirrndefining affectations and aspirations, onrndie aspect of the female character wliielirnis not often illuminated by fashion magazines,rntelevision, or Hollywood. In thatrnvery real sense in which American womenrnwant to be diin, French women wantrnto be clean, and English women want tornbe elegant, Italian women want most ofrnall to be grand.rnThere was a grande dame who came torndinner the other day, and she was tellingrna story. I cannot remember cxaedy whatrnher story was about, but she was talkingrnabout American art and went on to postulate,rnplausibly enough I should say, thatrnartists like to bite the hand that feedsrnthem, meaning their patrons. At whichrnpoint I interrupted her, because, as happensrnnow and then, a witticism had begunrnto form in die back of my mind, andrndien rolled over to die front of mv headrn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn