norm for the New York literary andnintellectual establishment, it is silly fornme to condemn it. It is the same as goingnto an operetta and then announcing thatnthe content is both trite and haphazard,nthe scenery gaudy, the costumes garish,nthe music atrocious, and the singersncannot sing. After all, this is what thenaudience paid for.nAs is typical in a pulp novel, thenplot of Sophie’s Choice is so trite thatnan American reader of the 70s can predictnit as a kind of catechism with allnthe answers known from television,nmagazines or previously publishednbooks.nWhere did a young Southern writern(named Stingo) go to work, on his arrivalnin New York in the late ’40s, andnin what capacity.” At a publishing housenas a junior editor. What did he findnthere.’ Crass commercialism, ridiculousnsterility, hopeless mediocrity. In Sophie’snChoice, the abode of venal vulgaritynwas McGraw-Hill. How did this end.’nStingo was fired, owing to his superior’snconservative and reactionary views.nWhom did he meet then.’ A BrooklynnJew (named Nathan) and a Polish girln(named Sophie). What did they do.’nThey loved each other with violent,nnoisy passion and quarreled just asnviolently and noisily. What was thenBrooklyn Jew obsessed with.’ With thenextermination of six million Jews bynthe Nazis and with the lynching of anNegro in the South, the latter eventnbeing more inhuman, in his opinion,nthan the former. What happened to thenPolish girl in Poland.’ Though a Gentile,nand the daughter of a Polish Nazi sympathizer,nshe landed in a concentrationncamp, and her father was shot. So isnthe violent, noisy affair of the BrooklynnJew and the Polish girl actually a symbolnof Jewish-Christian love-hate.’ Ofncourse: he hated her for having remainednalive while six million Jews hadndied, while she felt guilty that she hadntried to get out of the concentrationncamp by pretending to back her father’snferocious politics. What are some otherntraits of the Brooklyn Jew.’ He is fullnof “howlingly funny” jokes, “practicallynall of them Jewish,” he takes drugs, andnis oceanically sexy. (“Sex with Nathannin his amphetamine thrall was no merenfun-^it was unharnessed, oceanic,notherworldly.”) So is he another rehashnof all the stereotypes of the BrooklynnJew.’ Of course: for full measure, addnalso his being a paranoid schizo. Howndid all this end.’ He and the Polish girlncommit suicide in a suicide pact.nTrue, some readers would not readilynpredict, at the beginning of the book,nthat the end will be a suicide pact. Hencould murder her, and then this wouldnsymbolize Jewish revenge. Or she couldnmurder him, and then this would symbolizenChristian anti-Semitism. Or theyncould murder each other, to symbolizenboth, plus the proximity of sex and murder,nso natural in all hackneyednliterature.nI once heard an American lady commentingnon a couple she knew: “Theynalways quarrel: something Dostoevskyish.”nLike many other New York writersnand intellectuals, Stingo evidently believesnthat the noisier and more violentnis the stereotyped melodrama aboutnlovers who drink, take drugs, yell, fight,nmurder or commit suicide, the morenDostoevskyish the author.nStill, sufficiently astute readers canneasily predict that the violent end of anmelodrama will not be murder, but ansuicide pact. Only such a violent endingnwould symbolize the ultimate Christian-nJewish love: despite the drugs and anschizophrenic Jew’s vicious beatings,nand his attempts to torture her, thenChristian girl offers her life to the altarnof suicide, and thus atones for her unseemlynsurvival in a Nazi concentrationncamp. Since Stingo (and Mr. Styron)nis a Christian, this is the only endingnwhich would be acceptable to quite anfew of the Jewish critics, magazine editorsnand book distributors of New York.nAfter all, even McGraw-Hill has to sellnbooks doesn’t it.’nOne may get the impression thatnsince its content is so trite, Mr. Styron’snnnnovel must be well-constructed, coherent,ntechnically competent. However,npulp novels are both trite and haphazard:neverything seems to have been writtennmany times before and yet everythingncomes on as something accidental, irrelevantnor absurd.nSeveral pages of Sophie’s Choice arensuddenly devoted to a pathological rapenof Sophie in New York. Why rape.’nStingo heard the story of a disgustingnrape. Or thought it up. Why not plug itnin, as television producers say.’ Sophienhas a dream: a “torrid affair” with thenDevil in church before the crucifix.nWhy not plug it in.’ A “raw sex scene”nis never amiss. And suddenly Stingonlearns that a Maria Hunt he knew innthe South committed suicide, a pluggedinnstory which enables Stingo to plug innanother “raw sex scene” (as a dreamnStingo had about Maria Hunt) and thennwrite the following monologue thatnwould make many amateur novelistsnblush:n”Nonetheless, I had passionately butnchastely adored her, adored her fornsuch a simple-minded reason as thatnshe was beautiful enough to wrecknthe heart, and now I discovered thatnshe was dead. Maria Hunt was dead. “nOr Stingo suddenly decides to plugnin a sex story of the kind to be foundnin every textbook on sexual pathology.nHow does he do it.’ He meets a certainnJack Brown, and that Jack Brown hasna sister-in-law, and that sister-in-lawnwill give Stingo the chance to plug innthat pathological sex story. So Stingonbegins spouting platitudes about hisn”friend of youth,” Jack Brown:n”I adored Jack Brown. There arenfriends one makes at a youthful agenin whom one simply rejoices, fornwhom one possesses a love and loyaltynmysteriously lacking in the friendshipsnmade in afteryears …”nNeedless to say, after several pages ofnthis twaddle, Jack Brown disappearsnas suddenly as he materialized to Intro-n9nIVovember/Decembcr 1979n