minders of how intolerable a finaneialrndrain he was, we never learn what happenedrnto Riple- as a child, leaving himrnan emotional ampntee. Vlien accusedrnof being queer, he doesn’t understand.rnHe childishlv thinks of himself as “one ofrnthe most innocent and clean-mindedrnI people I he |has] ever known.” But contrar-rnto his imagined sexual innocence,rnhis murder of Dickie has an unmistakabh’rnsexual cast. Vlien Dickie is removingrnhis trousers to go swimming, Ripleyrn”pick|s| up the oar, as casuallv as if hernwere plaing with it between his knees,”rnand then attacks him.rnThe murder is Riplc’s horriblv selfabortingrnattempt to make contact withrnanoriicr. Commithng it, he gains the illusionrnof escaping his claustrophobicallyrnself-centered existence. Since he is unablernto form a rclahonship with Dickie,rnhe appropriates Dickie’s identih^ instead.rn”This was die clean slate…. This was thernreal annihilation of his past and of himself,rnTom Riple, who was made up ofrnthat past, and his rebirth as a completelyrnnew person.” A few days later, walkingrnthe .streets of Paris in the guise of DickiernGreenleaf, he is enchanted to hearrnChristmas carols being smig in thernCathedral of Notre Dame, .fterward, atrna bar-tabac, he orders hot milk that is “almostrntasteless, pure and chastening, asrn[he I imagined a wafer tasted in church.”rnrhis parod} of transidDstantiation mayrnseem pcculiarlv blasphemous given itsrnmurderous context, but it is nonethelessrnenhrcK’ apt. Ripley sacrifices Dickie inrnorder to redeem himself under the otherrnman’s guise. Instead of salvahon throughrnthe Real Presence, he effects a ghoulishrnand transient deliverance from his privaternhell b- means of an ersatz presence inrnand through Dickie, the Christ of wealdirnand position. On the emptiness of Riple’rns achievement, Highsmith is unecjuixocal.rnHis salvation is wholly andrncorruphbly material, as his fanahc devotionrnto Dickie’s jDossessions makes perfecri’rnclear. “The cufflinks, the white silkrnshirts, . . . the old brown grain-leatherrnshoes. Hie kind advertised in Punch asrnlasting a life-time, they were all his andrnhe loved them all.” Rarely has the wordrnloe been used so chillingly. Later, we’rerntold that “possessions reminded him thatrnhe existed, and made him enjoy his existence.rn. . . And wasn’t that worth something?rnHe existed.”rnSelf-inenHon achieved at the expensernof others and sustained by means of possessionsrn— is this not a portrait of .salvahonrnin om materialist cultiue? Ironically,rnmad Ripley actually does become Dickiernafter all —a selfish, upper-class snob, brutallyrnusing others for his own pleasurernand convenience.rnOnly at the novel’s conclusion do wernrealize we’ve been reading a ]ekyll-and-rnHyde story told solely through Hyde’srnpoint of view. Ripley fascinates us because,rnin his visage, we catch a glimpse ofrnour own gnarled self-absorption asrnthough reflected in “the hard, bloodlessrnsurf;ice of a mirror.”rnMinghella leaves all of this out of hisrnfilm. Why? In an interview with the NewrnYork Times, he alludes to concerns thatrnwere raised during die film’s preparafion.rnJournalists had asked him how hernplanned to deal with the homosexualrncontent. Did Minghella cave in and deliberatelyrnsoften Ripley’s character? Doesrnriiis explain his addition of a highly sympatheticrnhomosexual character? If so,rnscore another perverse victon,’ for politicalrncorrectness and mourn the loss ofrnwhat could have been a morally complexrnfilm, one that, like its source, would havernchallenged our preconceptions of whornand what we are.rnGeorge McCartne)’ teaches English at St.rnJohn’s University.rnMUSICrnRandy Newman’srnAmerican Dreamrnby Brian DohertyrnWhen Randy Newman played thernKennedy Center in Washingtonrnlast March, it was perfectly appropriate,rnon one level: No contemporary poprnsinger has serenaded America as far andrnas wide as Newman. He’s written songsrnabout Birmingham, Louisiana, Baltimore,rnDayton, Los Angeles, Cainesville,rnKentucky, Miami, the Cuvahoga River,rnNew Orleans. His appearance in a government-rnsanctioned performing space isrnsomewhat percrse, though, since Newmanrnis an ambiguous writer who uses viciousrnhumor to make serious points; whornlaughs at his characters while also laughingrnat the people wTo laugh; who givesrnAmerican places and people more specificrnattention than any other rock songwriter,rnvet frequently makes our lives seemrnsad and hysterical in equal degrees.rnNewman’s Kennedy Center gig serenadedrna part of America that few Washingtoniansrnwould willingly embrace.rnOn a double-bill with a fellow veteranrnof the late 70’s novelh’ hit parade, K.C.rnand die Sunshine Band, Newman chosernto debut for the nostalgia-hungry crowdrntwo songs from his latest CD, Bad Love.rnIn “The Creat Nations of Europe,” thernUnited States is not explicitly menfioned,rnand the melody is light, bouncing,rncharming, filled with amusing rhymesrnand musical puns (missing in Newman’srnpiano-only live show) such as Yankee-rnDoodle-Dandv military drumming andrnhorn flourishes. But the song casts arnstrange shadow on us, like seeing glimmersrnof a great-grandchild’s sly look in arnfaded old daguerrcotjpe of his Civil Warrnforebear. It describes a relentiess litany ofrncrimes and destrucfion, of the annihilationrnof whole peoples before the violencernand disease spread by Luropcan ambitionsrnfor the New World.rnNewman’s most destructively andrnbluntlv funny song, “Polifical Science,”rnis certainly a child of (or parody of—arnmeaningless distinction in Newman’srnwriting) American Exceptionalism.rnNewman imagines dropping atomicrnbombs on all the nations that are ungratefulrnfor all the wonderful thingsrnAmerica has done, or tried to do, forrnthem. “They all hate us anyhow,” he obser’rnes, “so let’s drop the big one now.”rnThis is one of his more obvious kneeslappers,rnand vet some variant of this feelingrnis almost certainly behind manyrnAmericans’ relatively sanguine acceptancernof NATO destruction and slaughterrnin the former Yugoslavia. Like mostrnof Newman’s songs, it’s funny but true:rnExceptionalism can turn with frighteningrnswiftness into the belief that anyonernwdio doesn’t see everything our way isrnworthy of destruction. “Boom goes Londonrn/ Boom Paree / More room for you /rnMore room for me.”rnThrough Newman’s work, a history ofrnAmerica can be traced. It is not a triumphalrnhistory —but neither is it arnHoward Zinn-ish bill of indictment.rnNewman’s implied assaults are alwaysrndouble-edged. In his most famous song,rnthe 1978 number-hvo hit “Short People,”rnhe bludgeons us with both stupid bigotr’rn(the verses-“Short People got no reasonrnto live”) and ridiculously sententiousrnMAY 2000/49rnrnrn