Of Human CommonplacesnSally George: Frog Salad; CharlesnScribner’s Sons; New York.nFaith Sullivan: Repent, Lanny Merkel;nMcGraw-Hill; New York.nRob Forman Dew: Dale Loves Sophiento Death; Farrar, Straus & Giroux;nNew York.nby Barbara WordennA he characters in all three of thesennovels have fixations on their pasts;nthey differ radically in what they choosento do with their obsessions in order tonenrich the present. Sullivan and Georgenhave chosen to present people who arenpsychologically stuck at some point innmuch the same way that a needle can benstuck on a record. These charactersnthink about, talk about and dream intenselynabout their private mythsnof “what made me happy way backnwhen.” They do this so often that theirnpresent lives are almost invisible. Theirnmemories are like the memories of thenelderly, the same story endlessly repeated—butnthe elderly must be listenednto for courtesy’s sake.nDale Loves Sophie to Death is moreninteresting than the others because thennovelist, and through her the heroine,nshows how memory can both cripplenand cure. By the end of the novel, itnseems that the heroine has accomplishednsomething. Crippled relationships withnparents, children and spouses have beennrevealed and are already beginning tonstraighten out and strengthen. The pastnis a tunnel which leads into the sunshinenof maturity rather than a hole innthe ground in which children can hide.nSince Sullivan and George havenchosen to portray characters fixed innthe past, they are saddled with a majornDr. Worden is professor of English atnFriends Bible College in Haviland,nKansas.n?i>ZinChronicles of Culturenproblem: people who just do not grownup are boring. They “solve” this problemnby being cute. Laura, the heroine ofnRepent, Lanny Merkel, wants to be famousnand recognized, to be in Who’snWho, but she has no idea of what worknto do to get there. Since most of hernattempts to achieve fame, including anspectacularly weird job as an actress innan amateur avant-garde play, have failedndeservedly, her class reunion seems tonbe the answer. She gets a letter pleadingnfor her to go to the reunion, and thisnis what follows:nReading the note through the first ofntwenty-six times, I reeled under thenpercussion of Lanny’s name. It leapednnoisily from the page, reverberatingnthrough the house like a struck gong.nLaura’s obsession with Lanny Merkel,nher high-school sweetheart, stems fromnthe break-up of their romance shortlynbefore graduation. Laura reacted to thisncalamity by painting “Repent, LannynMerkel” in red on fourteen billboardsnthroughout the town and then had tonspend the morning after graduation restoringnthem to their original state.nAs Laura dresses for the first big partynof the reunion and her first chance tonsee the immortal Lanny, she is overwhelmednby the idea that “the futurenof my marriage and happiness were possiblynto be decided this night.” Unfortunatelynneither the party nor the heronlives up to this grandiose claim. Thenparty is dull. Nothing occurs beyond anlot of adults making desultory small talknand dancing ineptly. The great Lannynnnhimself is militantly ordinary, goodlookingnand suburban when he needs tonbe either superbly unattractive or superblynglamorous. Much of the conversationnat the parties is produced bynsomeone’s coming up to Laura and askingnher to describe the great sign caper.nAnd yes, Virginia, Lanny and Laura donfinally get to make it “all the way.”nLaura then flies back to California,nfinally able to let the past die—an existentialnsolution to one woman’s problemsnwhich makes the authoress of thennovel look like her calling should bento the appliance-repair field.nThe past fixation of the charactersnin Frog Salad is not an individual past,nbut a group past. A crowd of ex-60’snradicals, out of place in the 70’s, arenlongingly remembering the good oldndays of sit-ins and tear gas. Significantly,nit is hard to tell what cause they werenfighting for. It looks as if both then andnnow they were trying to revivify a worldnwhere they were joyful, free of responsibilitynand creative. However, thenglimpses we get of their lives now makenus doubtful of their marvelous past,nsince their less-than-marvelous presentnshows nothing but weakness, vagueness.n