let’s cast A Country Sucb as This againstntwo novels written about a very diflferentncountry. Webb’s book begins with threenNaval Academy graduates swearingnblood brotherhood to one another withna steak knife in a bar; thereafter, Webbnuses his three “brothers” primarily toncreate a Michenerian panorama ofnAmerica’s last 30 years. Although Dostoevskinalso reveals much of mid-19thcenturynRussia, his three BrothersnKaramazov fathom the psychology ofnhuman agency in all times and in allnplaces. Taken together, his threenbrothers—Ivan, in his intellectualnskepticism; Alyosha, in his intense feith;nand Dmitri, in his tortured sensualitynwhich metamorphoses into passionatendevotion—summarize the breadth ofnman’s possibilities. Webb achieves a lessnimpressive complementarity with hisnthreesome—Judd, the devil-may-carenhillbilly Marine who becomes anpreacher and congressman; Red, thenPolish family man, pilot, and Orientophile;nand Dingy, the self-destructivenJewish pianist and scientist. If Webb hasnconsciously tried to parallel Dostoevski’snthree-brother paradigm, thennthe comparison of the two serves only asna measure of how fer his adequate talentnfalls short of Dostoevski’s caliber. Thenhospital prayers which turn Judd fromnaimless sex to warm and folksy sermonsnare to Dmitri’s transmutation of soulnwhile in prison, which turns his compulsivenbut dissipated energy into resoundingnhymns to God, as a roller coaster is tonan earthquake. Similarly, the “suicide” ofntropical self-exile that Dingy commitsnwhen his scientific obsessions fail tonbring fulfillment seems trivial whenncontrasted with Ivan’s conversationnwith the Devil as his Euclidian mindnslides into madness.nOut another Russian epic, written innpart to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon,nsuggests itself as an even more naturalnfoil. In his last years, Tolstoy evenndisowned War and Peace because itsnpatriotic elements violated his newnsense of the universal brotherhood ofnman. But the international readership ofnmore than a century has reduced thencredibility of this harsh judgment. Like AnCountry Such as This, Tolstoy’s novel isna sweeping attempt both to depict and tonevaluate a specific period of nationalnpolitical, military, and social turmoil. Butnbecause it transcends the limitations ofnthose historical particulars, readersnaround the world who know and carenlittle about these particulars continue tonrespond deeply to the ponderings andnprobings of Pierre and Boris as theynnnstruggle to establish the meaning notnmerely of Russia in 1812, but of life andndeath at any time or in any place. In thisnwork, as in Dostoevski’s, the historicalnRussianness of the characters is finallynquite thin and incidental, while theirntimeless humanness is very thick. Unfortunately,nMr. Webb allows the exchangenbetween Americanness and 20th-centurynevents to dominate his vision, thusnsacrificing the enduring for the topical.nExcept for Judd, his characters naivelynaccept life as modern, red-bloodednAmericans tend to do, without muchnwrestling with existential questions.nAnd Judd’s struggle with and resolutionnof these questions is far too sketchilyndefined to give the book a place on thenshelf of serious literary exertions.nThe need for creative endeavors bynthose who are proud to be American andnwho will bring that pride to bear uponnour current national crisis of the spirit isncritical. There are reasons to give Mr.nWebb his due as a competent novelistnendowed with a lucidity of vision.nAn Chronicles of Culture we are fiillynaware of, and feel a healthy respect for,nthat area of creativity which influencesnwhat we are inclined to call the intermediatenculture. It is a vast socioculturalnexpanse where attitudes that define thenepoch are formed. The intermediatenculture filters knowledge, principles,nand normative prescriptions that hadnbeen previously worked out by thenpurveyors of ideas, and translates themninto popularly acceptable patterns ofnthought, emotion, and behavior. This isnhow the popular writer, artist, moviemaker,noperating through fiction, music,nfashion, determine the face of contemporaneity.nLiberalism, radicalism,nMarxism, and, a few decades ago, fascism,nwere all ideologies that knew hownto exploit this chemistry of modernnculture—often using it for nefariousnpolitical ends. We who wish to free ourncivilization and our society from thensham and cant of bankrupt and antihumannparadigms need authors likenMay 1984n