Dartle. They suggest sexuality innthemselves, not other parts of thenbody. And of course novelists do whatnthey want anyhow—]ane Eyre is completelynopen about the heroine beingnflat-chested. She and Mr. Rochesterncan even joke about her well-endowedn(I think that’s a euphemism) rialnbeing “a real strapper.”nI like Plausible Prejudices, not leastnbecause it too has to make good out ofnbad. The critic of current fiction isnforced to discuss the social meaning ofntexts because the stuff he is reviewing isngenerally not first-rate. I don’t meannthat it can’t compare with Shakespeare,nor even with good, gray, respectablenthird-rate talent like Galsworthy.nIt’s not that good, either. Thenmodern reviewer, of whom Epstein isna ery good example, has to deal withnpeople like Mailer or those eennworse, if thev can be found. It’s likengetting Berenson to lecture about thendirty pictures in Pompeii. Epstein isnfully aware of the problem—he suggestsnto the culturati that “if it doesn’tnoffend you that American literary academicsnare able to publish structuralistnstudies of John Irving, then you probablynought to be in another line ofnwork.” Well advised. Epstein is a sharpnknife cutting into Spam.nIt’s almost too bad that PlausiblenPreiudices is a trade book. It reallynshould be a kind of counterweight textnfor a course on contemporary Ameri­nThe Chicken, the Egg, andnthe CoopnThe problem of population (andnpopulations) is at the very heart ofnevolutionary biology. It was ThomasnMalthus’ famous essay on populationnwhich inspired Darwin tonthink about the mechanism of evolutionarynchange: competition fornscarce resources. Much of the 20thncentury’s biological theorizing hasnfocused on the units of selection.nWas it the group, as favored bynWynne-Edwards, or the individual?nAs W.D. Hamilton writes innGenes, Organisms, and Populations:nControversy Over the Units ofnSelection (edited by Robert N.ncan vvridng. It covers Mailer, Roth,nUpdike, Malamud, Stone, Beattie,netc. And it is very much aware thatnwhat it has to say differs tremendouslynfrom what publishers, newspaper critics,nand academics have to say aboutnthe same books. Epstein is hostile tonthese writers and others in orbitnaround them not entirely because ofncultural politics. He has some heroes:nEdmund Wilson and Lionel Trilling.nThere are viewpoints he respectsn—those of Mencken and F.R. Leavis.nAnd he has standards. He does somethingnvery sensible about those standards,nwhich is to compare Mailer,nRoth, and company with Lawrence ornConrad or other great modernists innorder to see what exactly has beennaccomplished by the passage of literaryngenerations.nEpstein is one of the good descriptivencritics. We find out by the end ofnone of his reviews what kind of eventnhas gone on and what kind of languagenhas described it. He keeps track ofneverything: ‘Taney fornication in onenform or another is never far off in anynof John Irving’s novels, and it rangesnfrom adolescent sex to lesbian love toncouple swapping to incest. Fellatio in ancar. both mov ing and parked, is anothernIrving specialite de la maison.” Anythingnwritten by Kazin about modernnwriters ought to be coupled with Epstein’snimperative of categoricals. Younwill find out the extent of physicalnREVISIONSnBrandon and Richard M. Burian,nCambridge, MA: MIT Press),ngroup selection tended to be favorednby those who were unwilling tonview human life as a struggle betweennindividuals—an importantnreminder of the impact of ideologynon scientific theory.nToday, the greatest challenge tonindividual selection is posed not bynthe group but by the gene. Geneticistsnlike Hamilton and Trivers andnzoologists like Richard Dawkinsnhave constructed genetic equationsnto explain certain forms of socialn•behavior (e.g., altruism towardsnclose relatives) in which the genesnthemselves, rather than the individuals,nare the winners and losers.nnndistortions in Beattie or most possiblenconnections between tlie differentnnovels of Philip Roth.nThere is an added attraction tonPlausible Prejudices: its extensive coveragenof the literary situation in NewnYork and on campuses. Epstein reallynis engaged in a war of words, and henlets us know who the antagonists are.nThe reader will find out the scorenabout the Harvard Guide or blacknliterature or women’s studies or evennwho is writing the best or the worst ofnwhat is being flogged by the plutocratsnof publishing.nTo understand the nature andnterms of this very important debate,nthis volume has been put togethernwith an introductory essay on Darwinnfollowed by historically significantncontributions by SewallnWright, Ernst Mayr, George Williams,nand David Hull, among others.nWhile it is obviously a bookndesigned for specialists, judiciousnediting enables an amateur to follownthe main oudines of the argument.nIt is a valuable work fornanyone who wants to come,to gripsnwith research which may hold a key.nto the elementary forms of humannsocial behavior.nAUGUST 1986 / 23n