pate as retrospectively inevitable. Nancynleaves both men in the lurch; but Coleman,nwho was the only voice of reasonninasmuch as he was the lone disbelievernin a throng of Buckhorn’s followers, joinsnthe fold.nHoly Ghosts is predominantly an ensemblenwork, and most of the first act isnused to introduce the motley crew.nThese include an ex-Sunday schoolnteacher dismissed after 20 odd years ofnservice because she could not conformnto increasingly permissive tendencies; anretired, alcoholic lawyer; a cancer-riddennbachelor; a hapless youth who nevernovercame the loss of his “bird-dog”; annunhappily hitched interracial couple; anpaii” of love-starved truck drivers; a guiltriddennspinster; a simpleminded adolescent;na painfully shy woman who desertednher husband and family to wanderninto Buckhorn’s makeshift service; andnBuckhorn’s son, who has just becomenmanager of a bowling alley (“I don’tnknow how to explain it—they just seemnto go together—Jesus and bowling”).nAt a certain point, the thought occursnthat with only some minor changes innthe script, Linney could have told thensame story within the context of an AAnmeeting. If there were a common denominatornto these lost souls, it wouldnhave to be the palpable loneliness whichnhas brought them together. Each ofnthem has some unholy ghost to avoid.nUnder Douglas Jacobs’ inspired direction,npublic confessional and participatorynreligion clearly becomes a way fornthem to feel they belong in a world thatnhas abandoned them; the passion of theirninvolvement reaches almost sexual frenzynwhen they finally get around to snakehandling,nrolling on the floor, and glossolalia.nA beauty of the conceit is that we hearnthe snakes and watch the believers handlenthem, though real snakes are nevernused in what otherwise resembles a documentarynproduction. As a device, theninvisibility of the snakes reinforces thenfaith these fanatics must have to risk theirnlives at the height of their religiousnpassion. In a recent interview withnMervyn Rothstein, Linney explains whynhe has endorsed this method of thenproduction: “When I did it at the AlleynTheater, I just had the actors pantomimenthe snakes, and I only allow the play tonbe done that way now. What happens isnthat you see right through the hands ofnthe people handling them, you seenwhat’s on the actor’s faces, becausenthey’re staring at something that if itnwere real would be within an inch ofntheir faces, with that little black tonguengoing in and out, and if it bites them,nwell, wham, good-bye.”nWhile the American Theater Exchangenhas done little to confirm thatnWonderbreadn”The tenderness was already turningnnasty,” writes Harold Brodkey inn”Falling and Ascending Bodies,” anshort story from The Bread LoafnAnthology of Contemporary AmericannShort Stories (edited by RobertnPack and Jay Parini, Hanover andnLondon: University Press of NewnEngland; $12.95). In a first-personnaccount of a homosexual affair betweenntwo “Jew-American” youthsn(“Middle Western, middle-class”),nBrodkey muses on Ulysses, Silenus,nCarthage, Gaul, and Roman camps.nTo make his meaning clearer, perhaps,nBrodkey elaborates, “Then henbegan doing it as if I were inanimate,nand my back was his teddy bear or hisnbike tire; that was OK, but then it wasnnot OK.”nIf Brodkey cannot make up hisnmind what he wants to write about, ornhow, in Bread Loaf he is in good (ifnthat’s the word) company. Ann Beattienfinds it irresistible to tell us aboutn”Alice and her brother-in-law Lemn[who] are on their way to Billy’snapartment so that Alice can get herndaughter Nicki and take her to Connecticut”n(the opening sentence ofnthe “Gypsy Moths”). “My fatherndidn’t drink,” states, on the othernhand, Rosellen Brown in “A GoodnDeal” (except “a little schnapps onnshahhos, gone in a blink”). And, JohnnIrving informs us, “This is a memoir,nbut please understand that (to anynwriter with a good imagination) allnmemoirs are false” (“Trying to SavenPiggy Snead”). It may be possible,ntheoretically, to come up with goodnprose about “The first time Bennasked Laurel to fly to Wisconsin withnhim to spend a week with his fathern[and] Laurel said no” (“The Lure”nby Mary Morris). But would haplessnREVISIONSnnnregional theater is the salvation of theaternin America, it’s encouraging to note thatnHoly Ghosts has been performed at overn100 theaters throughout the U.S., sincenit was written in the mid-70’s.nDavid Kaufman writes from New York.nUlysses have become embedded innBrodkey’s homosexual fiction, werenhe a Piggy Snead, whose “retardationn. . . had deprived him of his humannspeech … [so that] [h]e oinked . . .n(that was his language; he learned itnfrom his friends, as we learn ours)”n(“Trying to Save Piggy Snead”)?nPoor Chekhov, poor Ray Bradbury!nNow we have Cynthia Ozicknand Tim O’Brien, writing, respectively,nof concentration camps (“ThenShawl”) and Vietnam (“The ThingsnThey Carried”) as if they were invented,nafter another dreary literarynparty.nIf good writing is “putting one truensentence after another,” then most ofnBread Loaf is thin fare indeed. NewnYork City, with its “eight millionnctorici” l^that was back in the 60’s)nmay seem like the universe to itsn”artistic community,” but the temptationnto level together Argentinen”disappearances,” “humping”nthrough Vietnam, unexplicablenmiddle-class, middle-age divorces,nand swinish curiosities appears toongreat to fight. Representative of whatnpasses for artistic fiction these days,nall the stories of the Bread Loafnendeavor mightily to reduce thenworld to a slide-show of humdrumnhumanity. Even death, thrown in forngood measure (“Trying to Save PiggynSnead,” “Willis Carr at the BleaknHouse,” “The Things They Carried,”netc.), fails to make any singlenstory in the book live. American fictionnhas degenerated into a parlorngame for “caring, sensitive” souls,nvery concerned with their place in thenliterary pantheon of “here-and-now.”nJANUARY 1388 / 49n