than ambiguous in their portrayal ofnhuman life as essentially pointless and ofnAmerica as a corrupt intruder into the affairsnof other countries.nIhere is a depressing sameness aboutnhis three novels. They all focus upon thenmost sordid aspects of modern life:ndrugs, alcoholism, perverted sexuality,nsadistic violence, moral and political corruption.nThey are like a tour of big citiesnthat shows you nothing but skid-rownalleys and the rest rooms of bus terminals.nStone seems as proud of hisndetailed depiction of the drugged or alcoholicndrifter as Hemingway was of hisnauthoritative depiction of men involvednwith war. He obviously considers it hisnstrong suit. In Stone’s fiction the world isnso bad that everyone seeks a high onndrugs and/or alcohol.nHis novels are almost devoid of admirablencharacters, and he makes a statementnwhich suggests why: “There is ancertain reverence for the sociopath as anmajor cultural type in American society,nalong with the frontiersman, the puritannand the outlaw. I was trying to recognizenthat very fact: the importance of thenrootless, emotionally crippled individualnin American life.” If he begins with thesenassumptions, it is natural that his mainncharacters are drifters, morally disoriented,nundisciplined and alienated. Antypical example is Rheinhardt in his firstnnovel, A Hall of Mirrors, who awakes thenmorning after watching passively while ancompanion murders in cold blood andnrecalls “that people had been killed onnthe previous night. How about that?nThis,” he thinks, “will take some walkingnaway from.” Walking away from ornforgetting as soon as possible is fornStone’s principal characters the usualnanswer to immoral and criminal behavior.nA world without right provides nongrounds for commitment or remorse.nOf course the reverence for the sociopathnStone mentions is not felt by Americannsociety as a whole; it is a perversity ofnliberal sentimentality. Most people recognizenthat without discipline man facesnIOBM^B^B^B^nChronicles of Culturendespair. Indeed, in a way he did not intend,nthis is exactly what Stone’s novelsndemonstrate. To make the sociopath—nthe moral wanderer—the center of consciousnessnin novels that explore thenunderside of life is inevitably to establishnloneliness, rootlessness and moral insensitivitynas a kind of norm. Stone, althoughnobviously a talented writer,nbegins with questionable and sometimesnplainly erroneous assumptions—assumptionsnthat result from being overwhelmednby the alleged revolution of then60’s and early 70’s. Consequently, despitenhis display of writing skill, there is anfalse and alarming distortion in his artisticnvision. Richard Poirier detects somethingnof this sort when he points out innthe conclusion of his review of A Flag fornSunrise that the American imperialismnStone attacks is matched by a novelisticnimperialism: “I mean that desire for thenglamour of ruin that can be articulatednonly by first discrediting and then disposingnof whatever might challenge it,nincluding a clear head.” This kind of imperialism,nsuggests Poirier, may be asnreprehensible as any other kind.nStone’s novelistic imperialism derivesnfrom the paranoia characteristic of then60’s counterculture. This paranoia is apparentnin each of his novels. Political officials,npolice, the military, the FBI andnQA, big business, evangelical religion,nwealthy ulttaconservatives—all are predictably,nuniformly and usually grotesquelynportrayed as hypocritical, morallyndegenerate and vicious. AlthoughnStone is at a loss to locate a source of goodnin the world, he seems confident that henknows the source of evil.nIhe focal point of A Flag for Sunrise isna revolution in the fictional CentralnnnAmerican country of Tecan, which Stonenhas said is representative “of all thosenplaces in the world, particularly in LatinnAmerica, that are beset by the Americannpresence and that are ill^governed. Innanother way, it is the world.” Threenseparate sets of characters are treatednalternatingly until they converge innTecan on the eve of the revolution. Onenset is situated in Tecan from the beginning.nA priest and his assistant, a nursingnnun, are lingering at a Catholic missionnthat is intended to be closed and convertednby a large American fruit and vegetablencompany into a resort. Both lacknfaith and are foul-mouthed. The priest isnan alcoholic whose religious faith hasnlapsed into a peculiar mysticalnpessimism. “Satan,” he says, “is the waynthings are.”nStone, reared a Catholic, lost his faithnat 17. His experience with LSD awakenedna religious sense: “Even thoughndmg mysticism is a vulgarization of thenreal thing, I think it made me come tonterms with my own religious impulses.nThere is some sort of religious impulse innevery novel I’ve written.” There is a questionnabout what he means by religious.nThe only religious impulse discernable innhis fiction is a vague recognition thatnreality is more mysterious than it first appears,na kind of post-acid awareness thatnwhat we consider reality is brittle. Certainlynthere is no impulse resemblingnChristian discipline.nThe nun passes for an admirable character;nindeed, she is the martyr of thennovel. After six years in Tecan, she is feelingnlonely and empty. She does not believenin the Church, and she fightsnagainst praying to a God who permitsnpoverty and injustice. She thinks hernwork has failed because what she shouldn