dike’s African novel. But bad ideas haventurned into great novels. In subjectnmatter and treatment The Coup parallelsnEvelyn Waugh’s African novels,nBlack Mischief And Scoop. Waugh evenndisplays less knowledge of the regionnthan Updike and seems more preoccupiednwith home subjects—EmperornSeth’s “Oxford progressive” side is hisnmost ludicrous —yet his African novelsnare masterpieces.nWaugh’s satire has the great advantagenof being funny. A sample of Updike’sncomes early in the novel whennCol. Ellellou travels to Kush’s bordernwith capitalist Sahel to investigate anlooming “pyramid of crates, sacks, andnbarbarically trademarked boxes. USAnUSA USA, they said, and Kix TrixnChex Pops . . . there seemed to be barrelsnof potato chips. Of how this mountainnof fetchingly packaged pap hadnmaterialized in the desolate aftouh ofnEfu there appeared little trace…”nAn American diplomat, Donald X.nGibbs, explains to Ellellou (who is incognito):n”This isn’t refuse, pal—it’snmanna. Donated to your stricken areanby the generosity of the American governmentnand the American people . . .nI’ve been sitting out here in the undersidenof nowhere frying my ass off forntwo weeks trying to contact somebodynin authority …n”These cats are starving. The wholenworld knows it, you can see ’em starvenon the six o’clock news every night. ThenAmerican people want to help. We knownthis country’s socialist and xenophobic,nwe know Ellellofl’s a schizoid paranoid;nwe don’t give a f—.”nBut the people of Kush reject thencapitalists’ gift and set fire to the pyramidnof foodstuffs. “We were surprised,nhow silently he died,” Ellellou writesnof Gibbs. Then comes the nuance: “Ornwere his cries merely drowned withinnthe roar of the ballooning tent of flamenthat engulfed the treasure heap hisnwrithing figure for a final minute ornamentednlike a dark star.””nGibbs dies, but the satire goes on.nUnder Secretary of State “Klipspringer”nis the next American to arrive in Kush.nApparently in Updike’s view everyonenconnected with the State Departmentnspeaks the same hackneyed lingo; saysnKlipspringer to Hlellou’s right-handnman:n”All you need here is a little developmentalninput, some dams in the wadisnand some extensive replanting withnhigh-energy pampas grass the guys innthe green revolution have come up with.nYou have a beautiful country here, basically,nand we’re prepared to make ansizeable commitment to its future. Yountell the man we’re very sensitive to thenecological end of things, not to worry.nThey were worried in Alaska and nownthey’ve stopped worrying. The caribou’vennever been better off. Miraclesnare an everyday for our boys.”nAt this conversation Ellellou is notnpresent (although the novel is supposedlynhis memoir), but he does get to listennto one of the novel’s other moronicnhonkies, Mr. Cunningham, the fathernof Candy, Ellellofi’s girlfriend at McCarthynand second-wife-to-be. Mr. Cunningham’snbigotry is directed exclusivelynagainst American blacks:n”Christ, they won’t take the jobs therenare, they’d rather rake in welfare. Yourn(and probably true) cliche of WorldnWar II movie vintage—if not earlier—nis put on exhibit as his own brainstormn(the wild bore shares again). Updike’snportraits of the American male are satiricaln—satire of a very low order. The twonqualities essential to good satire —nhumor and exactness of observation—nare replaced by a predictable kind ofncleverness, if it is clever to give seniorndiplomats of the Nixon administrationnnames which begin with “K” and endnwith “inger.” A weird obsession withnthe Nixon administration runs throughnthe novel (even the Africans are afflicted)nas it runs through so much badnrecent fiction, the most recent and egregiousnexample being Joseph Heller’snGood as Gold.nOf all bores, the least tolerable arenthose who believe they are funny; innhis “confessions,” however, Updike isnhardest on those who see every conversationnas “an immense sieve full of holesncrying to be plugged with a sentencenbeginning, ‘In the town where I grewnup.’ ” As it happens, the autobiographicalnstories that are Updike’s finest workncould almost all begin, “In the townnwhere I grew up.” These are the storiesnabout ShiUington, Pennsylvania, wheren”L’lxlike t.ikes on the world with the fervor of an Old Testament prophet;nthe result is ;in astonishing tale -strong, fiiniiy. angry, sly. clear eyed -thatngoc-s right to the heart of the human condition.”n— Publisher’s Weeklyn””‘I’heri’ is not .1 .si’ntetice in this hook ! will not gladiv read again tor instructionnand delight.”n— INVM’ York Review of Booksnaverage Chicago jigaboo, he’s too smartnto dirty his own paws; if he can’t pimpnor hustle drugs, or land some desk jobnwith dingbat Daley, he’ll just get hisnwoman pregnaint and watch the cashnroll in.”nOddly, after several pages of Mr.nCunningham’s bigoted ranting, Updikenremarks on his “quirky bravado” andn”desperate wish to be liked.” Thatn”Americans wish to be liked” is an insightnUpdike never wearies of. This oldnnnUpdike was born in 1932; and aboutnearly marriage in New York, unhappynmarriage around Boston, and a writer’snlife all over. They have been collectednas The Olinger Stories, Too Far To Go:nThe Maples Stories, and—by far hisnmost charming fictional wovk—Bech:nA Book.nIn a number of ways The Coup isnalso deserving of appreciation—as anvocabulary manual, as a virtuoso performance,nas a hardcover book—butnmmmmmmmmmm7nChronicles of Colturcn