same forces exist, and are in fact lessnrestrained, in other branches of the entertainmentnindustry, and in fact in ournwhole culture. This problem cannot benattributed just to the characteristics ofna small clique, as Stein argues.niN evertheless, Stein’s book certainlynprovides food for thought about somenaspects of television, though his attemptnto explain everything on the basis ofnthe characteristics of the writers andnproducers is unconvincing. As we havenVoid Camouflagednby VocabularynJohn Updike: The Coup; Alfred A.nKnopf; New York.nby Whit StillmannJ ohn Updike is a practitioner of whatnmust be the dominant literary form today—thenunfunny comic novel. In thenJanuary 29th issue of New Leader a reviewerndefines this novel as ” ‘antic,’nwhich means that believability is sacrificednin the interest of diversity.n[The novelist] orchestrates his [book]nlike a ringmaster at a three-ring circus,nconstantly sparking the flagging attentionnof his audience with new acts andndaredevil performers. The book is admittedlynentertaining in parts, yet onlynbecause it is so furiously au courant.nThe humor seldom penetrates.”nIn the introduction to his collection.nAssorted Prose, Updike wrote that hisnoriginal literary ambition was to emulatenJames Thurber and the humoristsnof The New Yorker school. During then1950s he did do a series of humor piecesnfor The New Yorker before decidingnnot to follow Thurber’s path. One ofnWhit Stillman, a former publisher ofnAmerican Spectator, free-lances fromnNew York City.n16-M^HMHHHnChronicles of Culturenseen, originality is not one of the strongnpoints of the writers and producers;nthey have to steal many of their ideas,nand then beat them to death. Yet televisionnexhibits an amazing degree ofnparochialism. It rarely strays outsidenthe United States or some limitednstretches of American history. Thensheer badness of television is due partlynto the fact that it is the product of ansmall group. It does not reflect the talents,ninterests, or variety of thenAmerican public. Dnthe best of these, entitled “Confessionsnof a Wild Bore,” is Updike’s first-personnchronicle of a compulsive talker’s exhilaratingninner life.n”Our conversation on the verandanseemed a veritable dance of ideas, counter-thrusts,nand graceful laughter,” Updike’sncharacter says of a party at whichnhe does all the talking. “I was dazzlednto think that here, in this specific housenon the North American continent. Mankind’sntortuous climb toward civilizationnhad at last borne fruit.” He rationalizesnhis compulsive talking as a simplenunwillingness to withhold “from mynfellow-humans the riches of informationnand nuance I knew to be within me.”nNo riches of information or nuancencan have been withheld from readersnof Updike’s most recent novel. ThenCoup. The sharing of nuance has alwaysndistinguished Updike’s writing;nthe generous sharing of informationnhas been characteristic of it, particularlynin recent years. His interest in the lifenof President James Buchanan—theynwere both raised in the same part ofnPennsylvania—became the dull, highlyninformative play, Buchanan Dying. Hisninterest in adultery, oral sex and insincerentheology became A Month of Sundays.nHis interest in North Africa fromnnnreviewing African fiction for The NewnYorker and traveling there on a Fulbrightntour—combined with his interestnin adultery, oral sex and insincere thenology—has become The Coup.nReaders of Updike’s new novel arenlet in on the secrets of the imaginarynsub-Saharan land of Kush and its marxistnstrongman. Colonel Hakim FelixnEllellou. As a follower of Islam, Col.nEllellou is allowed to take four wives,nwhich gives the old adultery theme annentirely new dimension.nThe novel takes the unusual form ofna memoir told in the third person. Col.nEllellou explains that “a soldier’s disciplinednself-effacement, my Cartesiannschooling, and the African’s traditionalnabjuration of ego all constrain this accountnto keep to the third person.”nEllellou’s storytelling centers on thenlast part of his term as ruler of droughtdevastatednKush. He is a dictator onnwheels, or on foot with the PresidentialnMercedes and bodyguard following —nthe Colonel’s conceit is to disguise himselfnas a proletarian and roam amongnhis people. What North African lorenUpdike has picked up in his researchngushes out in fictional travelogue.nWriting in 1959 of Poorhouse Fair,nUpdike’s first novel, a reviewer in thenBritish New Statesman commented:.n”. . . It is too whimsical, it is too muchnof a stunt. It is too earnest an attemptnto get away from the great Americannterror of the Familiar. And if you escapenfrom the Familiar altogether, you removenthose points of reference withoutnwhich no book can be truly serious.”nIn design, The Coup is such an abandonmentnof familiar terrain. But Updike’sninterest in things African andnIslamic seems immediately to waver,nwith Americana, satirically treated,ncropping up everywhere. That Ellellounattended college in the United Statesn(fictional, Midwestern McCarthy College)nbecomes Updike’s pretext for incessantnmetaphorical flights home.nA bad idea, scrupulously executed”nwould be one possible verdict on Up-n