home; an Irish-Choctaw-Scotch-Mexicannfiverboat captain. Old Glory isnat its best when Raban just lets some ofnthese people talk. Here is a group of cardplayersnat Erjie’s Bar and Cafe in Lockport,nLouisiana. Raban asked about anplace to stay:n’Hey,’ called a fat man from his barnstool. ‘You want a place, I can shownyou a place. Out there in the bayous.n. . .’He swiveled around. ‘Knownwhat’s there? A cave. A cave full ofnfroomids. You know what a froomidnis?’n’No.’n’He’s shooting his mouth off. Keepnquiet, Louis.’n’Froomids is . . . paradise. They is . ..nmen and women all mixed up together.n[Some anatomical descriptionnfollows.] That’s froomids. They’ll eatnyou alive. But with the froomids, it’snlike heaven, know what I mean?’n’Hermaphrodites,’ I said.n’Froomids!’ he said. ‘Listen to whatnI’m saying to you!’nspare the Soap, Save the ChildnThe New York Times has brcaiiile.vslynbrought to light the findings of ChaytornD. Mason, associate professor ot humannfactors-psychology at the Univer-iiiy of”nSouthern California, Los Anm-le.>.. to thenfrustrated preschool set. Reports Prof.nMason:nInsomesituations, say, when th(i.tiililnis fixing his wagon and hits hi”, ihiimh.nhe could either hammer the tt3).’on lonpieces or swear to release thi- icii.sion.nSwearing can restore physicil lahii tonthe body and give a feeling oi loiutnl.nHad we been granted this revelation innLIBERAL CULTUREn’Louis Beauregard,’ said the mannnext to me, ‘after you come here, thisnplace done go to the dogs.’nLouis Beauregard glittered contentedly.n’Well . . . all you got to donis: barbecue them dogs.’nRaban can listen, and if he’d stuck tondescribing the river and playing straightnman to Cajuns, I’d be more enthusiasticnabout it.nYou’d think that trying to prove annexplicit thesis would pretty much sour antravel book, but in ne Nine Nations ofnNorth America]oel Garreau doesn’t letnit. He states the thesis forthrightly onnpage one:nConsider . . . the way North Americanreally works. It is Nine Nations. Eachnhas its capital and its distinctive webnof power and influence. A few arenallies, but many are adversaries.nSeveral have readily acknowledgednnational poets, and many have characteristicndialects and mannerisms.nSome are close to being raw frontlets;nothers have four centuries of history.nEach has a peculiar economy; eachncommands a certain emotional alle-nrlie CiO’s. we would, of loursi-, h;ivenlooked ar the, siy. infantile Mario S;ivionand Ills j.<;>.o(.iares in a quite differciunway. They obviously weren’t radital,nrevolutionary or even foul-moiirhed.Ju-itnrcnse.nnnglance from its citizens. . . . Each nationnhas its own list of desires. . . .nMost important, each nation has andistinct prism thiough which it viewsnthe world.nRight or wrong, Garreau’s frameworknserves him well. He means to say somenimportant things about what is happeningnto America, but he believes that tonput the question that way is misleading:ndifferent things are happening to differentnparts of America. If you look atnEcotopia—well, maybe Charles Reichnwas right. But The Foundry isn’t beingngreened, and its problems are completelyndifferent from those oi Dixie, which differsnin turn from the dry but resource-richnEmpty Quarter (named after the original,nin Saudi Arabia). The “UnitednStates” (after reading Garreau, you wantnto put it in quotes) is being nibbled awaynat from the South, and it just doesn’tnmake sense to talk about Miami in isolationnfrom The Islands, which it serves asnunofficial capital, or to treat El Paso apartnftom the rest oiMexAmerica. But that’snnot Minnesota’s problem, and anywaynThe Breadbasket, like New England, isnencroaching on the territory ofn”Canada”—an even worse idea than thenUnited States, as many natives ofnQuebec have been saying for some time.nAll this may sound rather too schematic,nbut there is obviously a grain of truthnhere, if not a whole carload. The incrediblendiversity of our continent has nevernbeen in doubt in some quarters, but innothers (Washington, for instance, wherenGarreau works) it can’t be emphasizedntoo often.nIn general, Garreau seeks out and approvesnof things that make his “nations”ndifferent from one another and scowls atnthose that make them similar. This is notnjust a matter of liking things that supportnhis thesis. Unlike Jonathan Raban, whonwas ready enough to acknowledge thatnthe America he boated through was differentnfrom the one for which he was apparentlynwriting, but usually saw thosendifferences as either quaint or appalhng,nGarreau clearly tends to delight in diversitynper se. (So do I. The appropriatenSeptember 198Sn