It was fast, easy reading; the dialoguenwas realistic but not coarse, it containednhumor and built toward an agonizingnclimax in the form of a court-martialnfor the mutineers. At the very end ofnthe novel the author turned the tables,nin a nearly O. Henry manner, by havingna genuinely mature officer tell the youthfulnmutineers what they—and their liken—had been unable to see: that the pressuresnof war break men in diverse waysn—both psychic and physical.nIt was neatly done. Wouk managed tonlure both readers and critics down thengarden path, for in 1951 it was a literarynfashion—since expanded into obsessionn—to see in the fighting men of thenUnited States incipient or actual fascists,ncryptohomosexuals and/or buffoons.nSarcasm and disillusion come into voguenin postwar periods, but the intellectualsnof the United States astonished thenworld by the eagerness with which theynclutched such caricatures, and callednthem portraits. Mailer’s homosexualnmajor-general and Irwin Shaw’s opportunistsnin uniform were accepted withnstrange raptures while James Jones’nlowly but virile peacetime soldiers werendismissed.nSince most of The Caine Mutinynseemed to fit the denigrator’s mold,nWouk was widely applauded. His novel,nmeanwhile, made publishing history.nCondensed by the Reader’s Digest andntapped by the Literary Book Club, itnreceived a Pulitzer, was translated intona dozen languages and sold over threenmillion copies. Hollywood producednits version, in which Bogart made anmemorable Queeg, and Wouk wrote anspin-off called The Caine Mutiny Court-nMartial. Henry Fonda, Lloyd Nolan andnJohn Hodiak all appeared in the play,nto rapt audiences. Over and beyond allnthis, Wouk had created a fictional characternwho entered the world’s dictionarynof memorable stereotypes; an achievementnof high art that can be neithernplanned nor forgotten. That was anwreath fate seldom bestows.nSome might have retired after suchntriumphs, but Wouk has remained dili­n121nChronicler of Culturengent. In 1955 he produced MarjorienMorningstar, which was held aloft bynthe Book-of-the-Month Club and thenever-admiring Reader’s Digest condensators;nin 1962 he wrote a very seriousnbut unexpectedly popular work titlednThis Is My God, on Judaism. Again, anBook-of-the-Month Club choice. So wasnDon’t Stop the Carnival, which appearednin 1965. Novels, such as MarjorienMorningstar and Youngblood Hawkennot only achieved huge sales, but werenalso made into movies. Meanwhile, thenincredibly successful author also wrotenNature’s Way, a comedy for the stage,nand a pocket book called the LokomokenPapers, and collaborated on a movienscript (Hurricane) with Richard MurphynSlattery.nThese triumphs, however, began tonhave the effect of successive artillerynsalvoes. Astonishing and impressivenat first, they began to deafen and finallynto bore intellectuals. It was clear, asntime passed, that Wouk could not bencoaxed into becoming an issues-clown,nlike Mailer, nor a dejected semi-outcastnlike James Jones, nor would he fadenaway, diminuendo, like Irwin Shaw.nHis religiosity, his literature classesnat Yeshiva University, his ability tonmake a routine of success; his stubbornninsistence on chronology, plot and normal,nrecognizable characters and situationsnhave made him, in the eyes of TomnWolfe’s radical chic, nearly invisible.niJut the public buys Wouk’s booksnby the millions. When The Winds ofnW^ar appeared in 1971, copies vanishednfrom bookstore stacks and the titlenstuck to the best-seller lists for manynweeks. Last year the second book on thenevents leading toward and containednin World War II appeared. War and Remembrancenis still, at this writing, sellingnin large numbers. The duo reallyncomprise one immense work whichncarry the same fictional charactersnthrough real events for over 2,000nprinted pages. Crafted with the author’sncustomary and renowned skill, they arencarefully plotted and contain fascinatingnnndescriptions and lucid assessments ofnthe world, the war and its people. JButnfor the first time the reader can discernnthe lineaments of the author, and thennature of his close ties with millionsnwhich his prodigious storytelling abilitynhad formerly masked.nThis is mainly possible because ofnthe changes that have taken place innAmerican fiction in the years sincenWouk first began to write professionally.nFiction, in these years, has precipitatelyndeclined. One of the major, if not thenmain reason for this decline has been thenrise of new taboos, as fierce and forbidding,nas ominous in their sanctions,nas any of their predecessors. Becausenthese taboos are new, and rose whilenolder taboos were falling, they are notnas openly admitted, nor violated as oftennin secret, as the older ones against explicitndescriptions of sex, or of impudencentoward authority figures suchnas clergymen and soldiers, judges, presidentsnand the like. The new taboosstillnso fearsome their very existence isndenied—forbid the modern writer fromndescribing the real world, and insistnupon portrayals that are actually liberalnfantasies; distortions of persons, classesnand principles. Serious literature has,nin consequence, been eroded almostnbeyond recognition by propagandists,nby political fanatics, by perverts promotingntheir vices, by persons projectingnhatred of the human race, by campaignsnagainst traditional religion and traditionalnsymbols, and by actual agents ofnanarchy, terror and totalitarianism.nPopular writing is menaced by thesenpressures, and is not what it was. Thenattitudes and judgments it projects innits selection of heroes and villains, andnin its turn of plots and situations, reflectnthe new values. Sexual explicitness,nstill relatively new, diverts the attentionnof readers and masks a new cant byncoating it with venery. Amid tides ofnobsessive politics, the popular writernis more severely constricted by powerfulngroups inside the publishing “industry”nthan ever before. Fiction being publishednby the major New York houses nown