attempt to restore it against all odds, orntolerate the new monarchs — Presidents,nwe call them — as long as theynprotect our children and our propertynfrom the worst ravages of the Americannupper class? It is a question that Tacitusnasked, and one illumined not so muchnby modern bibliography as by the silentnpondering of our unquiet hearts.nE. Christian Kopff teaches Greek andnLatin at the University of Colorado atnBoulder.nDumb, Dumber,nDumbestnby Gregory J. SullivannBAD: Or, the Dumbingnof Americanby Paul FussellnNew York: Summit Books;n201 pp., $19.00nThere are two—equally indispensable—nPaul Fussells: one is thenerudite professor of English (at thenUniversity of Pennsylvania) who is thenauthor of such brilliant studies as ThenGreat War and Modern Memory; thenother is the scalding critic of Americannpretension who writes such astutenbooks aS’Class: A Guide Through thenAmerican Status System. Either one isnworthy of our closest attention, and itnhappens that the latter is on display innthis latest work, which is an alphabetizednsearch-and-destroy mission overnthe vulgar terrain of American culturenand mores.nBAD — as distinguished from merelynbad, which has always been withnus — is a (late) 20th-century phenomenon.n”To achieve real BAD,” writesnMr. Fussell, “you have to have thenwidest possible gap between what isnsaid about a thing and what the thingnactually is, as experienced by bright,ndisinterested, and modest people.”nNeedless to say, America offers a cornucopianof possibilities to illustrate thisntheme, and Mr. Fussell covers the mostnegregious available.nTo be sure, the targets of Mr.nFussell’s vituperation are not new, butnhis wit and aesthetic perspicacity arenrare indeed. For example, in his analysisnof BAD architecture, he says, “Architecture,nthe most visible and unignorablenhuman performance, is thenplace where people most publicly deriventheir understanding of themselves,nand contemporary Americans havengreat trouble achieving that frank, unshowynSwiftian simplicity. . . . Straightnlines, inevitable in the steel, aluminum,nand glass boxes which now pass fornbuildings, are death to the imagination.”nMr. Fussell has clearly hit thenmark:nEquality is one of the ideasnglorified by the new architecture,nand that might be angood thing, but this equality isnthe equality of ignorance, ancelebration of the assumptionnthat no one has sufficientnexperience or learning to enjoynthe allusive exercise required byntraditional architectural detailsnlike balustrades, crockets, finials,nmetopes, or triglyphs. Thencurrent architecture implicitlynpatronizes its users andnaudiences.nBAD has worked its way into virtuallynall the interstices of American life: thenatrocious condition of deregulated airlines,nengineering that is designed sonpoorly that it benefits only plaintiffs’nlawyers when it inevitably collapses,nand, of course, language. The flightnfrom simplicity and clarity in the use ofnlanguage is a manifestation of classnanxiety. Mr. Fussell observes, “Pretentiousnessnand euphemism are . . . thenstigmata of verbal BAD”: thus, rainnbecomes “shower activity,” a pen becomesna “writing instrument.” Curiously,nhowever, Mr. Fussell neglects tonmention the wretched jargon that emanatesnfrom the academy. This omissionnis something of a surprise, for Mr.nFussell is one of the few academiciansnstill writing in English, and surely henmust take offense at the work of hisncolleagues.nIn his penultimate chapter, “ThenDumbing of America,” Mr. Fussell seesndumbness rampant, reaching even intonthe professions. “[I]t’s now no surprise,”nhe notes, “to hear a partner in a lawnfirm complain that the products of evennthe best law schools he interviews can’tnspeak or write articulately, let aloneneloquently — these are young peoplennnunable in today’s TV and visual atmospherento perceive that the law is aboutnlittle more than language precisely construednand effectively deployed.” Innfact, to read a legal brief or trial manuscriptnoften means enduring a deluge ofnmalapropisms, bungled cliches, andnpure vapor.nMr. Fussell attributes a large part ofnour dumbing to television and “thencollapse of the public secondarynschool.” (“When was a truant officernlast seen?” he wonders.) Moreover,nmuch more is at stake — as manynthoughtful people intuit — than thenmere decline in American economicnlife. “Even admitting some disagreementnabout the precise reasons, onenthing is clear: a minor cost of thendumbing is the transfer of Americanneconomic power to Japan. A major costnis the wiping-out of the amenity andnnuance and complexity and charm thatnmakes a country worth living in.”nMr. Fussell’s assault on AmericannBAD is broad, but it is slightly disappointingnthat he spends so much time.nA C H R I S T I A N V I S I O N BOOKnMAN AND MARXISMnReligion and the Communist RetreatnpiscountsfornclassToonvMS^vn178 pagesnVisa / MC / Discovern1-800-437-2268nFor discount informationnFREE SHIPPING (517)439-1528n$19.95 hardbound ext. 2319.’n$9.95 paperboundnHILLSDALEnL.OLLEGEnFEBRUARY 1992/31n