beautiful ears, “enormous innocentnears,” says Seymour-Smith: “Thenwinglike ears add to his delicacy, andnmust have excited women and othersnwho could love men.” Wolcott thenndied, and Kipling married his unattractivensister because she knew his guiltynsecret. And that would have been that,nexcept that Kipling was also a geniusnpossessed by a daimon that kept thenflame of liberal and humane truth alivenin him whether he liked it or not, andndrew impeccably truthful, liberal, andnproto-modernist work out of him muchnas a fine pianist might speak through anBosendorfer.nWhen Edmund Wilson, a socialistnwho loathed England and the middlenclasses about equally, said that Dickensnwas a divided personality driven bynunacknowledged fantasies of rage andndespair, this proposition, however fantastic,nwas at least original and had somenshock value. By now it is a clichenapplicable to anyone. Seymour-Smithndoes his best in a combative foreword tonthis first American edition of his book tonpresent himself as an homme serieux,nshocker of prudes, neoimperialists,nISnTHE ROCKFORD INSTITUTEnIN YOUR WILL?nPerhaps a better question is:nDo you have a current will?nIf not, the laws of your particularnstate will determine what is to bendone with your estate upon yourndeath. What’s more, federal estatentaxes, unless there is proper planning,ncan claim up to 55% ofnyour property. If you would likento discuss elements of your estatenplanning, please write or call;nMICHAEL WARDERnLEGACY PROGRAMnTHE ROCKFORD INSTITUTEn934 N. MAIN STREETnROCKFORD, IL 61103n(815) 964-5811n40/CHRONICLESnKiplingites, conservatives, and “thentabloid-minded,” but he has written andull book in banal, clumsy English: notnso much a life of Kipling as a muddledncontribution to a running argumentnthat has been going on far too longnback there in the twilight empire. AnnAmerican reader simply does not knownwhat Seymour-Smith is talking aboutnwhen he says that Kipling’s politicsnwere hooliganism, or that “Imperialism,nof all the political crazes that havenarisen in the past century and a half, isnthe most nakedly egocentric and subjective.”nOn the face of it, those remarks—nand others like them — don’tnmake much sense. One longs for factsnand explanahons. As for Kipling’s latentnhomosexuality, it is the book’snKing Charles’ head, always turning upnin its predictable, arbitrary way. Givennthe pop-psychology of our times, Kipling—nunhandy, pudgy, unathletic,nshortsighted, and certainly no beautyn— is a sitting duck for this kind ofnhypothesizing, but no evidence isnprovided for it. In fact this whole booknis written on a bibliography of 13nitems, and there are no references —nnot even when the author tells us thatnWinston Churchill slept with the Englishnfilm star and musical comedyncomposer Ivor Novello (composer ofn”Keep the Home Fires Burning”), andnfound it a musical experience.nFor whom then is the book written?nOn the evidence of its content it is fornreaders who have little grasp of thenprinciples of evidence, proof, and judgment,nand who are uninterested inndetail and reality. They know very littlenabout the literature, art, and music ofnKipling’s time. They are suspicious ofnauthority. They distrust anything conservative,nand although they can affordn$23 for this book, they take it forngranted that the working classes are thennatural superiors of the middles andnthe uppers. They have a taste fornagnostic but dafiy aphorisms, e.g.,n”Achievement rarely stems, initially,nfrom virtue; it usually stems fromnvice,” or “A person with a sense ofnduty, however narrow and hateful thatnsense may be, is sometimes preferablento one without one.” They enjoy seeingnT.S. Eliot called a right-wing extremist,nand they get a little thrill out ofnhearing the old pre-1914 British armyncalled “mercenary” instead of “professional.”nIn other words, they are thor­nnnoughly conventional in a way Kiplingnwas not. It is unlikely that they will gonon to read Kipling himself, but theynwould probably enjoy seeing this booknturned into a series for public televisionnor made the subject of an interview bynBill Moyers. And perhaps that is whatnthe publisher is counting on.nF.W. Brownlow is a professor ofnEnglish at Mount Holyoke innMassachusetts.nGood Books ThatnSell Goodnby David R. SlavittnHollywoodnhy Gore VidalnNew York: Random House;n437 pp., $19.95nGore Vidal’s “American chronicle”nis a roman fleuve that looks beyondnPowell’s The Music of Time tonRoger Martin du Card’s Les Thibaultsnseries of the 1920’s and 30’s, and whatnit demonstrates is that our assumptionsnabout popular culture are incomplete,nif not actually wrong. The notion thatncommercial success varies inverselynwith quality may smack of smartnessnand cynicism, but how else can wenaccount for what we see even in ancursory glance at the best-seller lists?nWeek after week, the message is clearnthat universal literacy may not, after all,nhave been such a good idea.nThere are occasional exceptions,nodd and quirky careers of good writersnwho beat the odds (and set up all thoseninnocents in writing programs for anlifetime of heartbreak). It isn’t allnDanielle Steel and Robin Cook andnRobert Ludlum, after all. John Updikenmakes a good living; Saul Bellow andnIsaac Singer prove that, with a littlenhelp from the Swedes, one can commandna certain degree of attention;nUmberto Eco has shown us that, if thenstars are in the right conjunctions, onencan even force-feed a fair amount ofnuntranslated Latin down the gaggingnthroats of the book-buying public. Butnthe canny publishers prefer the probabilitiesnand go with what works: thentried and true falsities and tripe ofnStephen King and Sidney Sheldon.n