It’s always with pleasure that we come upon a volume by Saul Bellow, for he is a writer with talent and, more importantly, vision, a man who can meld the quotidian and the profound into a unified, intellectually compelling narrative. With the case of Him With His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories (Harper & Row; New York), that pleasure is not unalloyed. As a doyen of American literature, Bellow, we should think, would engage prodigious effort on behalf of what is becoming the increasingly ramshackle House of Letters, would, through his writing, work toward shoring up the foundation of the late-20th­ century American postmodern addition. Or, to state it more plainly, that he would write a novel. Instead, Bellow has produced a collection of five stories, four of which, essentially, are merely recycled from the pages of periodicals. This is not to say that they are not well-turned pieces, for they are clearly crafted, but they are pieces when we need walls.  cc

Two Cultures

Claiming that the modern liberal culture in America is undergoing the process of sovietization may seem to some hysterical, to others the ultimate in mauvais ton. However, what do we call these practices, so closely associated with the official Soviet culture, of erasing politically discredited personages from historiography, photographs, and films? We call it a totalitarian method of falsifying history and reality, an absolutist attempt to suppress truth and superimpose lies for ideological profit, a manifestation of tyrannical contempt for fundamental fairness in public matters. If, in the name of dogma, people and ideas are sentenced to nonbeing and are eradicated from objective existence by censors lacking even a shred of moral incertitude, the democratic conscience falls prey to quasi-fascist or quasi-communist cultural politics. Equity and objectivity still seem to be perceived as virtues in our cultural universe; most of us still tend to believe that differences of opinion form social values and that it would be inconceivable for the modern American liberal to take away voting rights from those who wish to vote Republican. But, oddly enough, the modern American liberal, especially in the Manhattan publishing industry, seems to feel not a modicum of hesitation when obliterating or obscuring the cultural merits of nonliberals.

Harper & Row, distinguished Manhattan publishers, recently put on the market 800-odd pages of something entitled 20th Century Culture and subtitled A Biographical Companion. It contains some 2,000 names of people who-according to the editors-defined and shaped the 20th century through their works and ideas. ·n1e entries were prepared by 300 experts and scholars, almost all of them British, which, naturally, makes them introduce every British pharmacologist as a pylon of culture. The whole was edited by Alan Bullock, former vice• chancellor of Oxford University, and R. B. Woodings, another prominent Oxonian. And it is here where the trouble, or malaise, begins.

On the surface, a sort of detached objectivity in viewing people from Lenin and Einstein to Koyre (a French philosopher) and the Rolling Stones seems to prevail. But a closer look reveals more. The leadership of Lord Bullock, a respected scholar known for his saliently left-of-center sympathies, has acquired peculiar dimensions. Not that all the vocal critics of the modern liberal mind and ethos are not there: some sure are — Orwell, Koestler, Faulkner, C. S. Lewis, Waugh, Santayana, Mencken, etc. — but they’re there ensconced in the glory of their paramount achievements sealed forever by death. Many whose accomplishments are of enormous influence, but too openly against what Lord Bullock would prefer-for instance, Leo Strauss in philosophy, Richard Weaver in history of culture-arc not, though the Companion is brimming with their contemporary detractors of liberal faith. Things are getting much worse when we come to literature. ·where such likes as Mailer, Baldwin, even Borroughs, abound there’s no room for O’Hara, Cozzens, or Wouk. And things are getting really obnoxious when we try to examine the lists of thinkers and contributors to the contemporary affairs. The entire scope of nonliberal American philosophers, historians, and scholars in the humanities with a record of direct impact on thinking in modem America — Robert Nisbet, Irving Kristol, Russell Kirk, Whittaker Chambers, Robert Nozick, Eric Voegelin, Jacques Barzun, to mention a few — simply do not exist for Lord Bullock. He lists Ms. Kate Millett, attributing “scientific” value to her work, but refuses, of course, to mention Professors Moynihan, Glaezer, Wilson, or Banfield, or God forbid, Phyllis Schlafly, someone who routed ideologically and socially Ms. Millet’s ideas and influence. Lord Bullock’s partisanship (sectarianism?) seems to take even more cruel forms when treating his own compatriots: neither Muggeridge, Kingsley Amis, nor Paul Johnson exist in his summary, nor do representatives of the group of scholars and writers associated with Encounter magazine, perhaps the most brilliant intellectual congregation in contemporary England, among whom Lord Bullock could have easily found some of his colleagues from his alma mater, people of no less respectable credentials than his own.

The Western world is divided, in our time, into two cultures: the liberal culture and the culture of those who question some of the liberal values, their validity, utility, and application to the ills of our epoch. One of those cultures is hegemonic and-of late-quite brutal in exercising the principles and privileges of its domination. As it monopolizes the sources of information on almost every intellectual, popular, and educative level, not all of those who wish to know, actually, know much about the existence of the other culture. Lord Bullock once again has made deft use of this arrangement: his contribution to the uniformity of what should be known according to the liberal orthodoxy is prodigious.    cc