the 1930’s. Their forebodings becamenreahty during the 1970’s, when it becamenevident that the social welfarenside of the Federal budget was out ofncontrol and that the welfare systemnhad created a large dependent andnalienated underclass.nBut Curtis was more than a naysayernto the welfare state. According to hisnmemoirs, he is the father of perhapsnthe most important and constructivenamendment to the welfare systemnsince World War II—the individualnretirement account: Curtis was responsiblenfor a provision in 1973 pensionnlegislation allowing the selfemployednto establish tax-deductiblenindividual retirement accounts up ton$1,500 per year. In the EconomicnRecovery Tax Act of 1981, the programnwas enlarged to cover employeesnwho were also covered by pensionnprograms, and the amount of savings anparticipant could contribute was increasednto $2,000. This money buysnstocks, bonds, bank certificates of deposits,nsecurities issued by the TreasurynDepartment, and other investments.nIRA’s currently total $170 billion.nNew restrictions on IRA deductionsnincluded in the 1986 tax reform willnprobably make IRA’s less attractive fornsome; yet for millions they still providena conservative alternahve to the SocialnSecurity system. IRA’s allow for freedomnof investment choice, do notnrequire a bloated Federal bureaucracy,nprovide needed capital for the privatensector, lessen the need to increasenSocial Security taxes, and encouragenindividuals to take responsibility forntheir own welfare. But despite thensuccess of the IRA’s, Curtis andnFor Immediate ServicenChroniclesnNEW SUBSCRIBERSnTOLL FREE NUMBERn1-800-435-0715n26 / CHRONICLESnILLINOIS RESIDENTSn1-800-892-0753nCourtemanche remain pessimistic regardingnthe future of the country.nThey warn that the welfare state “aspiresnto be all in all; either it grows intonLeviathan, the totalist state, or else thenmonstrous creation collapses under itsnown weight.” The country may neednmore than innovative retirement programsnto secure its future.nEdward S. Shapiro is professor of historynat Seton Hall University.nPeri Bathousnby Brendan GahinnPoison Pen: or, Live Now and PaynLater by George Garrett, Winston-nSalem, NC: Stuart Wright Publishersn(distributed by Small Press Distributors,n1814 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley,nCA); $20.00.nFrom front cover to back, the totaln”package” of George Garrett’s newnnovel. Poison Pen, is a shuck and ancon. No fictional work in recent memorynis so elaborate a satire, and a readernwould have to go back to the 18thcenturynAugustans to find its equal. Tonbegin with, the jacket’s slick blacknstock and white lettering recall thencover of William L. Shirer’s The Risenand Fall of the Third Reich. Readersnmay make what they can of that beforenturning to the blurbs on the jacket’snback, endorsements by such worthiesnas the Bash Brothers (Dick and Bob),nthe pornographer Henry Sutton (whoninvokes comparisons with Lucilius,nPersius, Juvenal, Galba, and GaiusnCarbo), somebody named Sean Siobhan,nand somebody else named MurraynWestinghouse, who drags in Wittgensteinnand Chung Tzu (“Howndelightful to be able to talk with a mannwho has forgotten the words!”). Evennthe New York Times seems to havengotten into the act: Poison Pen wasnrecently reviewed there by one “HarveynPekar,” the author of a series ofnadult comic books.nBut we haven’t yet cracked the spinenof the novel, there to discover thatneven the ungrammatical liner notesnare a send-up of language fallen onnevil days, and the photo of authornGarrett in mortarboard and academicnrobe, leaning on a poster of ChristiennnBrinkley, seems to be making a mockerynof the fact that Princeton Universitynfinally awarded him the Ph.D. inn1985. Inside, the frontispiece drawingnby Jonathan Bumas is of Garrett innType A loincloth, posing as St. Jeromenor Androcles or Daniel perhaps, sincenthere’s a lion with him. Still othernillustrations dispersed through the textnpurport to depict Garrett’s antihero,nJohn Towne, in such acts as contemplatingnthe bust of Al Capone. OK sonfar, except that Towne looks suspiciouslynlike the bright young novelistnMadison Smartt Bell, and aren’t allnthese illustrations rip-offs of Art Historyn101?nNothing in Garrett’s previous oeuvrenprepares us for the hellzapoppin’ ofnPoison Pen. Neither his two highlynregarded historical novels, Death ofnthe Fox and The Succession, whichnestablished him as an authority onnElizabethan England, nor his numerousncollections of poetry and shortnstories, nor his essays on everythingnfrom the New South to WASP Jokesnprefigure this epistolary grab bag ofnmemos, transcriptions from tapes, lettersnto Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson,nCheryl Tiegs, Mrs. DeLorean,nTed Kennedy, Christie Brinkley,nBrooke Shields, and other luminaries.nThen there are the authorial instrusions,nlists, denials from the publishernand from the author himself, younname it. In its form. Poison Pen takesnpotshots at the new “metafiction” ofnwriters like John Barth and RobertnCoover, and is as zany as Flann O’­nBrien’s At Swim-Two-Birds.nBriefly, it goes like this: The academicnpicaro John Towne, a characternin George Garrett’s unpublished novelnLife with Kim Novak is Hell, hasnescaped and is writing the letters andnother unclassifiable stuff mentionednabove. Towne is also the black preachernRadio P. King, hiding out in Britain,nand Dr. Wisdom, the author of anporno magazine’s advice column.nTowne’s notes are being edited by anothernGarrett character, Lee Holmes,na ne’er-do-well academic who hopes tonget tenure by making sense of Towne’snunpublished novel manuscript.nRealms of Gold, whose protagonist isnR.C. Alger, a descendant of HorationAlger who is also writing a novel to bencalled America, the Beautiful?: FromnPioneers to Pansies. Are you with me.n