and conscience, of a society losing itsrnfaith both in its gods and in itself.rnThe story is told with words, obviously,rnbut the technique sometimes resemblesrna collage of commercial imagesrnfrom photographs, movies, TV shows.rnOne of the main actors (kept deliberatelyrnoffstage) is Martin Pressy, a spoiledrneffeminate rich kid who only discoveredrnhis metier—that of the highbrowrnpornophotographer—in 1968. Thernbizarre sequence of events ultimatelyrnturns on “Missy Prissy’s” strictly pure andrntwo-dimensional interest in women andrnhis projected volume of nude photographs.rnEven the normal characters are stereotypedrnin celluloid imagery. Billy’s newrngirlfriend is Judy Davis in Barton Fink;rnthe rich black attorney is a “lighterrnskinned version of Danny Glover”; Penrosernhas “Paul Newman eyes”; and therneditor of the local newspaper is a “sawedoffrnversion of Jason Robards.” The allusionsrnare not random: individually theyrnconstitute a set of shorthand referencesrnthat elucidate the character, somewhatrnas Hitchcock liked to cast well-knownrnstars (Gary Grant, Jimmy Stewart) whoserncharacters had been established even beforernappearing in the new film. Gollectively,rnhowever, these pop-culture allusionsrnhint at Garrett’s almost obsessiverninterest in the attrition of Americanrncharacter under the millstones of massrnculture. “For the first time,” says BillyrnTone, “we can see ourselves . . . in therneyes of distant strangers…. We have becomernsmall and ridiculous, like the Lilliputians.rnWe are, from this point ofrnview, here to be managed, manipulated,rnexploited. We’re nothing more than thernpitiful consumers of whatever they wishrnus to consume.”rnThe principal cause of our shrinking isrntelevision, which has displaced reality.rnAs the newspaper editor explains:rnThe sixties, are when it all happened.rnWhen public figures beganrnto get the hang of it, how tornuse it. They could see that in TV,rnimage was far more important thanrn”reality.” That shadow had morernvalue than substance. They couldrnunderstand that it’s all smoke andrnmirrors. What you see is what yournget, and what isn’t there doesn’trnexist. They could see—I’m thinkingrnof Johnson, of the Kennedys,rnhell, everybody in the publicrnlight—that you either control it orrnit controls you. It can make anythingrnhappen. It can turn victoryrninto defeat, vice into virtue, cowardsrninto heroes, and most of all itrnhas no memory at all. Now yournsee it and now you don’t. Yesterday’srnheroes are today’s criminalsrn[e.g., the leader of the Freemen]rnand vice versa.rnThe Kennedys did, however, achieve arnkind of permanence through their martyrdom.rnWhat a blessing, in this age ofrnimages, is an early death. Contrast thernposthumous reputation of JFK with thatrnof more popular recent Presidents whornhad the misfortune to live to a ripe oldrnage, of Elvis with Frank Sinatra, of JohnrnLennon with Paul McGartney. Imaginernhow Bob Dylan would be worshiped, ifrnhe had been killed on his motorcyclernback in 1966?rnAbraham, Martin, and John were thernpop political martyrs celebrated in DionrnDiMucci’s 1968 one-hit comeback songrn(I wished at the time that Dion hadrnstayed on drugs). There is, in fact, nornpop idol more artificial—more “plastic,”rnas we used to say in the 60’s—than “Dr.”rnMartin Luther King, Jr., and Garrett hasrnmade King the pop cultural focal pointrnof his photo-iconography. To figure outrnKing’s character, the “Judy Davis” librarianrnlooks through a series of photographsrnof King and observes that from his habitrnof never smiling, King turned his face intorna mask (i.e., a cultural image, not reality).rnThe really disturbing photograph isrna shot of a warm and smiling King at thernNobel Prize ceremony, revealing—paradoxicallyrn—that he had spent his lifernholding his real self “in check.” In thernend the camera would “eventually swallowrnhim whole and leave only its multitudernof fragmentary images behind.”rnGarrett, while drawing attention tornKing’s falseness—his adulteries andrnplagiarisms—does not see King either asrnevil or even essentially hypocritical. Instead,rnhe prefers to take King’s call for arncolor-blind society at its face value as thernlast chance for the two races to understandrneach other.rnIn the book’s present tense (1994), relationsrnbetween blacks and whites arernsummed up by the hypocrisy of PenrosernWeatherby, getting rich from buildingrnlow-cost homes for blacks. His father isrnmore honest: an old-fashioned bigot whornis open about his prejudices. But there isrnno place for candor in the 1990’s. MartinrnPressy is coming out with a new bookrnof photographs of fat people, with a hilariouslyrnpretentious introduction by hisrnold friend Professor Moses Katz. (“Afterrnthe experience of these photographs thernworld will look different and, perhaps,rnmore wonderful.”) Billy Tone, discoveringrnthe truth about himself, goes off tornmake movies in Hollywood, “a placernwhere everybody wants to be like Fellinirnonly without doing a lick of work orrntaking any chances.”rnAmerica in the 90’s is as real as a Hollywoodrnset or a Disneyworld recreationrnof Medieval Paris, without either the ratsrnor the stink and, one might add, withoutrneither the heroism or the faith. “It’s allrntoo beautiful,” as the 60’s drugpop songrnwent, but in pasting pretty images overrnthe reality of racial differences and racialrnbigotry, we have also stifled whateverrnsmall aptitude we had for telling therntruth. George Garrett is our Diogenes,rnand his latest book, while shedding lightrnall over this kingdom of lies, can still notrnreveal an honest man.rnThomas Fleming is the editor ofrnChronicles.rnThe LaternUnpleasantnessrnby Katheiine DaltonrnThe War the Women Lived: FemalernVoices from the Confederate SouthrnEdited by Walter SullivanrnNashville: ].S. Sanders & Company;rn319 pp., $24.95rnThere is nothing so painfully ironic asrna war between countrymen. Sornwhen nurse Kate Gumming speaks bitterlyrnin her 1864 diary of “our kind northernrnfriends, who love us so dearly thatrnthey will have us unite with them,rnwhether we will or no” it is hard to blamernher.rnGumming is one of 23 Southernrnwomen whose memoirs and diaries WalterrnSullivan, an English professor at VanderbiltrnUniversity, has collected in thisrnanthology. The authors range fromrnMary Boykin Miller Chestnut, wife ofrnU.S. Senator James Chestnut of Southrn32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn