the way that he is pure invention and hernchoices of incident and characterizationnare sometimes arbitrary. And by thensame token, it is difficult to take seriouslynthe love interest in the story or the plightnof the victimized people and their hopesnforthefiiture.nIn short, Valenzuela tries to have itnboth ways. Under the guise of seriousnliterary treatment of the social-politicalnproblems of her country, she indulgesnher appetite for faddish philosophicalaestheticnplayfiilness. It is not a successfillnmix.nThe Lizard’s Tail can be seen as a testnWrangling with WordsnDenis Donoghue: The Arts WithoutnMystery; Little, Brown; Boston.nby Gary S. VasilashnJacques Derrida, maitre of the criticalnschool of deconstruction, writes of hisnOfGrammatology, “writing, the letter,nthe sensible inscription, has always beennconsidered by Western tradition as thenbody and matter external to the spirit, tonbreath, to speech, and to the logos.” AsnDerrida notes, Plato, mPhaedrus, speaksnof the inferiority of vsTiting, and Derridanshows that since then the oral form hasnbeen considered to be superior, morenauthentic. Speech is unmediated: fromnthe mouth of the speaker to the ears ofnthe listener. Writing is a step removed,ngiven that the spoken word must beninscripted then read, perhaps by someonenfar distant in space and time. Temporalnor physical distance permits allnmanner of dissembling, so writing, fornmany persons is suspect. But Derridanaims to deconstruct the tradition and tonshow that “language is first… writing.”nDenis Donoghue, an Irishman, holdsnno truck with Derrida’s French curves—nat least he seems not to. In ius FerociousnMr. Vasilash is contributing editor tonChronicles of Culture.ncase for how certain versions of poststructuralistntheory can be applied in thencreation of a novel. The renunciation ofntraditional conventions, the heady ifnperverse freedom supplied by thennotions of indeterminacy and uncertaintynand the ensuing latitude fornsubjective aesthetic play allow fornexciting and original effects. But whennthat irradicable human impulse to usenliterature to comment on life arises, as itninevitably does, the author must recognizenthat she has undermined all groundsnfor credibility and significance. DnAlphabets, for example, he dividesnreaders into two groups, epireaders andngraphireaders. The former, when confrontednwith a text, “wants to restore thenwords to a source, a human situationninvolving speech, character, personality,nand destiny construed as having anpersonal form.” The latter “deals withnwriting as such and does not think of it asntranscribing an event properly con­nnnstrued as vocal and audible.” Derrida is,nof course, the arch graphireader. Antension exists between Donoghue andnDerrida throughout Ferocious Alphabetsnand it continues through hisnmost recent volume, The Arts WithoutnMystery. However, in The Arts WithoutnMystery Donoghue’s brogue takes on andecidedly continental air.nOf all forms of modem media, radio isnthe most logocentric. Printed materialsn(books, magazines, etc.) are obviouslyngraphic; movies can have subtitles;ntelevision is being close-captioned; linernnotes accompany musical recordings.nBut besides the brand name and thencharacters on the dial, radio providesnonly sounds. Perhaps Donoghue’s apparentndislike of graphireading, of stickingnto the word, and pleasure in epireading,nor restoring the breath, explainsnwhy he spends so much time away fromnhis desk at New York University, wherenhe is the Henry James Professor ofnLetters, and in a broadcast booth. Thenfirst chapter oiFerocious Alphabetsnconsists, primarily, of the texts of sixntalks he gave as a part of the B.B.C.’sn”Words” radio program. Chapter two isnentitled “Commentary on the Foregoing.”nChapter three opens with thensentence “So much for the six talks,” andnthe book becomes more graphicentricn(though it attacks graphireading).T*enArts Without Mystery includes Donoghue’sn1982 Reith Lectures: six innnumber and broadcast over B.B.C. radio.nIn preparing the lectures for print,nDonoghue added occasional notes thatnappear in the margins—^theatrical asides,nin effect—^and appended fiarther explanationsnof the points raised in the weeklynradio addresses. Print does have itsnadvantages over speech, any enmityntoward Derrida notwithstanding.nIn contemporary academic parlance,na critic is merely a person who writesnabout a primary text—2L poem, novel, ornfilm. Donoghue was once a critic, as innhis The Ordinary Universe, wherein hendiscusses works by James, Yeats, Eliot,nand others. Criticism, however, is passe;nthe thing to be is a metacritic: a critic ofnil3nDecember 1984n