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August 10, 1968 - Image 6

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Page Sic


Saturday; August 10, 1968


II I -/

A deepening
bag of blackness
The Bag, by Sol Yurick. Trident Press, $6.95.
Before writing this third novel, Sol Yurick spent several years
as a social worker in New York City. What he gathered there is
hurled at the reader with this warning:
"Coldweather soldiers, black and white, hardened professionals,
annealed in the forges of the city valleys, will come into the sub-
urban hills ... Myrmidons in Mustangs, soldiers in stolen Sting
Rays, cadres in Cadillacs are deploying in Marlboro Country now.
Can you sleep right, sleep tight again, honey?"
And what emerges is a massive collage, an assemblage collec-
ted from the cities, punctuated appropriately by welfare reports,
TV commercials, eviction notices, politicians' promises and Hindi
chants. The overall composition is marred only by occasional trite-
ness and an unconvincing charac'ter transformation made to jive
with the protagonist's alienation and empathy. .
It is veryunfortunate that social worker Sam Miller, the cen-
tral character, begins cliched and becomes totally illogical as he
undergoes his transformation into black-man-in-white-skin. Most
of the other characters in the book-the ones that social worker
Yurick encountered on the streets-are truly mobile and living.
Miller is the struggling
standardized writer, alienated
from society, who has been un-
able to produce for years and
is forced to resort to, social
work. His wife, of course, is a <,..
highly successful advertising
executive who gave up dreamsz
of becoming a great poetess in
order to make her Sam into a
great writer.
It is the alienation-from
the bureaucracy which foils at-:
tempts at action, and from the Sol Yurick
pseudo-literaries who prod him
into writing a second best-seller-which leads Sam to his affair
with Minniemother, the black Molly Bloom (Sam offers the com-
parison himself), and it leads him in this to his mystical re-
Minriiemother has been scarred, beaten, deserted endless times,
but continues without developing any of the high-strung hangups
that Sam despises, and thus her attraction. "Time has stopped .. .
no, never existed for her in her world. She lived from day to day.
and didn't much care what day it was. If she laughed once or
twice, laughed big that day, she had it made. And it was that
laugh that cured him. .. a nature which had no civilized hypocri-
sies and bland deceits."
It Is this quality of "real" womanhood that makes Minnie the
novel's most effective character. Unlike Sam's wife, she is no
neurotic. All she desires is a good, steady man to provide for her
and make love to her: the kind of suburban house-father she has
been denied.
She is free from the torments of self-knowledge; by her birth-
right, Minnie does not have to know herself. It is .this ease of mind
that attracts and ensnares Sam, and makes his eventual appear-
ance as the white black man not acceptable; his new life is only
a framework, he had been created much earlier. Minnie, on the
other hand, doesn't have Sam's need to make a reversal, and only
because-despite her television-produced wishes-she can never
really have the opportunity.
Yurick's preoccupation with blackness (a white man's pre-
occupation, to be sure) is one of the novel's central themes. Only
the real black people are not obsessed with the "meaning" of their
race. The black man in the ghetto simply lives. He may hate white.
but he does not necessarily do it in self-identification terms of
black. Minniemother, in the climactic riot that ends the novel, may
carry a rifle-but not out of revolutionary hate of skin color. In-
stead, it is a personal envy of the white man and resentment of
the white cop. Yurick's lesson is that of the urban riot that is a
riot of frustrations, not a "rebellion" of politics.
Yurick also manages to get in his digs at the radical organ-
izers of both races. They seek to solve the maze of their own
middle-class hangups, but pass themselves as trying to do it for
others. "Was the New eft just another way of making a reputa-
tion to gain entree into The Establishment?" one frustrated
radical asks.
Yurick's writing, too, can be incisive. Sam Miller is most
credible as a suburban father entranced by his unreachable 15-
year-old daughter, whom he wisely allows to pursue her own ways.
"Did she lay? He hadn't the right to ask."
Sometimes the author is epigrammatic. "The Daily News talked
about small crimes in sensational ways and the Times talked about
big crimes in an unsensational way."
And through this language (with only occasional too-trite

lapses), the effect is strong and chilling. Yurick documents the
ghetto life from his own experience, undeniably horrifying. And
he says things about the radical movement that are not easily
The only answer that the despair of The Bag can offer? For
Miller, Minnie, and the rest of the cast of characters, there are
no answers at all. And nothing is so surely despairing as that.

American as mom, apple pie, and witch hunts

The Committee: The Extraordinary Career
of the House Committee on Un-American Activ-
ities. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $10.00
What is, by definition, "American?" Does our
culture, besides being replete with all the virtues
of godliness and grace that politicians tell us
about, have bounds by which any accurate defini-
tion can be made? If so, do qualities which lie
outside the periphery necessarily become "un-
American?" Or do various cultural cliches fit into
the patchwork plan called "American" with the
term used as an adjective of praise or definition?
A case in point: the House Committee on
Un-American Activities, referred to by newspapers
as HUAC, by proponents as the protector of the
national virginity, by critics as an institutional,
national blight, by author Walter Goodman as,
simply, The Committee.
Born "officially" in 1938, midwifed by a sneer-
ing, anti-intellectual, misguided populist from
Texas named Martin Dies, and nurtured to man-
hood by a succession of some of our most in-
distinguished and infamous Congressmen (in-
cluding one named Richard Milhous Nixon), the
Un-American Activities Committee is defended
by some as American by design, attacked by
others as un-American by both construction and
conduct, and quite succinctly labeled by Goodman
as a full-blooded native son by anybody's crite-
rion. Busily chasing the pinkos from our shores for
close to 30 years seven though it has been par-
ticularly inactive for the past few), HUAC is
brilliantly American, red-white-and-blue Amer-
ican, progeny of close to 200 years of Alien and
Sedition Acts, institutionalized slavery, institution-
alized bigotry, 1920's KKKism and Mitchell Pal-
mer's Red Raids. Its brothers, through its own life,
have been Joe McCarthy, the major parties,
Whittaker Chambers and the McCarran-Walter

Immigration Act. Its children, growing across
America today, are taking the form of California
politicians, Mississippi businessmen, suburban
Detroit homeowners.
No sector of America has avoided infection by
HUAC's own efforts or those of its true-blue com-
rades. No one growing up in the public schools has
avoided indoctrination in the root theory of its
. Recognizing this is Walter Goodman's major
contribution in The Committee. In so doing, he
is able to lay aside the. arrows of venom that
usually come from the paranoiac left, and he can
stow the super-patriotic defenses of the jingoistic
right. He chronicles the bleak history of the com-
mittee judiciously and impassionately, and there-
by presents an image of what HUAC is and was,
not what HUAC should be and should have been.
This isn't easy: there is much for the mod-
erately libertarian, moderately intelligent, moder-
ately well-informed observer to find wrong in
the committee's creation and conduct. Busting
lives with absolutely no concern for decency,
leaving mistrust and vigilantism everywhere in
its wake, HUAC has shown, through its history,
far less' fairness than Goodman does.
But he does not let this deter' him, seemingly
operating from the vantage point of the sure
opponent who recognizes the futility of attempt-
ing to quash his foe. Thus dispensing of war-
fare, he smothers the reader in fair, lively com-
mentary on our years with the committee. His
dispassion is so complete, in fact, that some-
times he approaches true profundity in analyz-
ing both the committee and its critics.
One of the author's most 'illuminating analy-
ses is the picture he draws of HUAC's detractors.
True, he acknowledges, the men and women who
so virulently' opposed the committee during its
halcyon years (spanning the period from the be-
ginning of World War II until Joe McCarthy's

Senate censure) were quite justified in attacking
the committee's zenophobia, anti-Semitism and
racial bigotry, as well as its disgraceful red-
baiting. But what they were not justified in doing
was replying in kind.
During the war, he points out, numerous com-
mittee critics employed Stalinist "objective truth"
to counter the self-same methods of Martin Dies.
Just as the Texas Congressman, whose last Con-
gressional act was joining forces with then-Sen.
Hubert Humphrey to pass the Communist Control
Act of 1954, made innocent liberals into com-
munists because they opposed the committee's
activities, so did the liberals frantically scream
"Fascist!" at those who supported the committee.
Similarly, attacked leftists opted themselves to
fight Dies on very strange ground. It was Dies,
they said, who was "hurting the war effort." The
left's appeal to mother, flag, and country was
no more justifiable than was HUAC's.
Of course, there is something to be said for
the opposition.. That is, how else could liberals
posibly counter the wide-ranging evil that eman-
ated from the committee room. Surely, if HUAC
was so American, and so representative of Amer-
ican mores that even Congressmen who deplored
the committee and tried to block its appropria-
tions were compelled to support it on roll call
votes if they at all treasured their political sur-
vival, then how could opponents fight HUAC on
grounds that reasonable men might honor? Just
as the committee operated in the truest Amer-
ican fashion, then so were its critics forced to do
But Goodman's narrative profits from his dis-
passion. His approach proves the most effective
way to really condemn HUAC. Is there any need
for colored commentary when the facts are so
clear? For instance, during the Hollywood in-
vestigations, the committee spent days in advance
trumping up publicity on how big names, stars

that America loved, would be called on the carpet
for their pro-Russian leanings. When the time
came to deliver, names were dropped, careers were
ruined, and nothing substantial was charged,
let alone proven. The only convictions in court
that ever came from committee investigating were
on perjury charges (in the Alger Hiss case) or
for contempt of Congress. Never was any one in-
dividual or any group tagged communist by a
jury. The only legislation that" came from the
committee has either never been enforced (be-
cause it is absolutely unenforceable), or has been
found unconstitutional.
What good, if any, sprang from the commit-
tee's work? Mainly, some fairly valiant actions
and inspiring words from its enemies. Prominent
Hollywood screenwriter Dalto Trumbo went to
jail rather than answer' any of the committee's
questions, one accused government worker prom-
ised "To eat on the steps of the Treasury Bldg.,
any communist organization to which I belong."
The body's activities have also enabled Amer-
icans to see the folly of the witch-hunt: except
for a brief tangle with anti-war groups two years
ago, the committee has been virtually inactive for
the past decade.
Of course, this is not to say that the national
health has taken a sharp turn for the better:
Congressmen still vote appropriations for the
committee, and occasional threats, of renewed
vigor still flash from Washington. Dr. Jeremiah
Stamler has been basically unsuccessful in his
attempts to declare the committee unconstitutional,
at great cost to himself. Victory over the com-
mittee has been won, if at all, by the Supreme
Court, and even that has been only a . victory
of effects, not of spirit.
To put down the American spirit that le ves
room for the House Committee on Un-American
Activities would take a decidedly un-American



I knew it was Charlie having his

The Military Half, by Jona-
than Schell. Vintage, $1.65.
Jonathan Schell's The Mili-
tary Half is a good book for
pseudo-liberals and would-be
radicals who need to be re-
minded why they detest the
Vietnam War. It is a book
which gives the administra-
tion a lot of explaining to do
about the conduct of our mil-
itary forces in that country.
In fact, if it had been printed
four years ago, it might very
well have become an Uncle
Tom's Cabin to the war issue.
Schell does no preaching in
the book. He does not shout
epithets from the left at the
military or the administration.
His personal feelings about the
war are, in the main, kept sep-
arate from his journalistic vo-
cabulary. He is in fact some-
what sympathetic to the people
actually fighting the war, enu-
merating some of the problems
they face in conducting a con-
ventional campaign on guer-
rilla-suited terrain.
The book is eye-witness re-
portage, retelling Schell's expe-
riences as he travelled through
two provinces in the northern
part of South Vietnam during
the summer of 1967. The two
provinces, Quang Ngai and
Quang Tin, were for a long time
Viet Cong strongholds until
that summer when Task Force
Oregon, a conglomerate of mil-
itary units, moved into the
area. Schell was given surpris-
ing freedom in investigating the
operations of Task Force Ore-
gon (probably as a result of

his superb treatment of the
war in his earlier The Village
of Ben Sue). He flew in low al-
titude Army intelligence planes
on their actual spotting mis-
sious for bombing runs. He fol-
lowed ground troops in their
operations against suspected
Viet Cong villages. He inter-
viewed many Vietnamese prov-
ince chiefs and American civil-
ian officials, sources off the
beaten path of day-to-day jour-
What Schell reports is that
the United States is systemat-
ically destroying the country-
side of South Vietnam, village
by village and province by
This devastation is seen by
Schell as a result of the Ameri-
can feeling that the VC are
everywhere, that it is worth-
while and necessary to demol-
ish a village if any evidence of
the enemy is found there. Sim-
ilarly, the feeling is that it is
necessary and worthwhile to
destroy the total food and wa-
ter supplies of a village if there
is any chance that the enemy
might have access to these pro-
visions. And it is also worth-
while and necessary to destroy
any one person if he is sus-
pected of being a Communist.
Schell tells and retells the
typical operation of U.S. troops
moving into a new area. Para-
troops are dropped in a strate-
gic area where enemy activity
has been reported. As soon as
any type of resistance is en-
countered, bombers are called
in to attack the area. This of-
ten happens when a Viet Cong
sniper fires at a bunch of

ground troops or a convoy. The
ground commander tells the
spotter place where the fire
is coming from, and he directs
the bombers where to drop
their bomb loads. /
If the sniper is located in a
grove of trees or a rice paddy,
the entire vegetation surround-
ing him is napalmed. Shots,
coming from a hut in a village
result in the total destruction
of the village. A bomber re-
turning from a mission, if it
has spare bombs left, will com-
monly unload them on some
"suspected Viet Cong strong-
Spotter planes will sometimes
call for strikes on their own,
upon seeing a single suspicious
person walking on the ground.
One pilot told Schell he could
tell from the air that a man
was a Viet Cong soldier: "Well,
he walked real proud, with a
kind of bounce in his gait, like
a soldier, instead of just shuf-
fling along, like the farmers
do." Another pilot reported
that he called in an air strike
when he saw some smoke com-
ing out of a patch of woods. "I
knew that was a Charlie hav-
ing his breakfast," the pilot
boasted. "It could have been a
Montagnard, but if it was, he
shouldn't have been there."
The refugee situation in Viet-
nam is expectably deplorable.
Schell describes how those vil-
lagers which survive the bom-
bardment of their hamlet are
forced to leave with only those
possessions they can carry
themselves. They are herded
into barbed wire enclosed com-
pounds, where they are given

adequate food and shelter less
than half the time. In one in-
stance a Vietnamese soldier
who was appointed village chief
took away all the villagers'
identification cards, thus per-
manently imprisoning them in-
side the compound.
What concerns Schell most is
that all the military personnel
he met and talked to thought
they were justified and actual-
ly beneficial in their actions
toward the Vietnamese people.
They considered themselves

just one half of the war to root
out Communism in Southeast
Asia, and that their mission
was solely to destroy.
The other half-the civilian
half-is charged with rebuild-
ing what the military destroys.
And he recognizes that the
civilian half itself admits that
it is lagging far behind in its
The book shows that it is the
sincere belief of most U.S. mil-
itary leaders in Vietnam that
it is necessary to destroy the

Is all, hoha y with

Red Sky at Morning, by
Richard Bradford. Lippincott,
Every once in a while some-
thing happens which restores
your faith in the human race.
You feel that perhaps, some-
how, we shall all muddle
through, ; whistling cheerily.
Richard Bradford's first novel,
Red Sky at Morning, is one of
those rare experiences.
The book is the story of a
boy becoming a man. When
Josh Arnold is 17 his father
joins the Navy in World War
III leaving Josh to care for his
fragile, southern belle mother
in the Southwestern hamlet of
Corazon Sagrado. With all the
contempt and sarcasm of a
sensitive adolescent, Josh meets
the world.
Born and raised in the old
southern traditions of Mobile,



no cooperation,

much stupidity

Ala., Josh has previously spent
only the summers in Sagradot
Peopled by a mixture of "An-
glos" and natives, Sagrado is
symbolic for its representation
of the West as a land of rebirth
and new opportunities, but is
otherwise unimportant, for this
story could have Happened any-
As his mother starts drink-
ing heavily and falls under the
spell of, Jimbob Beul, "semi-
professional houseguest," Josh
must choose between imposing
order on their household by
himself or facing the destruc-
tion of decent living, which his
father had always insisted
As he decides, Josh's rela-
tionship with his absent father
becomes achingly tender as the
boy becomes man at last.
The book, however, is more
than the story of a boy growing
up. t
Bradford has related this ex-
perience to 'a larger context
and shown us an entire way of
life. The episodes which he por-
trays. 'from the pagan rites in
La Chima to the sex education
talks given by the high school
principal, are done with such
insight and warmth that they
are delightfully laughable 1^r-
cia and Steenie, Josh's closest
friends, are as real' as,'rain.
They are developed in a glow
of curiosity and hilarity which
shines through their every ac-
tion. Their only fault - for
that matter the only one in the
entire novel - is that they are
sometimes overly precocious. It
is unlikely that theechildren
would have the perception to
realize that after the war their
parents would return to mod-
ernize by paving the streets. In
his many literary allusions Josh
seems exceptionally intelligent
for someone who wouldn't dare
think of entering Harvard. De-
spite these failings, thet lan-
guage is rich, ribald, and typi-
cal of that age group.
In a time marked by skepti-

country to save it from Com-
,munism. It shows that the
Americans have no way to dis-
criminate between friend and
foe and that they have decided
to destroy both, rather than let
the Communists go free. It
shows that for the war to be
considered won by the Ameri
cans, every single South Viet-
namese will have to be put
into a concentration camp and
every village, rice paddy, for-
est, and bunker in the country
will have to be demolished.
Br radford,
cism and doubt, Bradford's new
book offers the alternative of
believing in the normality of
man. Bradford has presented
life as a pleasurable experience.
This is not at all another
Catcher in the Rye. If there is
a parallel, it is that Josh and
Holden both scrutinize the
world from the upheaval of
adolescence. There the parallel
ends. Bradford doesn't leave
you with a squeamish sick feel-
ing in your stomach, or make
you feel as though there is ho
hope for anyone in today's
Unlike most best-selling nov-
elists, he can talk about gener-
ation differences, erratic 'be-
havior, and sex without making
them titanic forces of destruc-
tion which degrade the human
Similarly, the optimism
shows in Romeo, an Italian
artist, and Chamaco, the Span-
ish sheriff. They are not pre-
sented as figures of absolute
authority completely lacking in
any understanding of the, vil-
lage youths. They are men who
were once young themselves
and now give amiable advice on
the ways of the world.
Marcia and Steenie's fre-
quent conversations about sex
don't suggest promiscuity. They
speak of 4t as a natural func-
tion without implying eroticism
or perversion. Josh is as comic,
winning and wry a boy-man
as you will meet anywhere.
When he faces the problems of
+ his life both at home and at
school he faces them calmly -
as a rational man must - so
as to control his environment.
Perhaps this is the best thing
about the work. The hero can
stand up to his world and if'
not control it, direct it by im-
posing order on it.
Another virtue of the book
is that it makes the abnormal
normal. Treated with caution,
even the psychotic village tough
can be an essential part of
Bradford's exquisite humanity.




The Secret Search for Peace in Vietnam, by
David Kraslow and Stuart Loory. Random House,
$5.95. Vintage, $1.95.
In the summer of 1967, I was traveling through
the sun-scorched plains of central Italy in a
crowded second class compartment.
Sitting across from me was an Italian student
about my age, and as we struck up a faltering
conversation, the subject automatically drifted
to the Vietnam War.
The student knew perhaps five words in Eng-
lish and I could speak about two words of Italian.
We barely managed to understand each other,
by the use of exaggerated hand movements and
French words. To add to the already-cumbersone
complications, we had to stop talking every time
the train passed through a tunnel, because of
the tremendous gush of noise.
The young Italian managed to get the message
across, however, that in his mind Lyndon John-
son was a worthless, imperialist aggressor out to
conquer the country of Vietnam for American

similar to the Italian student's position from war
critics all over the world.
David Kraslow and Stuart Loory, both members
of the Los Angeles Times' Washington bureau,
point out in The Secret Search fo'r Peace in Viet-
nam how incredibly wide the gap has been.
As one State Department official who has
studied the secret files on Vietnam said, "Never
underestimate stupidity, lack of judgment and
lack of co-ordination as a factor in foreign policy.
What appears to be a pattern may not be a pat-
tern at all. Things sometimes simply happen that
are not supposed to happen."
The book exposes the embarrassing details of
an entire series of separate initiatives over a
three year period that fell flat exactly because
of this stupidity, lack of judgment, and lack of
The book is a tragic chronicle of foreign policy
blunders representing a phenomenally intensive
research project that led the authors to Rome,
Saigon, Paris, Warsaw, Ottawa, London and
many other cities in the course of their investi-
Most important of the peace initiatives, and

Hanoi appeared interested.
Accordingly, not far from where I talked to
the Italian student; months later, a meeting took
place at the Villa Madama in Rome. The State
Department's Chester Cooper was told of the
Marigold initiative and he duly relayed it to
President Johnson.
But here is where the Johnson administration
so often trips over itself in foreign policy. Johnson
immediately clamped a "Nodis" (no distribution)
classification on Marigold, so that in the follow-
ing months, only he and four or five top advisors
were familiar with the whole affair.
In December, just when the American am-
bassador to Poland was beginning to get a warm
response from Hanoi, Marigold wilted.
A state Department official in Washington-.
one who knew of the pending negotiations--
gasped when he read the morning paper. "Oh,
my God," he said. "We've lost control."
The American military command, totally ig-
norant of Marigold, had bombed the outskirts
of Hanoi for the first time in months. None of
the handful of men with the "Nodis" information
had remembered to order a bombing halt.

Undressing in public

With*todav'gs Dailv. the weekly book page goes temporarily"

Teha,.'obstcles', ton uegotiations before

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