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December 03, 1978 - Image 13

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1978-12-03
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Page 6-Sunday, December 3, 1978-The Michigdn Daily
BOOKS

Do you believe
in presidents?
By Dennis Sabo

Make-Believe Presidents
By Nicholas von Hoffman
Pantheon Books
260 pp. $8.95
IT IS NOT uncommon for Americans
to love, and at the same time, hate
their president. This perplexing love-
hate relationship has lasted since
George Washington galloped to the
presidency in 1789 on a white stallion
and probably will continue as long as
America calls itself a democracy.
Jimmy Carter, a president who
juggled more unshelled promises than
his bulging jean pockets could hold, was
elected to the Oval Office by Americans
who held a renewed lust of hope in their
hearts as he tiptoed down Pennsylvania
Avenue after his inauguration. Many of
those same people, who were so
Dennis Sabo is a Daily night editor.

confident in their new leader, now wish
he would quickly go back the way he
came.
In Make-Believe Presidents, political
observer and critic Nicholas von
Hoffman strips away the veneer that
shields the executive office and shows
the office of the presidency as what it
has been and will continue to be; an
individual who does little ruling and
holds diminishing power to fulfill the
endless campaign promises of change.
The promises have been wrung out,
drip-dried, and repeatedly used over
and over again at election time.
Von Hoffman draws his bleak
blueprint of presidential power from a
large cast of characters who have
sometimes abused the high office to
gain more brokerage. Theodore
Roosevelt's use of the Secret Service to
See PRESIDENT, Page 8

Daily
Exiled critic still loyal to So

Sontag:

Tnumph

from disorder

' By Laura Roop

I, etcetera
By Susan Sontag
Farrar Straus Giroux
246 pp. $8.95
E XISTENTIAL philosopher, critic,
filmmaker, novelist, feminist,
mother, photographer, teacher, scholar
-Susan Sontag has successfully
donned the cap of each of these
occupations in her lifetime, becoming
almost a legend in the process. Her
latest work, a collection of short stories
entitled I, etcetera, serves as a
testimonial to the fact that creative
stagnation does not logically follow the
onset of fame.
Sontag refuses to lead the reader by
the hand down a well-worn path of
action. Instead, she asks that one follow
her through a maze of crystallizing
thoughts, each a self-contained story at
the finish. Her style hasn't frozen a
single, polished pattern for success;
she is willing to experiment freely. In
"Project for a Trip to China," Sontag
attempts to force a bewildering mass of
facts and thoughts into a semblance of
order-using categorical lists, word
charts, and repetition as viable tools of
the author.
"Debriefing" is the story of a
woman's struggle to reorganize her life
after a: friend commits suicide. She
tries to separate and arrange her
Laura Roop is an Honors Eng-.
fish major.

feelings into things that help and things
that upset. From the list of helpful
things:
'Sometimes it helps to be par-
noid. Conspiracies have the
merit of making sense. It's a
relief to discover your enemies,
even if first you have to invent
them.'
In "American Spirits," she endeavors
to add the allegory to her repertoire of
literary genre. This is, perhaps, the
least successful piece in the collection,
because its embittered, sarcastic tone
becomes tiresome when stretched over
a lengthy narrative.
Critics have accused Susan Sontag of
emotional detachment from her
language. She literally separates one
character from his body by creating a
mechanical replacement in "The
Dummy," the earliest story included in
the book. It is fascinating to note how
the concrete has apparently been
filtered to metaphor through time; a
literal plot seems to have tempered her
tone in later works.
Summing up a human desire for
uniqueness, another character in "Old
Complaints Revisited," says:
. ,. .I was fascinated by the.
idea of being different. Dozing
off in the grade school civics
class, I longed to have been
born a Jew; I fancied myself
See SONTAG, Page 8

-J
- -
- w
- - tt
Sontag
... she asks that one follow her through a maze of crys-
tallizing thoughts, each a self-contained story at the finish.

Z HORES MEDVEDEV believes in the Soviet
Union. The prominent geneticist has faith in a
system which has given him ample cause to reject
everything for which it stands.
First there was his father, who perished in one of
Stalin's many forced labor camps during the '30s.
Later, he himself was committed to a mental
hospital for criticizing the government. Finally,
while visiting England five years ago, Medvedev
was stripped of his Soviet citizenship, forever
barring him from returning to his homeland.
Nonetheless, he is an optimist about Russian
society and its capacity to change. Unlike most of
the Soviet dissidents about whom so much is heard
in this country, Medvedev believes his country's
political system can be reformed from within.
During a two-day visit to campus last month,
Medvedev took time out to explain his views on
Soviet society and how it can be changed. The
ruddy-cheeked biologist, wandering gray hair
brushed back from his forehead, gave his lengthy,
thoughtful explanations in excellent English.
Medvedev, 51, spoke with undisguised nostalgia of
life in Moscow prior to his 1973 banishment. Social
life, particularly, is much more informal in the
Russian capital than in London, where he now
makes his home. "You can drop in on friends - you
don't need an appointment to do this," he
commented.
"I would open my door and there would be the
head of my institute," he continued. Soon, a bottle of
vodka would appear and his apartment would fill
with happy talk or debate.
Not so in Britain. "In London, when you want to
visit someone, you've got to make an appointment,"
he lamented.
Despite a lower standard of living, Medvedev
enjoyed higher social status as a researcher in the
Soviet Union. "Scientists belong to the more-or-less
privileged class in Russia," only surpassed by high
Communist Party officials and top athletes, he said.
But with the privileges come political
restrictions, designed to ensure that scientists toe
an orthodox political line, he said. "To be a senior
researcher, a person must be confirmed by the
academic council and by party officials. If a person
is not considered as absolutely loyal - has some
political deviations' - he does not expect to be
confirmed," Medvedev explained.
"To be an academician, for a dissident, is
impossible."
Medvedev learned this lesson personally after he
began to speak out publicly about political
restrictions on Soviet science in the late 1960s. His
activities cost him his job at the Obninsk Institute of
Medical Radiology.
He also wrote a book about the life of Soviet
biologist T. D. Lysenko, whose crackpot genetic
David Goodman is co-editor of the Daily.

By David Goodman
theories held sway under Stalin and stunted the
development of Russian biology for decades.
The Rise and Fall of T.D. Lysenko, suppressed in
the U.S.S.R., was published in the West ,in 1969,
raising the ire of Soviet authorities. In June, 1970, he
was forcibly committed to a mental institution for
19 days. He turned this experience into another
book, collaborating with his twin brother Roi, a
philosopher-historian and fellow dissident. The book
was published in the West under the title A Question
of Madness.
Soviet officials took their ultimate retaliation
against Medvedev in 1973. After unexpectedly
granting him permission to travel to England for
scientific purposes, the government revoked his
" 'My father was arrested in '38.
I, my mother, and my brother were
evicted from our flat in winter. I
knew what it was to fear. I did not
fear under Khruschev.''
.:......~. ..;.y:,y:{t.i}}-::. .*..* . .........:.:;:n ..::... ..:}......<i<}.}
citizenship, denying him the right to return to his
homeland.
Buthdespite the treatment he has received from
Russian officials, Medvedev is, remarkably
confident in the ability of the Soviet Union to
improve in reaction to internal forces. Constant
change has characterized the U.S.S.R. ever since
the October revolution of 1917, he maintained.
"We have had four constitutions since the
revolution," he pointed out. "You have one in 200
years.
"You can find a lot of change, even in the secret
police," Medvedev continued. "You talk about the
KGB, but after the revolution (the secret police
force) was Cheka, which had the power to take
people out and shoot them."
E SPECIALLY during Stalin's three-decade
reign, the secret police had a high degree of
autonomy and operated virtually outside the law.
The modern-day KGB, on the other hand, works
within the Soviet legal framework and is under
Communist Party and governmental control, he
contended.
Political charges are often not seen as sufficient
grounds to bring dissidents to trial. As a result, the
KGB often seeks economic crimes, such' as
currency violations, for which dissidents can be
prosecuted, Medvedev said.

"There is a tremendous
U.S.S.R. now and unde:
million people died in Ste
Stalin's successor, Nikita
Stalin, releasing five mil
Medvedev said. "Khrusl
(political) arrests - he wou
The current top Soviet I
is more conservative I
certainly "no Stalin," Medv
"My father was arrested
my brother were evicted fr
didn't know where to go,'
what it was to fear.I
Khruschev."
The tremendous changes
said, make him believe
democratic system is
framework of Soviet Comm
"Roi's view, and my viem
Soviet Union is not real soc
consider a favorable mo
things which are imposed
not because of socialisr
regime-to maintain
counterproductive from a
point of view," he explaine
T HIS IS Medvedev's I
many dissidents wel
States-writer Alexander
Andrei Sakharov, historia
Jewish activist Anatoly Shc
"We do not believe, as a
Soviet Union can be de
society," he said. "S
Sakharov-believe that th
transformed to a free ent
not understand political ecc
Medvedev also disagree
that western pressure is th
change in Soviet society. "
direct our writing towards
he said.
"People like Sakharov a
for foreign intellectuals.
influence Russia. We want t
he added. "They lost the 1
can develop as such. I disag
Medvedev disputes thos
publicized martyrdom,
recent trial and convictio
helps the cause of reform.]F
different approach: "We t
our fate, to influence the Sc
Finally, Medvedev r
theme-the malleability
"Society is changing and i
Nobody knows what will ha
I think the country will cha

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