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October 21, 1979 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-10-21
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Page 6-Sunday, October 21, 1979-The MichianailThe Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily-Sunday, Oci

'Ghost Writer' exorcises Roth

Tracking the Hayden-Fonda

By-Philip Roth
Farrar Straus Giroux, 190 pp.
PHILIP ROTH'S latest novel, The Ghost Writer,
is characterized by both a curious old-fashioned
flavor and an over-worked subject. Roth tran-
scends that nostaglia-laden period in which his novel is
set, the 1950s, by adhering to an almost classical
discipline and covering just one evening and the
following morning in the story. But the subject is one
that 9eems too popular this season: The writer's self-
conscious need to be free of restrictions from family
and community in his artistic mission. Somehow that
seems a world away from current realties, as if we left
all that behind in the first few decades of the 20th cen-
tury. 'Of course, family rebellions and adolescent
gawkiness have never embarrassed Roth. Indeed, they
have been the raw material of his art. But until The
Ghost Writer it seems Roth has never addressed quite
so directly the way these problems must be confronted
emotionally and artistically within a single life.
While recently many authors have become obsessive
about the nature of writing itself (Bernard Malamud's
Dubin's Lives is a-good case in point), few seem in-
terested in the actual process of becoming a writer.
Nathan Zuckerman in The Ghost Writer wants to
become the artist, but -in charactistically Rothian.
style, is unsure as to how to go about it. Should he risk
the wrath and potential exile from his relatives and'
publish what they consider an anti-Semitic story about
themselves, or should he try for some kind of artistic
martyrdom and bow to his family's wishes? If he goes
his own way, how can he be sure he has any talent to
sustain him, that he won't make a mess of his career
and ruin the hopes of his family?
Out to find direction and consolation in his troubled
life. Nathan is temporarily attracted towards the life-
style of Felix Abravanel, a thinly disguised Norman
Mailer. But Abravanel becomes impatient with the
paternal role he is asked to play. He was, says Nathan,
"not in the market for a'23-year-old son." Nathan in-
stead turns to E.I, Lonoff, fatherly in appearance and
loosely based on I.B. Singer, with sprinklings of
Malamud. Lonoff, his sons and daughters grown, spen-
ds a somewhat monastic life in a remote farmhouse
"turning sentences around," composing perfectly-
shaped stories that Nathan would probably have given
his left arm to have written. The tension of the winter
evening which Nathan passes with Lonoff and his wife
Hope is well-captured: Nathan, anxious for approval
while attempting to swallow his idolatory with every
sentence he speaks; Lonoff, dwelling on the realities of
'the secluded life and fierce discipline of his craft;
Hope, almost throwing a fit in protest of long-term
neglect from her husband. Hope Lonoff is not Roth's
most successful character: Supposedly the "scion of an
old New England family" (according to the book
jacket), she comes across as too much the spinelss vic-
tim, as she intones, in Mick Jagger fashion, "Chuck me
out. Why don't you chuck me out?"
Laurence Peters is a Ph. P. candidate in psy-l
chology and education.f

By Laurence Peters
At the Lonoff home, Nathan meets a remarkable-
looking woman named Amy Bellette, and inevitably he
is quite taken with her Kafkaesque beauty. But Nathan
has a bookihrather than a sexual fantasy about her.
Suppose, he muses, because the dates and the ap-
pearances and the accent seem to tally, suppose she is
... Anne Frank, the Jewish girl whose diary everone
has heard about? Now that could happen, if you've
had too much brandy and are sleepless with a lively
imagination, a la Nathan. The chapter in which the
fantasy appears is teasingly entitled "Femme Fatale"

'Roth is saying the
artist has little re-
sponsibility to the
world he fictionalizes.'

wrote The Image of the Jew in American Fiction, has
suggested that part of Nathan's (and perhaps Roth's)
problem is that "he wants to be not a Jewish writer
who is less than Jewish, but one who is more than
Jewish." Lonoff and Nathan endlessly discuss a host of
Jewish authors and at times it seems the reader is
overhearing a tutorial led by Roth himself. The
references they make are difficult to fit into a coherent
pattern without proposing an over-arching thesis. The
-reader's need to find that thesis is a real weakness of
the book.W
Roth conjures up a Henry James story, "The Middle
Years," which is dragged into the reader's con-
sciousness when Nathan recounts the plot at length
during the Anne Frank/Amy Bellette fantasy. Amy,
Nathan speculates, cannot return to her old identity
because she would destroy the impact of the famous
story of the innocent victim of Nazi barbarity. The
tragedy's power rests on the knowledge that the
Holocaust really did happen. If it were otherwise,
Nathan reasons, the tale would have no more impact
than a sort of Swiss Family Robinson bed-time story.
Hut this is questionable-are Eli Wiesel's statements
about the Holocaust any less valid because he was a
Yet Roth, using Nathan, is moving to a postion that
would too easily romanticize art and the artist. It's a
complex argument, but in essence, Roth is saying the
artist has little responsibility to the world he fic-
tionalizes. Therefore, Nathan can be acquitted of the
anti-Semitism charges leveled at his short story. The
material that nourished his work can go on feeding
him, while he can be vindicated as the true artist by
Anne Frank and E.I. Lonoff. It's a neat though self-
indulgent thesis, like sitting through a Hamlet-like
dumb-show. Instead of the players attempting to catch
the conscience of the royal family, however, Nathan's
hyperactive imagination fills in all the parts.
It is not easy to resist seeing The Ghost Writer as a
deeply guilt-ridden book attempting to come-to terms
and even to exorcise those anti-Semitism accusations
people made against Roth's own early fiction. What the
novella does mark is a return to a more tightly con-
trolled form, such as that of Goodbye Columbus and
The Breast, and away from Roth's more recent
sprawling novels such as The Great American Novel.
Mv Life as a Man, and The Professor of Desire. For all
the criticisms that can be leveled at The Ghost Writer,
it remains one of his most ingenious works. Roth hasn't
lost his sense of humor or his feel for small town family
life. The father's sadness, for example, at Nathan's
stubborn refusal to change his intention to publish the
story is captured with justice done to both sides. The
family feud that the story recounts is classic Roth,
bitingly irreverent and at the same time absurd, like
watching a Monty Python sketch. While Judge Wapter,
the ace that the family uses in its attempt to dissuade
Nathan, is a neat Dickensian charicature, a sort of
condescending Pecksniff. If anything, Roth's ability to
handle detail with economy and precision have im-
proved, while the depth of concern about the relation-
ship of art to society and the originality of its ex-
pression may signal the start of new seriousness and
maturity in Roth's fiction.

and is masterfully written: It convinces through the
technique that Colderidge talked about, "suspension
of disbelief"-or, if you are going to tell a lie, tell a big
one. It's a difficult feat to accomplish without being ac-
cused of the twin sins, bad taste and sentimentalism. In
"Femme Fatale," the two balance each other, so that
the reader is as disappointed as Nathan in the cold
morning light that the Harvard librarian Amy Bellette
remains in Harvard's library. Amy patiently replies to
Nathan's insistent questioning on her resemblance to
Holocaust victim Anne Frank with "I've been told that
before." As that reply fades into the air, so fades away
one with which Nathan could have patched the quarrel
with his parents: Marriage to that particular "nice
Jewish girl."
Another path to family reconciliation remains in his
relationship with Lonoff. The respect Nathan holds for
Lonoff is explained early in their conversation.
"You got away from Russia and the pogroms.
You got away from the purges. You got away
from Palestine and the homeland. You got away
from Brookline and the relatives. You got away
from New York;"
Nathan appars to be looking for a way he can both
incorporate Lonoff's universalism but still write about
his own world of family fueds and narrow-minded and
hypocritical adults. Critic Leslie Fiedler, who in 1959

in 1975 he was fond of
saying that "the radical-
ism of e 1960s is fast becoming the
common sense of the 1970s." As slogans
go, his was catchy, provocative, and to-
the-point. Of course, no one really
believed it for a minute.
How could they have? Here, after all,
was the New Left leader who'd or-
chestrated one of the pinnacles of six-
ties anarchy-the Chicago street-wars
of '68. Here was the exhorter who'd
declared, "If they want blood to flow
from our heads, the blood will flow from
a lot of other heads around this city and
around the country." Now, staging a
major Senate campaign, his political
career was tied to the wealth' of his
family (i.e., Jane Fonda) as closely as
that of Nelson Rockefeller. Whatever
could be said of Hayden's campaign, it
sure didn't sound much like the
"radicalism of the 1960s."
Still, it was unclear just how much
the "new" Hayden differed from the
"old." His progressive platform
seemed in line with the ubiquitous six-
ties demand for "power to the people."
Gone, though, was the rhetoric about
overthrowing the Establish-
ment-rhetoric that was as much
Hayden's as it was the Yippies' or the
Black Panthers.' Gone were the violent
pleas for instant reform. Instead,
Hayden seemed not only willing but
eager to weather a system he'd been
Hell-bent on destroying.
He straddled more than a few fences
in '75; his image was always in limbo. To
some, Hayden was (and always would
be) the incendiary radical, leaving
trouble in his wake. Others welcomed
what they saw as an old-style populist,
and embraced his no-nonsense manner
and hard-line stands. But Hayden was
not a typical "mellowed" activist. He
scorned conventional liberalism, and
his scarbrous attacks on the Welfare
State carried an oddly William F.
Buckley-ish ring.
Considering his lack of unified sup-
port, Hayden turned in an impressive
show at the polls. He managed to rack
up 37 per cent of the vote in the
Democratic primary, compared to an
underwhelming 54 per cent for op-
ponent John Tunney (who went on to
lose the Senate race to S.. Hayakawa).
Hayden, though, didn't feel he'd "lost"
at all. With Fonda's continued financial
support, he parlayed-his election team
into the Campaign for Economic
Democracy (CED), a state-wide grass
roots organization that is still working
to change the face of California politics.
CED now has close to 8,000 members,
and has succeeded in winning busing
and rent control battles and getting
candidates elected to local city coun-
cils, some in extremely conservative
areas. Last Monday, midway through
their 50-city, 35-day tour of the country,
Fonda and Hayden came to Ann Arbor,
bearing political messages but
somehow strangely aloof from the
mainstream political world of which
they are now so obviously a part.
Hayden's well-publicized associations
with California Gov. Jerry Brown con-
tinue to draw criticism from all sides,
though the motives of both are unclear.
Equally mysterious is the question of
Hayden's own political ambitions
(which many speculate are related to his
Owen Gleiberman is co-editor of
th Sunda vMagazine.

alliance with Brown). Some believe
CED is merely a vehicle for the
blossoming career of Citizen Hayden.
But while that notion seems rather one-
sidedly cynical. it brings up a
provocative point: Were it not for its
two noteworthy leaders, CED would be
floundering in obscurity.
thinks, the Politician and
Celebrity, except in this
case, they're both celebri-
ies. den's dully methodical speak-
ing is almost a part of his radical-chic
appeal. He was the Chicago Seven
defendant that Judge Julius Hoffman
told, "A fellow as smart as you could do

By Owen Gleiberman

take snapshots of. And draw she does.
That was painfully clear at the post-
speech reception in Alice Lloyd Hall, a
miserably jam-packed affair at which
students sandwiched themselves wall-
to-wall, stood on each other's shoulders,
and hurled themselves into a fortress of
bodies-all for a glimpse of the Divine
Miss F. And Jane plays her part like the
pro she is. Stepping on the Hill
Auditorium stage, she was positively
radiant. She looked. . . well, like Jane
Hayden plays Charlie to her Angel.
He's the thinker, the philosopher, spin-
ning well-conceived, labyrinthine plans
for the nation's economy, carrying the
entire CED platform under his mop of
grey-flecked hair. Slighty hunched
over, his plain features framed by a
shy, boyish smile, Hayden comes on
like a pock-marked Dustin Hoffman.
Considering the wild tales about his
radical past, he's a surprisingly
restrained and uncharismatic speaker.
His demeanor is stilted, his tone plod-
ding, controlled. He quotes facts and
figures, mixing in traces of raw
ideology. He seems to want to sell CED
as a pragmatic enterprise, a wellspring
of concrete proposals for specific social
When the two appeard on Meet the
Press a few weeks ago, on the tenth an-
niversary of the day the Chicago Seven
trial commenced, Hayden spoke ter-
sely, not without a trace of hositility. He
made it clear he thought it frivolous to
linger over the excesses of the past. "I
don't want to rehash 1968," he snapped
at one point. "If we wanted to rehash
1968, we'd have to find out where Spiro
Agnew is, and what Richard Nixon is
doing in China."
But even back in '68, Hayden was
already a veteran activist. Born 39
years ago in Royal Oak, Michigan, he
attended Catholic school through the
eighth grade and then Royal Oak High
School. Therehe was almost denied his
diploma when administrators
discovered that in his final editorial in

the school ne
of each Para;
In 1957, Ha
where he wen
editor of thel
at last week's
ted himself as
said: "In th
you want!")
proved a pow
writer. His s
per the editc
By the tin
alrea'dy imr
growing mov
travelled to R
of the first wh
enter the sta
about voter-
supported dE
high school st
In Ann Arl

prettywell under a system like ours."
A fellow as smart as you. Thanks to
gentlmen like Lester Maddox and Bert
Lance, the American political arena
has in recent years looked like a
sideshow for corrupt bimbos. Tom
Hayden's sternly persistent intelligen-
ce, like Gene McCarthy's, is so
welcome that it almost gives the man
some charisma. Though hardly a
glamorous figure, there's something
undeniably attractive about Hayden
and his pragmatic, issue-oriented ap-
proach. Indeed, John Tunney, who
typified the modern packaged-image
politican, may well have been the per-
fect opponent; his clean-cut blandness
could only look bad in the face of
Hayden's refreshingly down-to-earth


tContinued from Page 3
When pressed, Hayden will point to
the continuity of his views over the last
two decades; he was, after all, peddling
"participatory democracy" back in the
days of the Port Huron Statement. But
Hayden prefers talking about the
future. Our era, he says, is an historic
turning point; our unprecedented
energy situation calls for nothing less
than an economic revolution borne of.
"non-voilent resistance." And for
many Americans-especially
youth-he strikes a tender nerve. In
Hill Auditorium, addressing the question
of the energy crisis, Hayden said,
"We're talking about something that
goessnarston-apd'igtaeymnttmsafs {.

which most of us were never prepared
for. And when we look at the problems,
and we look at the proposed solutions,
the sense of emptiness that I feel in
most people is something that I, too,
feel very strongly."
With college audiences, Hayden is all
too aware of which strings to pull.
"Divestiture" is a buzz-word that sent
the University crowd into fits of ap-
plause. And Hayden spoke gently and
sympathetically about the issue of
student "apathy:" "When I hear people
say there's no action like in the sixties
or the campuses are apathetic or
there's no challenge to life, I think it's
almost the case that the challenges are
so 'g'nat that PoIe 'dbh'4 quite know,

what to do about them."
Hayden also draws his strength from
the success of CED, a political machine
that, like its leaders, has managed to
work effectively within the two-party
system without sacrificing its maverick
identity. CED assocites itself with
issues, not candidates. Its philosophy is
to attack problems from the bottom
up, through community organization, to
personalize America's hopelessly de-
personalized politics. The scale is
small, but the issues are monumental:
Alternative energy sources, inflation,
the economic imperialism of American
Big Business. Hayden is a staunch
critic of untempered free-enterprise.
Herlikoris1 the'economici ebut of'the'oil""

companies to the political stranglehold
the government of the Soviet Union
maintains over its people. He wants
citizens on the boards of companies,
exercising some control over the
organizations that affect their lives.
Asked how a mass of citizens spread
over the country can possibly organize
to' fight the oil oligopoly, he resorts to
romantic analogies with the American
Revolution and the end of slavery. His
where-there's-a-will solution is clear
but non-specific. A contingent of stud-
ents in the auditorium, in fact, snorted at
Hayden's idealism. It sounds great.
they said, but where's the plan?
Hayden's implicit answer was that for
See1A Y DE N, a e ,.,_ _V.k'

tivists attend
what was to
was chosen to
The Port Hur
pamphlet, wa
the bedrock (
"The Americ
the democra
glorifiers s
Statement. "]
democracy b3
citizen, paral
and consolid
power of mi
Hayden con
Newark, New
and wrote a be
based on his (
year of the C
trial-a six-m
rebellion fuel(
of Judge Hof
canonized as
and committe
As his involv
tivities incr
Hanoi, wher
release of An
the anti-war
Fonda. The t
and were mar
See tLI

The current Hayden-Fonda
paign epitomizes personality p(
Fonda's anecdotal speeches, del
in strong, proud, actress-y tones,
off like well-meaning but light,
gestures. Forever reminding
audiences that she's an "activis
often evokes the sort of di
liberalism that Hayden des
Plainly, though, she is there tc
crowds-not because she's a
thinking citizen, or even a notab
but because she's a movie sta
people want to see and stand next

See II:

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