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November 06, 1971 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1971-11-06

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Saturday, November 6, 1971


Page Five


Joseph McCarthy: A

Fred J. Cook, THE NIGHT-
MARE DECADE, Random House,
' The phrase "Nightmare De-
cade" will seem to many a per-
fect title for the decade that saw
three worthy and deservedly-
loved political leaders assassi-
nated while the nation still had
a great need for their leadership
and was engaged in the fiercest
phase of a decidedly inglorious
war. In the mind of Fred J.
Cook, however, the Nightmare
Decade is one of the great
anti-communist crusades In Am-
erica from the end of the Sec-
ond World War to the middle of
the 1950's. The book actually fo-
cuses most closely on the period
from February, 1950 to Novem-
ber, 1954. On February 9, 1950,
Senator Joseph McCarthy went
before an audience in Wheeling,
West Virginia to deplore the
laxity of the American people in

the fight against Communism.
The Senator attributed this lax-
ity to "an emotional hangover
and the temporary moral lapse"
that follows a war. He then des-
cribsd an astonishing threat to
the nalion.
While I cannot take the
time to name all the men in
the State Department who
have been named as? members
of the Communist Party and
members of a spy ring," he
told his audience "I have here
in my hand a list of 205 that
were known to the Secretary
of State as being members of
the Communist Party and
who, nevertheless, are still
working and shaping policy in
the State Department.
He did have a piece of paper
in his hand which he held up
for, the audience to see. To this
day it is not certain what the
paper was. McCarthy himself
once rougishly described it to a
friend as "an old laundry list."
Late in 1954, the United States

Senate condemned McCarthy.
From that day he suffered a fall
from power and disappearance
from public view as complete as
Nikita Kruschev's, though Mc-
Carthy continued to hold public
office. He resurfaced in the
headlines only at his death in
* In between the Wheeling
speech and the Senate condem-
nation were four and a half
years in which McCarthy +was
able to drive from government
the able and impeccable George
C. Marshall, to engineer the de-
feat of Millard Tydings, who
had been an entrenched power
in Maryland for years, and to
cast into doubt the loyalty of
great numbers of Americans
both in and out of government.
It was all done moreover, with
no special intelligence, cunning,
charm or diligence. None of the
charges had more substance
than his original list of 205.
As Cook tells it, McCarthy
stayed ahead of the truth by

smothering his failures with
promises of even more sensa-
tional disclosures. Charges were
made, hard evidence promised,
people subpoenaed and grilled,
but never was the promised hard
evidence produced. Instead as
the investigation degenerated,
McCarthy would divert attention
from his failure by making a
new charge even better than the
previous one. Each charge would
catch the front page everywhere
and could be understood by all.
The merits of the charges were
discovered in proceedings that
were, by comparison, tedious and
hard to folow. Aiding in Mc-
Carthy's strategy was the fact
that there are those of wealth
and influence who benefit from
an atmosphere that fears and
suspects any modification of
what is known here as the free
enterprise system.
Aiding as well were other,'
more subtle factors, the genuine
fear many Americans had-and
have-of ussia after the Sec-
ond Wor Id War, the anti-reli-
gious orientation of most Com-
munist parties that repelled
many Americans and made anti-
communism a matter of simple
decency to many. There was
genuine shock over the fall of
China, which had been trump-
eted throughout the Second
World War as a strong democra-
tic, allied government. Where-
as it was in fact not strong, not

in the slighttst democratic, was
no ally and not the government
of many areas of the country.
McCarthy and many who helped
him may have been no more
than the crassest of opportun-
ists, as Cook shows, but they
won the approval of large num-
bers of decent people, and plac-
ed many others in a difficult
position, not approving, but suf-
ficiently uncertain of their
ground to be cautious. None of
this is convincingly treated by
Cook. Silence or complicity is
rarely laid to good-faith, doubt
or to strategy; it is always the
result of cowardice or worse. No
one is .given credit for wanting
to bring down McCarthy. In
Cook's view, no step was taken
by anyone until it could not be
avoided and then the action tak-
en would be the least possible.
Even those who think ill of and
expect little from our political
leaders will find this shallow
treatment disappointing.
What is not given shallow
treatment arethe shortcomings
of the Senator. No derogatory
detail is too small: McCarthy's
house was messy. McCarthy was
very unsystematic driving from
his office to his house, and never
did figure out the shortest way.
McCarthy provided a wealth of
material for anyone wanting to
engage in this type of study, and
to a point it is useful in under-
standing McCarthy. He was a


Rackham Literary Studies

dangerous and unprincipled man
who did this nation great harm
but he does not come across as
a truly sinister figure. He was in
some ways only an amiable, un-
couth fortune-seeker. He was
completely unsuited for any res-
ponsible position and was entire-
ly unprepared mentally for the
obloquy that followed his cen-
sure. So vulnerable and unready
was he that he quickly deteri-
orated physically and died one
of the most pathetic figures in

Washington, his death hastened
if not caused, by alcohol. Never-
theless, the barrage of personal
shortcomings is so unrelenting
that it becomes an attractive
feature of the book.
Despite its limitations, the
book has value, especially for
those who think that the heavy-
handed rhetoric of a Nixon or a
Johnson or a Mitchell is as low
as we can go in American poli-
tics. Cook does not quite redeem
the phrase Nightmare Decade,
but he does reconstruct a low
point in American politics.

DIES, edited and published by
graduate students in Literature,
Let me first declare my in-
terest: as a graduate student in
Comparative Literature, I can
hardly view the arrival of Rack-
ham Literary Studies with chill-
ed detachment: the new journal
is the brainchild of a welcome
collobration between graduate
students and faculty of the vari-
ous departments of literature,
and its purpose is defined by the
editors thus:
We believe that a graduate
Journal which is less remote in
place, in delays of publication,
and in general image than the
professional Journals, should
contribute to the preparation
of graduate students to take
active roles in professional
forums of scholarly exchange
when they become teachers
and scholars of literature.
The editors and contributors to
RIS are students; financial sup-
port and encouragement came
from faculty and administration.
At the end of the twelfth cen-
tury, the unknown author of the
Niebelungenlied wrote:
Do brahte man die vrouwen
da :si i ligen vant.
si huop sin schoene boubet mit
ir vil wizen hant;
' do kustes also toten den edeln
ritter guot.
diu .Ir vil liehten ougen vor
leide weienten bluot.
(They brought the queen to
where he lay;
She lifted his handsome head
with her white hand.
She kissed the dead one, the
noble and good knight.
Her shining eyes cried blood
because.of her sorrow.)
In this century, Leopold Sedar
Senghor writes:
4Femme nue, femme noire
Vetue de to couleur qui est
vie, de fa forme qui est
J'ai grandi a ton ombre; la
douceur de tes m a i n s
mes yeaux.
P e r h a p s the juxtaposition,
across seven centuries, and be-
tween vastly different continents
and cultures, illustrates some-
thing of the scope of the literary
dialectic. The persistent skeins
fascinate-theme, form, imagery
can remain relatively constant,
If you use
you already know
howtw. use
the w*era

and yet, in each, an utterly in-
dividual voice r e m a i n s. The
sweep of poetic experience is
well represented in Rackham
Literary Studies, and in fact, my
major objection is that the other
genre suffer by comparison: of
seven articles, five are on poetry.
This in turn, gives rise. to an-
other problem for the general
reader: analysis of poetry tends
to be more closely text-bound
than that of, say, prose fiction or
drama. The traditions of expli-
cation de texte and practical
criticism often yield more pre-
-Woodcut by Gerhard Marcks
cise and comprehensive commen-
taries than the less formalized
cr itical methodologies of any
without the, author' textua f a-
miliarity, it can make for rather
frustrating reading: one admires
the skill of the method, the acute
tend to lose tihe wholepoeme
ad evnthe poetry In adapting
term papers for pub in vn p ylicatin the
differences between a journal
audience and the participants in
a seminar must. be taken into

As Rackham Literary Studies
becomes more widely known on
campus, it will, no doubt, attract
a wider range of material, and
the problems of content balance
will hopefully disappear. A sec-
ond hope would be for a thicker
publication which will allow some
of the wirters more room to de-
velop their ideas: Jane Missner's
article on Myth in Literature is
a victim of space restriction. She
accurately locates the problem of
myth in literature as being "all
things to all men" and surveys
the disparate attitudes and in-
adequacies of the various schools
-but she unfortunately does not
have room to formulate a more
synthetic definition.
Dan Latimer contributes a
formidable essay on "The Struc-
ture of Hofmannsthal's Poetry
and Lyric Plays" made all the
more enjoyable by a quality rare
in critical prose - humour.
With an accurate sense of liter-
ary direction, Mr. Latimer re-
jects the simplistic psychoanaly-
tic interpretation of the dicho-
tomy in Hofmannsthal's work,
and goes to the language itself,
demonstrating a subtle structure
in the poet's work.
There are articles on writers
from France, Africa, Italy, Spain
and Germany, and translations
ranging chronologically from
Middle High German, to a poem
for Jan Palach, the young Czech
who immolated himself in Pra-
gue after the Russian invasion.
I am told that Dorothy Yep's
translations, from the Chinese,
are exceptionally fine; her use
of typography makes them de-
lightful English poems in their
own right:
old, sick, i yield my post
and lurch like a sandgull
trapped between
sky and earth
A series of woodcuts, depicting
Orpheus' journey through the
underworld (and, say some
scholars, the student's career
through graduate school) enliv-
ens the text. The editors are to
be complimented on their ini-
tiative: I look forward to seeing
the second volume, scheduled for
the Winter term, and hope that
neither Hercules nor Pandora
will have a place in future edi-


Emotional Shiftlessness

Ernest Ellis, THERE LIES A
TALsE, Eerdmans Publishers,
Works have been appearing
which, above all, terrify through
an awful grimness which has
nothing to do with madness,
irony, cliquishness or sensation-
alism. To the extent that these
works succeed, they are deeply
serious and prophetic: they each
project a reading of the future
to an audience through living
metaphor, as visionary art al-
ways has.
G a 1 w a y Kinnell's Book of
Nightmares articulates the un-
conscious in this way through
primitive imagery. Ted Hughes
has been \vriting frightening
poems throughout his career and
most recently tried to sustain
the horror in a song cycle, Crow.
More revealing are his extraor-
dinarily gripping readings of
"Her Husband," "Bowled Over,"
and "Wodwo" on the Argo rec-
ord. "The Poets Speak--V",
which is in the UGLI audio room
collection. The same horror
seems to be working in the
prints of David Hockney, as in
his illustrations of New York
City for "The Rake's Progress."
The horror reaches back to
medieval Northern Europe, in
the spirit of the paintings in
Mars' temple in Chaucer ' s
William Gaus, an instructor
in the law school, recalls that
he was at one time the only
left-handed algebra teacher in
the nation's second-largestcity.
Angela McCourt is a Junior
Fellow in the Society of Fellows
Neal Bruss is familiar to
Daily readers as a long-time re-
viewer and a former Daily ma-
gazine editoro.

"Knight's Tale." Hockney has
illustrated six u n c e n s o r e d
Grimm fairy tales; Kinnell's
book is illustrated with alchemi-
cal and magical etchings.
Hughes has said in an interview
that for him the world has en-
tered a dark age, with only the
material shells of dead spiritual
forces persisting. Some medieval
art, as these artists know, terri-
fied above all else.
A poem which can deeply and
unavoidably frighten m o d e r n
readers, is the polar opposite of
all the mitigated and euphemis-
tic statements of politicians and
industrialists and of Romanti-
cized popular art, advertising
and pornography. The poem
which terrifies is far more ef-
fective than the satire which
only twists a euphemism or the
reportage which cannot capture
in words the horror of events.
Ernest Ellis' There Lies a Tale
is an i r o n i c, black-humored
short novel. Even though it iss
about Auschwitz, it does not
horrify. As such, it falls in with
a range of absurdist literature
of the last twenty years, and
perhaps it is dated.
But one w o n d e r s whether
deeply ironied writing and the
emotional shiftlessness which is
its result, captures the greatest
possibilities of this time. Per-
haps more seriously, one won-
ders whether in a euphemistic
world the negative image of an
abomination projected by a sa-
tire is adequately different from
the abomination itself.
In Eliis' novel, jeweler is ap-
pointed to a commission ap-
pointed to examine the sewage
system of Auschwitz. The jewel-
er's speculations on what he
finds are even more euphemistic
than the lies of the kapos: thus
Jews have highest priority for
"retirement", crematoria a r e
presented as refineries and
clothes taken from executed

camp inmates are shown as
charitable contributions from
around the world. The jeweler's
ideas so surpass what ,the Nazis
formulate as their own explan-
ations that he is offered a job
among the Nazi staff.
The irony is blunted when the
jeweler is mistakenly grouped
with trainloads of new inmates,
and the novel is complicated by
being enfolded in two tale-with-
in-a-tale frames. At one point,
the camp commandant is pre-
sented as the Macbeth of the
Banquo's ghost scene. The novel
ends with men - with - straight-
jackets pursuing the jeweler in
New York.
The devices of this novel, par-
ticularly the illusion-reality bit,
are not particularly cunning.
But more important, it is emo-
tionally flat, which at this time
might be a source of disappoint-
ment in any work, whether it
deals with Auschwitz or not.

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