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September 29, 1974 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1974-09-29

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Page Four

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Sunday, September 29, 1974

BOQI

K S

VICTIMS OF SUCCESS
The story of two writers and
a flaw in the American Dream

SELF-DEFENSE
Freedom from fear:
Guide against rape

ROSS & TOM: Two American
Tragedies by John Leggett. New
York: Simon & Schuster, 434
pages, $10.
By DON KUBIT
"In America, success is the
calling card of the under-
taker." -Karl Shapiro
.CCASIONALLY, the Ameri-
can Dream comes true. It
did for Ross Lockridge and Tom
Heggen, two young writers
whose first novels were popu-
lar successes, making b o t h
men rich and famous.
With the publication of Rain-
tree County by Lockridge, and
the Broadway adaptation of .
Heggen's Mister Roberts, t h e
dream seemed complete.
Yet, as we learn in Ross &
Tom, a biography of these two
men by John Leggett, their liv-
es were tragedies. Within aI
year of their accomplishments
both men had committed sui-
cide.
Success had transformed the
dream into a nightmare. Bene-
ficiaries of the dream, the two
men also became its victims.
THE CHIEF proponents of the
American Dream are the
young. The quest for fame and
fortune is fed by their ener-
gies. The visionis, at times,
a stimulus; at times, a pan-
acea.
But despite its elixirs, t h e
American Dream is not with-
out its faults. If success comes
too quickly and shines too
brightly, the dreamer may be
caught off-guard, unprepared,
and the return to reality can
often be fatal.
After their initial success,
both Ross and Tom found their
energies drained. Unable to
write, self-doubt prevailed; they
began to question the value of

what theyJ
lished.
WANTIN
could
ond-novel-
ma once
writer in
himself."
Besides
there were
success br
sures inva
quired to w
more emin
ing. The a
impossible.
Ross &7
two men
When the
did their I
shared the
Midwestern
gett stress

had already accomp- It took Ross five years to
write Raintree County, p 1 u s
two more years of editing in
G TO write, neither order to satisfy first the Book-
I overcome that se- of-the-Month committee and
block - the dilem- then the MGM people, who pro-
described as "the mised a lucrative contract if
competition w i t h the book could be translated in-
to a movie.
this internal conflict, Through the ordeal, R o s s
the problems which scrimped and saved, feeding his
rings. Outside pres- family on the meager earnings
ded the solitude, re- of an English professor at a
vrite, diversions were small college and spending
ent and more appeal- summers in cramped inexpen-
ct of writing became sive quarters to buy writing
time.
Tom is a portrait of He had high hopes for the
who lived to write. novel, but after seven years
writing stopped, so his spirit was broken. The cri-
ives. Although t h e y ginal enthusiasm of bettering
e same middle-class Joyce's Ulysses had palled. For
n background, Leg- Ross, there became "some-
es the differences in thing finite and irrevocable in

AGAINST
Medea and
son. N e w
Straus and
$2.25.

RAPE by Andrea
Kathleen Thomp-
Y o r k: Farrar,
Giroux, 152 pp.,

ville, New York. But bis wise- planned another play, but trus-
cracking nature often got him trations convinced him it was
into trouble with the m,)re se- Logan, not him, who had made;
date fathers of the most wvle- the play successful. Tom be-
ly-read magazine in the world. lieved he could only write
After Pearl Harbor, T o m again, in collaboration w i t h,
joined the Navy. The long, bor- Logan, who was already b u s y

Occasionally, the American dream
comes true. It did for Ross Lockridge
and Tom Heggen . . . yet within a
year of their accomplishments both
men had committed suicide.
S:"';? e:f..4 " J..x'!; YY ', ."" .: ."rrEE W # ;.;#EWrrE' {:'{.^""::. ,,."%Y i: My::rii: ':"'r{ ":{';{

ing hours on a non-combat ship preparing South Pacific.
I served as a basis for M i 3 t e r Meanwhile, Heggen's personal
Roberts. Despite some negative life declined. Thrust into the
reaction to the realistic, bawdy hectic life of New York, he
language of the sailors, t h e could not find the stability he
book became an instant success. had once had in Minneapolis.
Romantic interests failed and he
ATTRACTED to the theater, turned to more booze and pills,
Tom worked first with until he was found by a clean-
Max Schulman and finally Josh ing woman drowned in a bath-
Logan to put Mister Roberts tub, his body filled with barbit-
on the stage. With Henry Fonda urates.
in the lead role, it became a Ross & Tom is a book that
Broadway smash. Soon he was will interest anyone who hast
receiving a weekly check of already written or thought he
$1,200. It was more money than might want to write - a num-
he had ever seen before, and ber which must include 90 perI
proved to be more money than cent of the American popula-
he knew what to do with. As tion. Although Leggett's writ-
new money tends to do in the ing seems cliche-ridden at
pockets of someone used to times, overall, Ross & Torn
barely getting by, it led to ex- may be the best biography in
cess. a ear withplenty of candi-

By REBECCA WARNER x
"WOMEN ARE always inf
someone else's territory,"
state Andrea Medea and Kath-
leen Thompson in their intro
ductory chapter. "Every day of
their lives, women learn to ac-!
cept the fact that their freedom
is limited in a way that a man's'
is not."
In Against Rape, Medea andt
Thompson provide an arsenal1
of psychological, intellectual and
physical weapons with which
women can arm themselves
against rape, free themselves!
from the attitudes that inhibit
self-defense, and prepare for,
sexual assault, which, they point
out, is something females have
a good chance of experiencing.'
For women with unresolved
feelings about men, sexism, and;
rape, the two women's incisivej
prose can evoke old pain and1
dredge up anger we'd like to
forget. The hurts are worth'
bearing, though. The insights
Against Rape offers into our1
fear and our anger are as prac-I
tical as they are revealing.
Rape, Medea and Thompson:
explain, is the natural out-:
growth of a society which re-,
gards women not as full hu-
mans, but rather as proper; y.
The schism between the images'
of "woman as someone else's

sexual property" and "woman
as mine"-wife, girlfriend, sis-
ter, mother-create two major
rape myths. The first is that
the rapist is a psychopath,
someone preternaturally ugly,
who hides in dark alleys foam-
ing at the mouth and waitimig >'
for victims to fall into his <r<<
clutches.
TJHE SECOND is a male an-
tasy born of the social con-
struct which makes men pre-
dators and women gate-keepers
to the sexual castle. In rape,
men see a way to pay back all
the women who said no-and
make them like it, too.
In the real world, though, the
rapist is the boy next door. He's 'z. .
just a regular guy taking ad-
vantage of a woman who's lost
a round in the sexual game by
getting herself in a situation
where she's defenseless. ' -'p
Rape, then, is not an aberra-
tion but a fact of life. Medea bring to the surface, and are
and Thompson, one a self-de- sometimes frightening in their
fense teacher and one a mem- intensity. When I was about
ber of Chicago Women Against three quarters of the way
Rape, set out in their book to through Against Rape, and
explore the reasons for the waiting for a bus on a street

I
!I
.'{
.I
.f
l
k
t!

present explosion in rape sta-
tistics, to analyze women's ex-I
perience of a society where rape
is everpresent, and to offer
some useful advice on how to
avoid being raped and what to
do when you are.

their personal lives and writingI
styles.
Ross was the wunderkind, the
A plus student who excelled at
everything he did. A faithful
husband and father of f o u r
girls, he neither smoked n o r
drank, and is described as "a
marching band of virtues."
His writing was a reflection
of his industrious nature. Leg-
gett refers to him as a "Vesuv-
ius writer" - a volcano spew-
ing forth page after page of ori-
ginal copy, followed by an even
greater number of additions and
revisions.
TOM, ON THE other hand,
favored the low life. After
an unhappy marriage, he re-
verted to booze, pills and cas-
ual, often fickle, relationships
with New York's literary.
whores.
As a writer, he was a per-
fectionist. Sitting in silence for
hours, he committed words to
paper only when he was certain
there was no further need for
revision.

the very sight of the book."
BESIDES THAT, he began tc
worry about his family's
reactions to a book based or
their ancestors' lives. It was
the realization which often oc-
curs at publication time, thai
you are no longer writing f o r
yourself and that your "char-
acters" may be unmasked anc
identified.
Finally, in the face of in
creasing fear and quilt, he
sought psychiatric help, inchid-
ing a series of electric shock
treatments which were never
completed. Any possible cures
were too late. After it h a d
seemed that he was improving
he was found locked in the fam
ily garage, the engine of his
new car still running.
Before he was even oit of
college, Tom Heggen had al-
ready experienced too many
hangover breakfasts. Writing a
humor column for the college
newspaper was enough exper-
ience to land him a j)b at
Reader's Digest in Pleasant-
,11

a
s
1
i
s
t
r
0
r
s

3
I
I
I

Then came the matter of writ-
ling again. Having seen his
characters come to life, he

dates.
Don Kubit is a free-lance
wri/er Ii: in, ;in Ann Arbor.

HE EMOTIONS
the issue of rape

tied up
are easy

in
to

SEXUAL ADVENTURES
Slick, pointless short fiction
from past issues of Playboy

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jl

11

SWITCH BITCH by Roald
Dahl. New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 210 pp., $5.95.
By BETSY AMSTER
Roald Dahl is the author of.
the widely-acclaimed children's
book, Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory. He is also the author
of several books of short stories,
written ostensibly for adults'
His most recent collection of
four "Mother Goosepimple talesI
for grown-ups" (as the dust-
jacket coyly puts it) has the not
very subtle, not very intriguing;
title of Switch Bitch. Needless
to say, Switch Bitch is about
the many and varied amorous:
exploits of many and varied ,
characters - characters with
clever names like Oswald Hen-1
dryks, Cornelius and Samantha 1
Rainbow. Unlike Charlie and
the Chocolate Factory, though,
Switch Bitch is not the kind of
book millions of readers are go-
ing to take to heart.1
We are informed on the copy-:'
right page that these stories'
originally appeared in "Play-
boy." This comes as no sur-
prise; most of the characters
in Switch Bitch are men whose
}sole interest and ability in Ufe ,
is sex. There is Uncle Oswald,
jet set stud: "Whenever he
went he left an endless trail of
females in his wake, femalesl
ruffled and ravished beyond:
words, but purring like cars." l
There is Vic Hammond, navicel

things in this world at which
I happen to know I excel. One
is driving an automobile andI
the other is you-know-what."
There is Uncle Oswald once
again (he stars in two stories):
"I was now a gigantic perpen-
dicular penis, seven feet tall
and as handsome as they
come." Lest you assume from
this last quote that these soaries
are titillating if nothing else,
let me warn you that they'rel
not. They are slick and un- '
original.
Lacking real wit, insight, per-
ceptive characterization, and,
other qualties of good fi :Zion,I
these stories rely on elaborate
contortions of the plot to sus-'
tain the reader's interest. In
the first story, "The Visitor,"
we are introduced to the twenty-:
eight volumes of Uncle Oswa.d's
diary of sexual adventures. The.
story itself is the last entry of1
the last diary. The entry opens
with Uncle Oswald making a?
narrow escape from the top of
a pyramid where he has been
consorting illicitly w i t h C.n
Egyptian princess. He finds'
himself stranded in the middle
of the Sinai desert with a broken.
fan belt; luckily, a avealhv
Syrian happens along in1 his'j
Rolls Royce and extends his{
hospitality. Oswald spends the:
night in the Syrian's pa atialj
home, where he flirts shame-1
lessly with the Syrian's wifeI

wifeswapper:

"There are two

and daughter. The story-line, of:
course, is labyrinthine, with
Oswald g e t t i n g his Instant
Karma in the end.
This may sound moderately
funny in the retelling, but only
in the retelling. The story itself
is a tedious 72 pages long. And
Dahl uses the same formula-
lecherous man hatches lascivi-
ous plot which ultimately tails
-in two of the other stories.!
As if there haven't been enough
novels and films about the up-
per-middle-class phenomenon of
wife-swapping, in "The Great
Switcheroo" Vic Hammond and
his best friend devise a scheme
whereby they may swap mates
without their wives ever finding'
out. Unfortunately, Vic loges I
out: Ho Hum, as they say. In1
"Bitch" (the title alone manes,
one leery), we are treated to1
another escapade from Uncle ;
Oswald's diary. A c h e m i s t
friend of Oswald's creates a
powerful aphrodisiac perfume,I
which Oswald christens;
"Bitch." As a result of various
antics too numerous to mention,1
the chemist dies and Oswald s.
left with the only extant cubic-:
centimeter of the perfume. Ha
plots to use "Bitch" in such a,
way as to insure the impeach-
wrent of the President. This par-
ticular plot development is onei
of the more regrettable in the
book - all possible humor al-
ready has been wrung out of,
that tried topic. (Oswald, by,
the way, fails.)
Notall of thestories are a
total loss, however. The main
character in "The Last Act" is
a woman, and Dahl manages to
draw her with some sensitivity.
The story describes Anna Coop-
er's reaction to the unnimelv
death of her husband. It has the

si

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PROFESSOR GEORGE WALD
Professor of Biology, Harvard University
Nobel Laureate
"THE TRUE AND THE GOOD""
HILL A UDITORIUM-4:10 P.M.
PANEL RESPONSE and PUBLIC SEMINAR with Professor Wald,
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Professor Terry Tice (education)
RACKHAM AMPHITHEATER-8 P.M.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 1974
For further information: Office of Ethics and Religion, 3rd floor, Mich. Union--764-7442

requisite sex scene, but this!
time Dahl handles it poignantly
and does not try to be clever.;
The story is inhno way remark-t
able, except that it is -rot as.1
devoid of emotion as the other
three.
Where Charlie and the Choco-
late Factory and Dahl's other;
book for children, James and.
the Giant Peach, are written;
engagingly, Dahl doesn't show
much of a way with words in
Switch Bitch. He deals in'
cliches ("The woman beside me
was like a coiled spring"; "In
her whole life, she had been
made love to by only one man'
-her husband"; etc.). His at-,
tempts at description are rare
and generally simplistict
("Across the river there were{
willows along the bank and be-;
yond the willows an emerald-
green meadow, yellow with but-
tercups, and a single cow gran-I,
ing. The cow was brown and!
white."). This timid style, along
with the book's essential lack
of content, make for a deadly
combination.
Don't let me scare you away
from Switch Bitchdcompletely.
If you are an avid reader of
magazines for men, you might
- just might - find this book
right up your alley.-
Betsy Amster is a senior ma-
joring in English.

corner, a young man standing
nearby began mumbling at me.
I turned on him and hissed,
"Why don't you leave me
alone?"
It turned out he was asking
why the bus was late. I began
to feel my reactions were get-
ting out of control.
Fear of the effects of our
own anger, Medea and Thomp-
son explain, is a reason why
many women feel they can't
strike back at a potential rap-
ist. "Women fear their own an-
ger because, s i n c e they've
never seriously struck someone
in anger, they've ifever learned
what happens when they do."
G UILT, WHICH seems to go
with rape the way ham goes
with cheese, may not be what
it seems, the women assert.
"What appears to be guilt may
be the way the woman's mind
interprets a positive impulse, a
need to be in control of her
life. If the woman can believe
that somehow she got herself
into the situation . . . then she's
established a sort of control
over the rape. It wasn't some-
one arbitrarily smashin g into
her life and wreaking havoc."
Medea and Thompson, unlike
the police authorities usually
quoted in writings on rape,
avoid telling gruesome stories
except in a few cases. Instead,
they matter - of - factly explain
what to expect in an assault
situation and describe a few
episodes in which women have
successfully fought back.
A chance to fight back-even
if it only means learning to deal
more confidently with street
hecklers-is something most wo-
men need badly. Although they
advise taking a self-defense
course, Medea and Thompson
offer a few lessons in karate
mixed with street-fighting, some
legal tips, and wisdom on how
to avoid potential rape situa-
tions in the first place. Their
analysis is packaged in read-
able, peer - to - peer language,
which conveys both }respect and
empathy for the auidence they
address. Their book is a sur-
vival text, not a polemic.
Control-the right to go where
we please without fear, and ip-
proach other people without an-
ticipating harassment or attack
-is a luxury most women have
yet to achieve. In the mean-
time, Against Rape offers some
good provisional ammunition.
Rebecca Warner, is Managing
Editor of the Michigan Daily.

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