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When Sherlock Holmes warned Dr. Watson that the giant rat of Sumatra was “a story for which the world is not yet prepared,” the good doctor followed his friend’s advice and let that strange case lapse forever into the limbo of things unknown. In THE AMERICAN ESTABLISHMENT (Harcourt, Brace & World, $4.95), RICHARD ROVERE faces the same obstacle of sheer incredibility but elects a different strategy. Instead of Dr. Watson’s total silence, he veils his disclosures in irony, strewing his text with fanciful footnotes and spurious references, as if to suggest that the whole thing may be merely a spoof. Mr. Rovere knows that he would not be believed if he were to speak seriously. The world is no more prepared for the full story of the Establishment than Dr. Watson’s readers were for the tale of the giant rat.
The Establishment is so omnipresent yet secret in its operations that ideas about it vary. The following definite facts may be culled from Mr. Rovere: 1) the Establishment is a more or less closed and self-sustaining institution that holds a preponderance of power in our more or less open society; 2) it is recruited from people in finance, business, and the professions, largely though nor exclusively from the Northeast; 3) presidents and senior professors of the great Eastern universities are frequently its spokesmen and local committeemen; 4) its official newspaper is the New York Times (Mr. Rovere tells us that all he knows about the Establishment is what he reads between its lines); 5) it enjoys unrivaled power in the ‘arge philanthropic foundations, whose officially sponsored studies have shaped the political platforms of both parties and from whose ranks our present Secretary of State was selected.
The Establishment, of course, denies that it exists. ft is to its advantage to have the rest of us not believe in its power. However, unreconstructed Southerners and grass-roots senators have never been fooled by this denial. They have been fighting the Establishment for years in Congress, yet the consensus is that even here the victory is slowly going to the Establishment, especially on such kev issues as foreign aid and tariff revisions.
Mr. Rovere’s book ranges widely over the contemporary scene and includes perceptive studies of Justice Holmes, Wendell Willkie, Harold Ickes, Ezra Pound, George Orwell. One particularly acute and sober study of the power problem, “The Interlocking Overlappers,” obviously first put the author on the track of the Establishment. Astute, scholarly, and witty throughout, Mr. Rovere is one of the most refreshing political commentators we now have.
Nevertheless, though they comprise only a tenth of this book, the sensational disclosures about the Establishment are bound to overshadow the rest. Not since Whittaker Chambers broke with the Communist conspiracy have we had a case charged with comparable drama. Mr. Rovere has infiltrated the higher echelons of the Establishment — and talked. Chambers, after his defection, had to sleep with a gun near his bed. But those were other times and another organization. Rather I than liquidate its opponents, the Establishment prefers to absorb them. Publicly, of course, it will laugh at these disclosures, but secretly the wheels may have already been set in motion for dealing with “the case Rovere.” Mr. Rovere may have to go underground for a time, but he is likely to reappear as a director of a foundation or an editor of the Times. Or, possibly, he may follow the fate of another Establishment sleuth who began to speak too freely, J. K. Galbraith, and be exiled to India.


Our popular stereotypes of Argentina probably go back to the early movies. The typical Argentine would be a gaucho who could tango like Rudolph Valentino or a cattle baron played by Douglas Fairbanks. It is a pleasantly unsettling fact for such stereotypes that Argentina’s first man ofletters, JORGE LUIS BORGES, should be one of the most introverted, occult, and erudite of writers. Though lie has enjoyed international fame throughout Latin America for decades, Sr. Borges has only just come to our attention in this country in two translations: LABYRINTHS (New Directions, $5.50) and FICCIONES (Grove, $3.50). Clearly, it is not only our recognition of political realities in the Southern Hemisphere that has been belated.
Unlike Mexico for, for that matter, our own United States), Argentina has absorbed very little of the Indian in its bloodstream, and its population includes only a negligible number of Negroes. Its people feel themselves to be distinctly European in origin: and its intellectuals experience direct cultural ties with Europe as a whole — in the modern period, more directly with France and Germany than with the motherland of Spain. The best literary reviews in Argentina have always had a more distinctly Parisian and Continental tone than ours. Sr. Borges, a distinguished translator of Gide and Kafka, is a man who has read all the books. At present be is the director of the National Library of Argentina.
This obsession with European culture. however, takes place in a country located in the Southern Hemisphere. where the cycle of nature and its seasons runs a reverse course. (Even the water in the washbasin rotates counterclockwise down the drain.) Steeped as he is in the culture of Europe, Sr. Borges yet seems to see the whole world from the reverse side of that of the usual European writer. The accidental is the law, and the waking state a dream.
Sr. Borges’s ficciones are a unique and personal form, a blend of philosophical essay and cabalistic tale. They arc all quite brief, sometimes with the power of a single dagger thrust. He writes a story as if he were merely conveying an abstract of a three-hundred-page novel already in existence. Time does not exist except as the memory of what has already happened. All the learning of man is like the scattered fragments of the destroyed library at Alexandria, or the incomprehensible symbols in the tomes of the cabalists. The solid fabric of life recedes into mystery like the pampas into the cloudy southland of Tierra del Fuego.
To the rapid reader. Sr. Borges’s vision may seem rather monotonous, gray, impalpable. These brief ficciones have to be read one at a time, and slowly; then they throb with uncanny and haunting power. A strange and formidable writer, Sr. Borges is also a magisterial stylist — even in translation.


LOUIS AUCHINCLOSS is one of the most accomplished, solid, and mature of our novelists, yet he has been curiously neglected. Some of this neglect is understandable. He has no brilliance of surface; his prose never soars, and indeed scarcely ever flutters its wings off the ground. As a social novelist working the vein of Edith Wharton, he writes oldfashioned novels about an old-fashioned segment of society, and their pace is often plodding. But for the real substance of the novel — the ability to perceive and present adult people caught in a complex social web — Mr. Auchineloss gives us more value page for page, and book for book, than many of the highly touted novelists of his generation.
PORTRAIT IN BROWNSTONE (Houghton Mifflin, $4.95) is one of his best studies of the older and more affluent society of New York. The story has to do with the intricate life of the Denisons, more clan than family, who dominated East Fifty-third Street at the turn of the century. Derrick Hartley, a young Harvard man on the make, gets involved with the clan when he bulls his way into the brokerage house of Uncle Linn. He is pulled between the two cousins, beautiful but wayward Geraldine and plain but dependable Ida. Though he loves Geraldine, she rejects him because his social position is not high enough.
Like a hero more out of Balzac than Edith Wharton, Derrick declares war on the society that has rejected him. He marries fda, rises to the top of the family brokerage firm, and becomes the most powerful figure within the clan. From this position of strength he is able years later to maneuver Geraldine into becoming his mistress.
A hero who is the husband of one cousin and lover of another provides Mr. Auchineloss with some nice complications, which he works for all they are worth. The plot is guided very deftly from the present back into the past, and then forward again into the future. Curiously enough, the mousy Ida turns out in the end to be the real center of power as she steers her family through its times of trouble.
Derrick, Ida, and Geraldine are complex, interesting, if not particularly likable people. Derrick may be cool and ruthless, but what a welcome relief to have a hero of a novel who is not a feckless blob but a man of determination who knows exactly what he wants and goes out to get it. When we come to the Hartley children of the present generation, however, the spark seems to have died out, and Mr. Auchincloss cannot make them nearly so interesting. He is at his best when chronicling a vanished way of life, when the rich not only had more money, but, as Scott Fitzgerald put it, were indeed very different people from the rest of us.


ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER is Surely one of the most remarkable and enchanting writers in America today. Though he writes in Yiddish, Mr. Singer insists that he is an American who merely happens to write in a foreign tongue. His point seems to me well taken; American life is diverse enough to welcome so extraordinary a talent, especially when the translation of THE SLAVE (Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 154.95) by the author and Cecil Hemley comes over into English with such naturalness and clarity.
The setting of the story is seventeenth-century Poland, a country more exotic and bizarre than the early paintings of Chagall. Jacob, a saintly young Jew, driven from his native town by a Cossack raid, has become a slave of a Polish peasant. He loves, and is loved by, the peasant’s daughter, Wanda. Polish and Jewish law forbid their marriage on pain of death, and the couple become wanderers, outcasts from both worlds. Yet. through the sufferings of their love they learn great wisdom and faith.
Mr. Singer’s art has the simplicity of artlessness itself. Without any literary tricks, and using the simplest of language, he brings the whole life of that remote world, with its primitive and superstitious peasantry, haunted and vision-filled Jews, as vividly before us as this morning’s dawn.


A novelist writing essays is not necessarily seeking diversion from his more arduous calling. More often than not, he may be moving trunks around in the attic to sort out the personal convictions without which bis fiction would lack direction and point. Two vigorous efforts at such stocktaking, THE AGE OF HAPPY PROBLEMS by HERBERT GOLD (Dial, $4.95) and ROCKING THE BOAT by GORE VIDAL (Little, Brown, $5.00), provide neatly contrasting pictures of the young writer attempting to define his own personal profile against the vast welter of contemporary life.
Mr. Gold’s rather odd title was supplied to him gratis by a television producer whom he had approached with some ideas for scripts. “No, Mr. Gold,”the producer thundered, “1 don’t think you understand what we want. We want happy stories about happy people with happy problems.” Our “age of happy problems"’ finds its ritual expression in the half-hour domestic drama on television with its banal repetitions of banal people involved in the trivial worries of the affluent society.
Mr. Gold is not very happy at the prospect. His book is a portrait of the artist as a discontented young man passing through Cleveland, Greenwich Village. Paris, Haiti, Miami Beach, and finding wormwood and gall all along the way. Though he has no confidence in the material life of our time, Mr. Gold is sustained by a brave faith in the abiding value of literature and its dedication to truth.
The book has brilliance, wit, and in the pieces on Haiti and Miami particularly, the power to evoke mood and scene. But with all his gifts, Mr. Gold leaves me oddly uncomfortable, not at his discontent, for that is inevitable in the face of the world we confront, but at his detachment. He is never quite in, but always above his material, as if attachment anywhere might fetter his freedom. In this void his gifts become strained in order to keep up a bright chatter. Wit becomes wisecrack, fired with the rapidity of a Gatling gun. The author, at war with himself, seems intent on convincing us, contrary to the old adage, that everything that glitters is really Gold.
By contrast, Mr. Vidal wears his dissent with urbanity. Nowadays it is an unusual pleasure to read a young author who is not straining after an identity but writes as if he had already achieved one. This unusual feat has been managed by dint of some sensible thinking about life, love, letters, and the general state of the republic. Mr. Vidal has concluded that Americans, and American writers particularly, are preoccupied with questions of love and sex to the neglect of politics and society. The ancients were wise enough to place other gods in their pantheon besides Eros. As Mr. Vidal secs it, sex is a very personal matter and should be left such; the issues of public morality and political responsibility arc more grave, as well as more interesting. In the age of the gossip columnist and the confessional. too many of our writers succumb to the tasteless business of washing private linen in public.
If our society as a whole both bores and appalls him, as he candidly acknowledges, he himself seems to be having a wonderful time attempting to subvert it. One of his special heroes is Bernard Shaw; and Mr. Vidal writes with much of the Shavian exuberance and gaiety. Altogether, this is one of the most intelligent and pleasant collections of essays that I have read for some time.


FRANÇOISE SAGAN seems to aspire after the contradictory roles of Brigitte Bardot in life and Colette in literature, and at moments she might even be succeeding. Her remarkable gift as a writer is that, walking a thin line between trash and serious literature, she can accomplish both at the same time. This is not .so far from Colette as it might seem, and while Mile. Sagan has nowhere near the peasant sturdiness and substance of her great predecessor, she is still young and developing.
In THE WONDERFUL CLOUDS (Dutton, $3.00) Mile. Sagan pursues her usual theme of troubled love, but this time the two lovers are more than usually sick, sick. Alan, the young American husband, tortures himself and his French wife, josee, by his jealous imagination of her past loves; and she in rebellion goes out of her way to take on depressing lovers just to give his imagination substance. The setting is international; the story moves from Key Largo to New York to Paris, where at the end the two self-flagellating lovers still cling together like a drowning couple dragging each other under.
Alan, rich, boyishly handsome, with a Freudian complex about his mother, is a composite of nearly all the anti-American cliches that now circulate in Paris. But just as you are about to fling the book away as pure tripe, you realize that Mlle. Sagan has also caught something subtle and true about the impossible and self-destructive romanticism of the young American male in love. And when you are just about fed up with Josee as a mindless trollop, Mlle. Sagan suddenly puts before you in a few strokes the picture of the aggressively discontented female more truly than Simone de Beauvoir did in all the pages of her militant Second Sex.
But whether it be trash or literature, this short novel is perfect refreshment for a hot summer afternoon. Mlle. Sagan writes with her usual grace and economy. Who else could dispatch the scene of her heroine’s seduction aboard a fishing boat with the single terse sentence: “The sheets were clean and Ricardo very brutal"?


In the last few decades, the dance as a serious art form has taken on new life in this country. AGNES DE MILLE. who has been one of the most prominent contributors to this resurgence. lias written a very valuable book of counsel, TO A YOUNG DANCER (AtlanticLittle. Brown. $4.50; paperback. S2.25), which has all the qualities of dedication and passion that have made its author famous as a creative dancer, choreographer, and teacher.
The book is addressed directly to the young and aspiring dancer; yet even for the layman it conveys more essential insight into the spirit of the dance than could be done by any textbook minutiae of information. Miss de Mille writes from the conviction that the dance is at once a physical and spiritual dedication. One of the oldest hopes of philosophy has been the conjecture that in essence spirit and body are one; in the dance this union is not left a matter of abstract theory but is actually achieved in the living moment of performance. Hence, the unique fascination of the art.
The vitality of the modern dance lias been due in great part to its ability to fuse contemporary materials with traditional forms. Miss de Mille begins her book with the striking statement, “There are over four million dance students in the United States today.”The prospect of all that energy and all those agile young bodies turned from physical sports to art gives one pause - and hopes Here, in what is probably mankind’s oldest art, may be a new frontier where American energy can find an expression worthy of itself.