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And so on. Whether Portnoy, or Roth, is being fair to Jewish mothers has been a matter of debate. Kingsley Amis said that there would be fewer Mrs Portnoys if there were fewer Alex Portnoys. Certainly the portrait of the devouring mother is monstrous, as is, in compensation, that of the frenzied whacker off. Since Auschwitz it has been forbidden to present the Jews as people subject to the faults of the rest of humanity. Roth has the courage to wish to show things as he has experienced them, but the exaggerations of Portnoy's Complaint have a shrillness which could be considered unwholesome if the book were not so . It is very .There has to be room in fiction for work whose main function is to bring the dead past back to life less through juicy couture outlet imaginative speculation than by processing (in this instance electronically: the book could not have been written without a sophisticated retrieval system) historical documents. To some of us the Second World War is memory as well as history, but Deighton was only ten when that war broke out: his achievement is to convince us that he was juicy couture outlet there in the midst of it, a mature recording eye. In some small areas of interpretation he goes wrong: the class system still bedevilled the fighting forces, but the class divisions in the RAF were not quite so bizarre as he presents them. On the other hand he seems never to make a technical or procedural error when reconstructing a massive bomber raid on Germany in 1943. His characters are sometimes in danger of degenerating into types -- the radical sergeant-pilot who has "Joe for King" stencilled on his aircraft, the public-school flying officer with his small mind and large ambitions -- but he is never wrong about the nervous and visceral responses to flying a Lancaster. He is accurate too about life in a small town in Germany which, by some colossal mistake of calculation, is mistaken for the industrial target entrusted to the mission and shattered. His Germans, soldiers, flying men and civilians, are as credible as the invented personnel of Warley Fen Airfield. In a more recent novel. Goodbye Mickey Mouse, Deighton has dared coach outlet to depict life on an American airfield in Britain with similar success. In SS-GB he presents an England defeated by and ruled by the Nazis -- again with great plausibility. Deighton's gift is not Jamesian: he is weak on poetic prose and moral involutions, his technique is more documentary than novelistic. But he represents a new and important strain in contemporary fiction and is to be admired for his courage.This is a fantasy presented with disarming lightness of touch and tone which is profounder than it looks. Howard Baker, driving to Highgate, finds himself suddenly in a strange but most attractive megalopolis which is the capital city of Heaven. It is run by Cambridge men and women: God is Freddie coach store outlet Vigars, a distinguished but decent scholar of good family, whose wife Caroline is "a kindly-looking girl with thick white legs and her slip showing". She says that Freddie, or God, is a terrific radical. The food eaten at heavenly parties begins with taramasalata, continues with gigot aux haricots and ends with apple crumble. Howard is set to work, with a team of awfully decent mountain-designers, on designing the Alps. The world is being made, but the world we know (which is being made) already exists. Selections from Fiddler on the Roof are played at receptions to meet God. Other Cambridge men are engaged on putting inspiration into the heads of great poets like Donne and Milton; one is even designing man. Howard ends as a planning assistant to God. "This is our task," he says, as he carves the gigot; "to provide the harsh materials on which men's imaginations can be exercised, and to offer, through the cultured and civilized life that we ourselves lead here in the metropolis, some intimations of the world they might envisage." ("Meanwhile," murmurs Miriam Bernstein, "here we all sit waiting for second helpings.") It is an impossible liberal vision, all too Cambridge. But Frayn, who refrains from comment, who is altogether too charming -- like his characters -- with his prada outlet easy-going colloquial prose, is fundamentally grim and sardonic. Cambridge cannot redesign the universe. The dream ends. Still, it might be gucci very pleasant if these awfully nice and intelligent Cantabrians of good family could replace blind chance or grumbling bloody bearded Jehovah. There is no sin here, only liberal errors. Frayn was trained as a philosopher. This is a philosphical novel. It is deceptively tough. I hesitated between this novel, V, and The Crying of Lot 49 when allotting space to Pynchon. A reading of Paul Fussell's fine book The Great War and Modern Memory convinced me that, while the others are brilliant higher games, this work, not as yet widely understood, has a gravity more compelling than the rainbow technique (high colour, symbolism, prose tricks) would seem to imply. The subject of the novel is clearly the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) of the Second World War, housed, as I remember, at 62-64 Baker Street, but here transferred to a former mental hospital gucci outlet on the south-east coast called The White Visitation. To this parodic SOE an American lieutenant, Tyrone Slothrop, is assigned in 1944, his task being to learn to predict the dispersal pattern of the V-2 missiles aimed by the Germans at London. The work brings him into contact with Brigadier Ernest Pudding, the commander of the unit (his name echoes that of the head of SOE -- Brigadier Colin Gubbins, MC) and a senile veteran of the Great War. He still lives that war, reminiscing louis vuitton outlet store about "the coal boxes in the sky coming straight down on you with a roar. . . the drumfire so milky and luminous on his birthday night. . . what Haig, in the richness of his wit, once said at mess about Lieutenant Sassoon's refusal to fight. . . the mud of Flanders gathered into the curd-crumped, mildly jellied textures louis vuitton outlet store of human shit, piled, duckboarded, trenches and shell-pocked leagues of shit in all directions. . .". Pudding engages in fortnightly rituals with a Dutch girl attached to the unit, Katje Borgesius, who also plays the allegorical role of "Mistress of the Night". These rituals are humiliating and involve coprophagy; classic pornography provides the only possible metaphors for the obscenity of war. This is what the novel prada is about. Fiction allows at last what was forbidden to the original suffering poets and novelists of 1914-18 -- the utmost in obscene description, the limit of masochistic pornography. If Gravity's Rainbow is often nauseating it is in a good cause. This is the war book to end them all. This novel probably confirmed Bellow's fitness for the Nobel Prize. It is in competition with Herzog as the best of Bellow's extended fiction, but it has less self-pity in it and is much funnier. The hero-narrator is Charlie Citrine (a name apparently taken, like burberry outlet online Moses Herzog, from Joyce's Ulysses), a successful but impractical Chicago writer who was a friend of the dead failed poet Von Humboldt Fleisher (probably based on Delmore Schwartz). The gift of the title is a film scenario which, after long incubation, emerges from nowhere and makes Citrine im?probably rich. Bellow seems to know little about the film world, but no matter. He knows Chicago very well and much of the book concerns Citrine's comic misfortunes, and rarer triumphs, in that city. He is in trouble with a small vicious gangster improbably named Cantabile, who is drawn to Citrine because of his very apparent inability to cope with the real tough world. He is in trouble with his divorced wife, who demands more alimony. His girl friend, the gorgeous animal Renata, talks of turning into Persephone and marrying a king of the dead, a successful mortician. The story moves slowly, but we do not mind. The richness with which Bellow presents the physical world, into which he

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