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Clean Male Prose?

July 25, 1993

In his review (Book Review, June 13) of Janet Kauffman's novel, "The Body in Four Parts," Jim Krusoe contrasts Kauffman's style with "the clean, well-lit, clutterless prose of that malest of writers, Hemingway." One might well ask why "clean, well-lit, clutterless" prose is so evidently "masculine" and if one should thus infer that "feminine" prose is "dirty, dark and cluttered"?

Of course Krusoe uses the less pejorative terms, "rich, luxurious and heaped-on" to describe Kauffman's language but it seems to me that women authors are restricted more than liberated by labeling this particular style as "feminine." When women can write out of the mind as well as the body, when "feminine" prose is allowed to be clear and quick as well as "wet" and "dreamy paced," then we'll be getting somewhere.



Whether intended or not, the juxtaposition of the two reviews on the same page of Book Review (July 4), "Days of Grace," by Arthur Ashe with Arnold Rampersad, and "Monster," by Sanyika Shakur, a.k.a. Kody Scott, may reveal more than the polar extremes of the character and lives of two black men. This very ironic placement may perhaps suggest something much more subtle and paradoxical about the nature of will and spirit, and the present state of racism in this country.

Clearly the two men share many affinities not the least of which is their success at culturally leaping the boundaries of what is often considered the domain of WASPs. Ashe succeeded brilliantly in the all white upper-crust world of professional tennis. And Mr. Sanyika Shakur, through rather questionable exploits but not altogether different in spirit and will, succeeds as the "toast of the town" of the literary world, a domain usually inaccessible to a man of his means.

Always one man's particular success may be viewed better or worse than the other's but the indisputable fact remains that these two men, coming from entirely diverse walks of life, have managed to overcome many of the racial barriers that once prevented others from making their positive mark on the world. The success of these two distinct men is not only a testament to their indomitable will and spirit, but a confirmation that the racial tides of iniquity and inequality are slowly receding.



Is there anything wrong with Isabel Allende's hero of "The Infinite Plan" (June 6), "el gringo Reeves"? To understand Allende's latest book, you must understand the Latin culture, but you also need to understand "American way" from the Latinos point of view.

Nothing is wrong with Allende's new hero. She created him as the untypical white American male who becomes a typical white American, only more human. The magic of this hero is precisely the fact that he begins his life in an unusual way for a white male, but transforms into the very typical "gringo" that we, Latin Americans, are so familiar with.

Allende knows very well what she is doing when portraying her hero the way she does. It is not true that "she can't think of a thing for him to do," as Carolyn See writes in her review. Why must See compare Allende's hero with those of Bryce Courtenay's or Ayn Rand's? Allende has her own right to create and change her heroes and heroines as she pleases. If the comparison is to stress the fact that those other authors' heroes changed their world, so did Allende's. The difference is that Reeves changed his "nomadic life" to the "Latin-barrio style" to the so-called "American way."

Gregory Reeves changed his world by realizing that what his mother always said about "racism being the most horrible perversity" and what his friend Cyrus said, that "the difference of social classes is the most horrible thing," were both right. How many white males in America 30 years ago, or even today, will admit these facts? Are the Latinos living in Los Angeles today different from the Morales of Allende's novel?

Maybe it helps to be a Latina, a foreigner even after naturalization and being an educator first at an all white and later at an all black universities, to understand that Isabel Allende has indeed created a hero that did change his world. And after all, as Carmen said to Gregory: "el fracaso y el exito no existen, son inventos de los gringos . . . Se vive no mas, lo mejor posible . . . ." ("failure and success do not exist, these are gringo's inventions. . . . Life is to be lived only, the best possible way. . . .")



Thanks for the review of Allan Bloom's book, "Love and Friendship" (July 4). Camus wrote that the only genuine alternatives to heroic lucidity are romance and faith. I opt for lucid faith but welcome Bloom's elucidation of romance. Rilke's hope was that the gods will return, perhaps as a phallic deity, restoring faith and love to wholeness. Those like Bloom who answer "not yet" are heroes to me, as the reviewer points out, with their "great pain and . . . intellectual brokenheartedness."



Writing a comprehensive biography of Earl Warren, I would appreciate hearing from anyone who knew or worked with the late chief justice either in California or in Washington.


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