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Reviews387 systematically substituted for existential categories. An urge for die minimal appears to be the leading impetus. The author claims to treat his material from a nonprescriptive, "aesdieticcritical . . . perspective" (p. 9)—but both the "critical" and the "aesthetic" involve evaluation, and the question remains what form of "aesthetics" is concerned. In practice, Black's perspective betrays some ambivalence. He deplores the rationalistic and plot-governed shift offocus from the criminal to the sleuth, declaring that "detective fiction is the most inauthentic and artificial of all the varieties of crime literature" (p. 45) . Here he is overly committed to the aestheticist orientation which he has so convincingly laid bare. There is nothing superficial in the powerful human urge for understanding which has made the detective story dear to so many intellectuals. True, that genre has undergone die trivializing process of automatization which spares no genre and no tradition. But surely (and with a vengeance!) the same process has affected the aestheticizing murder tradition, in which "the romantic artistassassin has become the postmodern performance artist" (p. 138), operating in a media-driven clichéified hyperreality. And here Black's evaluation transcends the limits of the aesthetic differentiation. He displays considerable irritation with the inauthenticity of this theatrical pseudoworld. Such a judgment suggests the need for a broader aesthetics, open to living reality and concomitantly to cognitive and ethical concerns—an aesthetics no longer reductively "poetic" but one that is "prosaic" in the sense of Tolstoy and Bakhtin. Boca Raton, FloridaW. Wolfgang Holdheim The Conservative Imagination, by Philip Thody; 180 pp. New York: St. Martin's Press, $39.95. When Philip Thody told his colleagues that he was writing a book called The Conservative Imagination, they remarked that it must be a very short one and considered the exercise (oxy)moronic. Elegantly and persuasively, he has proved otherwise. Indeed, so persuasive is Thody that the reviewer concludes that he, too, is a conservative, a revelation as remarkable as M. Jourdain's discovery that he spoke prose. What then constitutes the conservative imagination ? It adds die "possibility of gradual social improvement to its ability to predict and analyse what goes wrong with revolutions." Thus Burke gets it right and die "progressive" Paine and Fox get it wrong over the French Revolution; Orwell's description ofOceania in NineteenEighty-Four"completely . . . fitted die facts" of Soviet totalitarianism; and Stoppard's plays of the 1970s are "works of committed literature which gave support to whatwas then considered to be the right-wing cause of free speech." 388Philosophy and Literature The conservative imagination likes "practical solutions and specific examples ." Its language stresses accessibility and clarity, the latter defined by Anatole France as "the politeness of writers." This graphically contrasts with modern, radical, literary discourse which employs "a deliberately difficult kind of language" going against "the fundamentally egalitarian drive which I see as characterizing the conservative imagination." This ironic reversal of the traditional roles of left and right is nicely observed. Only rarely do the authors Thody analyzes dogmatically espouse a reactionary conservatism—Waugh is the obvious exception. Instead, like Orwell—and Thody himself—they are frustrated liberals "driven into a kind of perverse Toryism by the follies of die progressive party" of the time. Thody is no uncritical champion of conservatism. While he believes that modern capitalism offers prosperity and freedom ofchoice, he realizes that the system is "far from perfect and seems at the moment, especially in England, to be working particularly badly." He regrets that the conservative imagination is "incapable of offering comfort to the oppressed as it is of suggesting specific remedies to the problems of drugs, crime, inner-city decay, global pollution," etc. Nor do Thody's heroes escape criticism. He deftly describes the latent sexism and racialism of L'Etranger and La Peste, but recognizes how Camus was "expressing the feelings of the majority," literary critics included, at the time of their publication. Camus himself, Thody believes, would have been horrified by any presuppositions of racialism. He emerges as the most tragic of the case studies, dying twenty years before the belated realization "anywhere except in the pages of Le Figaro as having been right to criticize the Soviet Union and Sartre wrong...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 387-388
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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