17 JUNE 1972, Page 14

Literary stereotypes

Auberon Waugh

Generally a Virgin Thomas Hinde (Hodder and Stoughton £1.90) Another World James Hanley (Deutsch £1.75) A Chemical Romance Jenny Fabian (TaImy Franklin £1.75) Certain literary stereotypes have become so well established that only a pedant or a lunatic would bother to deny their rights to flourish in a novel. It is also one of the oldest tricks of the trade to take such a stereotype — the drunken surgeon, the embittered Indian army officer, the Nazi executioner — and examine in great detail everything which contributes to make him a stereotype: why was the surgeon drunk? A brutal father, a frigid mother led inevitably to the collapse of his marriage; a vindictive wife denied him access to the children etc etc.

Mr Hinde chooses the stereotype of farmer's boy from the Mid-West thrown into the sophisticated East Coast scene. Patriotic, unintelligent, and warm, his hero, Jo, uncritically accepts that the America he loves is faced by a conspiracy of Communists and sexual perverts determined to destroy its freedom and undermine its prosperity. He agrees to act as the FBI's spy on the campus. He falls in love with an innocent hippie, whose friends — revolutionaries, dope pedlars etc — immediately suspect him for what he is, although we do not discover this until the very end of the book. One of them, the revolutionary leader called Rod, mistakes him for a genuine Radical after seeing him fight policemen on television, and reveals a plan to blow up Temple Tower, headquarters of the great Temple Assurance combine and ultimate symbol, in the students' provincial terms, of the capitalist system.

Jo's FBI contact is another emotional cripple, of course. Sherry, the terrified waif with whom he falls in love, reveals at the end the full extent of his deception, as he works to defuse a bomb which will blow them all to Kingdom Come. This, too, is a cliché situation, but Mr Hincle's book is composed of the rigorous analysis of such cliche situations, and the surprise conclusion is that our cornpone hero was right all along: Sherry is an innocent who has been perverted by dope pedlars and revolutionaries for their own sinister purposes. Next instalment: where did these revolutionaries go wrong, and why do they have to have such sinister purposes?

What Mr Hinde is in fact saying, I think, is that the overwhelming prosperity and success of the capitalist system in the United. States produces its own guilt syndromes and feelings of insecurity which can take people either way — into the paranoid defence of their prosperity against imaginary threats or into the equally paranoid struggle to destroy it. He apologises for his narrative rather ponder ously, suggesting that he has resurrected the Perseus legend, which is appropriate because it is a myth of the sort "currently favoured by American teachers."

Perhaps a few reviewers will be taken in by that sort of thing. This reviewer's appetite for novels about the American hippie student is pretty well insatiable and the fact that this one is written by an Englishman rather than by an American hippie student makes it more, not less, interesting. Some of the dialogue is first class, on the age-old principle of two extremely stupid people talking to each other at cross purposes, and it would be senseless to deny that I enjoyed the whole book. But I can quite understand that other reviewers, without my peculiar appetite, will grow impatient with the confusion of motive and the deliberate mystification which is only explained, Agatha Christie style, at the very end.

James Hanley's long awaited Another World is about Mervyn Thomas, a crazy Methodist Minister in a remote corner of Wales, who falls obsessively in love with Miss Vaughan, staying at the Decent Hotel, a woman of mysterious past. She, too, is crazy. The hotel is run at a loss by Mrs Grandell whose lover, Jones, is also the porter of the hotel, and is obsessively worried that Mrs Grandell will sell it. The tension of the novel is supplied by Mr Thomas's uncertainty about whether his sister, who housekeeps for him, will walk out in protest against Miss Vaughan and also by Jones's anxieties about the hotel.

Miss Vaughan drives her admirer to distraction by telling him of a phantom colonel who is her lover. At the end we are not completely sure whether she or the Minister or both are insane and suffering from hallucinations, but on balance it seems likely that she is. She probably drowns herself, while Mr Thomas, although very much in love, simply falls asleep as he watches her.

Many people will enjoy this novel, which has strong echoes of William Trevor's Mr Eckdorf in O'NeilPs Hotel and, inevitably, deafening echoes of Under ,Milk Wood. This is how Minister Thomas woos Miss Vaughan in his imagination: Once upon a time, Miss Vaughan, there was a hard-bitten and winter man that walked out of a turnip-cold field, and took a hurricane lamp to the barn, and lighted it, and hung it up . . His bones ached after the long day, and he slept deeply. And he was real. You are not quite real, Miss Vaughan, yet I could make you happy.

I would not like to discourage readers who can take this sort of whimsy in their stride, but I must sorrowfully record that I found it all boring and depressing, a sort of tarted-up Wornants Own serial without even the comfort of a happy ending.

Miss Jenny Fabian's attempt at a repeat performance of her success with Groupie has little to recommend it except that it is very easy to read and there is a sort of generosity in the way that Miss Fabian exposes her private parts which one is bound to find endearing. In this book we enter every aperture from every conceivable angle and try everyone of the 57 varieties which Heinz or the Kama Sutra have devised. One of the mysteries of the drop-out generation is in the contrast Spectator June 17, 1912 between the abundant vitality of its life arts described in its literature and the sad, Ine, figures one sees — speechless, hide°,11, mildly resentful and apparently incaPae't of movement. It is hard to believe tb8, they have graduated so far as baked beaT''' enough way of absorbing this informaLl",i iss sfi oanbaibar:s ipno,stihteionHeiinnztbceatKalaomguae,sourtrath. emMis bridges the credibility gap a little, tiy; pointing out that the orgiasts are in°,5111, film. producers, fringe businessmen, nahsts and similar pseuds. At any rater Koestler points out on the ova, books are obligatory reading for iniel"the aged novelists who wish to learn 're language of the young — if only it Wein always so unselfconscious as it apPeartss her books — and they are a "0 I wish Lord Snow had read this be"of before trying his hand at the same sertmii thing, but as his novel does not Nine for another fortnight I hold my peace!