There is a book to be written about declining standards--in publishing, criticism, journalism, the arts--but this orgy of...

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PANIC AMONG THE PHILISTINES

There is a book to be written about declining standards--in publishing, criticism, journalism, the arts--but this orgy of sophomoric posturing isn't it, not by a long shot. Writing in a wretched imitation-Tom-Wolfe style (shrill, sarcastic, arch), Griffin imagines that, circa 1980, the literary community--phonies one and all--was in a panic because it had become so debased: ""It had been years since the blue-bagging literary partygoers had actually bothered to read one another's dreary publications, just as it had been years since any of them actually acted upon a real idea. . . ."" He lambastes all of today's successful writers; he mocks the hyperbolic language of today's book critics; he whines about the good reviews received by trendy plays and films; with hysterical prudishness, he recoils from all the sexual (especially homosexual) material that's allowed to get into print these days. Unfortunately, however, though many of Griffin's basic objections are reasonable (and obvious), he sabotages himself from the very start--not just with his obnoxious tone, but through exaggeration, ignorance, prejudice, and disingenuousness. Griffin offers no historical context for his pseudo-trend-spotting--apparently unaware of the hype and low standards of previous decades. He seems unable to make even the crudest distinctions--between the sex in a Scott Spencer novel or the sexual innuendo in the Washington Post, for instance. His prime examples of hype often come from trade sources (e.g., the Book-of-the-Month Club newsletter or Publishers Weekly) that no one would ever expect to reflect literary standards. And after dumping on everyone from D. M. Thomas to John Updike and Graham Greene, Griffin tells us that we should be reading J. I. M. Stewart--thus promptly losing any shred of remaining credibility as a pseudo-tastemaker, at least for those familiar with Stewart's pleasant, donnish, forgettable fiction. Designed to be controversial, but (despite all the name-calling) a priggish, self-indulgent bore--and a disservice to anyone genuinely concerned about the very real issue of declining standards.

Pub Date: May 2, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Regnery Gateway

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983