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This article is taken from PN Review 184, Volume 35 Number 2, November - December 2008.

Summation and Chthonic Power: Part II John Peck

4. Murder Unincorporated, 'inner gloss', and 'Slow, accurate lips'

Thom Gunn witnessed the social fate of the 1960s movement through its full run. His inventory of its shadow side was already vivid in 'Jack Straw's Castle' and 'Painkillers' by the mid-1970s; his epitaph on the movement, including a quietly defiant justification of its value, comes in Boss Cupid 's 'Saturday Night'. The shadow dynamics serve large matters. First, they step up to Robert Stone's critique in both A Flag for Sunrise, nearly coeval with Jack Straw's Castle, and the recent memoir Prime Green. In the novel a one-time CIA man in Vietnam, the anthropologist Frank Holliwell, remembers an Army-Airborne officer who was convinced he could never lose. Holliwell's Looking-Glass inclusion of the officer's remote counterparts in Golden Gate Park, as doubles to the warrior-fantast, is more than glancing.

How could they convince themselves that in this whirling tidal pool of existence, providence was sending them a message? Seeing visions, hearing voices, their eyes awash in their own juice... They were beyond good and evil in five easy steps - it had to be O.K. because it was them after all... Inevitably they discovered the fundamental act of communication, they discovered murder... For the less forceful, the acceptance of murder was enough. Unhappy professors, hyperthyroid clerics, and flower children could learn the Gauleiter's smirk.1


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