GRANVILLE HICKS has been outside of the United States, has never travelled very extensively in them. Born, brought up and educated in his "private United States"--that lies East of the Hudson--he now passed an idyllic, if bucolic, existence in upstate New York. His income is more than adequate for his needs, and by and large he likes America.
But Mr. Hick's latest book is far from Complacent; the author's highly trained imagination has enabled him to visualize millions of Americans whose existence is not idyllic, whose income is not adequate, who have little reason to like America. It is this part of this book which is the most provocative.
The problems which he isolates and presents are problems which must sooner or later be faced--the sooner the better. There is the problem of diet, of the minimum amount of food necessary to keep a family alive: too many go without this amount. There is the housing problem, and three is the inevitable problem of relief. Using anecdote, case histories, statistics, Mr. Hicks puts forward the case for the under-privileged with vivid realism. It is a superficial survey, but presented with irony and understatement it is a powerful stimulant to thought.
In the latter half of his book, Mr. Hicks describes the passing of the Middle Class, the waste incurred by the capitalist system, and offers his solution: Communism, or to be more precise, state ownership of the means of production.
The critical reader will find this part more difficult to swallow. Altogether too glib is Mr. Hicks' defense of the U. S. S. R. in which he admits that the right to criticize the government, the right to advocate a change of government have been denied the Russian people, and adds: "these are not rights that many people want." His Utopian conception of a Communist America is a little naive, and his blithe disregard for minority rights and the law of the land is sometimes disturbing.
Nevertheless, "I Like America" is not a book that can be tossed aside. The problems raised are vital. Those of us who would hesitate to set up a Communist regime must find another solution, for few will disagree with Mr. Hicks that "there is a great deal in America that no decent person can afford to like."