Books: To Feel What Wretches Feel

WHITE LOTUS by John Hersey. 683 pages. Knopf. $6.95.

It's too bad about John Hersey. He asked for the silver tongue; he was given the golden touch. He longed to write great novels that would endure for centuries; he has written magnificent volumes of journalism that make the Book of the Month Club. Into the Valley and Hiroshima are classics of reportage. All Hersey's best novels (A Bell for Adano, The Wall, A Single Pebble) are lightly fictionalized feature stories lifted from current history. His worst novels (The Marmot Drive, The Child Buyer) are...