Books: When Worlds Collide

CANNIBALS AND MISSIONARIES by Mary McCarthy Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; 369 pages; $10.95

First the good news: Mary McCarthy has not mellowed, certainly not in the way that some Eastern intellectuals of the '30s and '40s did when they moved West to become hot-tub philosophers. McCarthy, fortunately, lives in Paris, where a sharp critical intelligence is as prized as a set of newly honed kitchen knives. Her Olympian view has also remained keen.

But in her seventh novel, the first since Birds of America (1971), she has overflown her subject.

Cannibals and Missionaries is a very...

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