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Notes on Current Books, Summer 1981


ISSUE:  Summer 1981

Mansfield Park, Bleak House, Madame Bovary, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Swann’s Way, “The Metamorphosis,” and Ulysses are the subjects of these lectures, meticulously edited by Fredson Bowers from what were mostly handwritten classroom notes in varying stages of completion. At times quirky (Nabokov translates the title of Proust’s novel as The Walk of Swann’s Place and avoids reference to Swann’s Way), these lectures entertain and enlighten. Of course, students of Nabokov or of literature in general will benefit from this volume, but creative writers will value these lectures most. Nabokov regards the works as aesthetic entities; he approaches them all with the same appreciative attention to detail. He does dissect—character, structure, language, imagery—but he does so lovingly as well as fearlessly, with a sense of wonder at the individual genius that conceived and assimilated the details of each work.

Walt Whitman and the Body Beautiful, by Harold Aspiz. Illinois $19.95

Despite its unpromising title, this study of Whitman’s interest in physiology and medicine is revealing, interesting, and at times even entertaining. Aspiz demonstrates how particularly Whitman’s evolutionary and Utopian themes were linked to his knowledge of contemporaneous sciences and pseudo-sciences, and he provides a rich background in the lore and literature of (among other things) medicine, phrenology, hydropathy, pathognomy, physiognomy, mesmerism, and sexual hygiene. Along the way we are struck by observations such as: proponents of the pseudo-sciences believed they were democratizing medicine, the calamus was a folk aphrodisiac, and the 1856 Leaves of Grass bears generic resemblance to the Fowler and Wells line of phrenological handbooks. Professor Aspiz’s conclusions often have to be taken with due caution, but his research is full of good clean fun.

The World of Dante: Essays on Dante and His Times, edited by Cecil Grayson. Oxford $36

This superb collection of lectures represents the remarkable product of the centenary celebration of the Oxford Dante Society. The content is pleasingly varied, ranging from historical and political background to isolated analysis of the development of poesy in the hand of Dante. Historical and political study includes Florence, the whole of Italy, the Papacy, as well as historical prophesy in Dante. Poetic studies include Aristotelian influence, the legacy of Latin poetry, and Dante’s personal poetic evolution and place as a poetic theorist. Critical standpoints include classical and modern points of view. There are several essays on the influence of Dante on subsequent art and scholarship, including a bibliography of stylistic studies of Dante. This splendid volume marks not only a centenary milestone of a society but also a significant proof of the livelihood of basic Dantean scholarship and a tribute to the deep stimulus of Dante’s genius.

Turgenev’s Russia, by Victor Ripp. Cornell $14. 50

It might be said (Mr. Ripp does not) that Turgenev was a John O’Hara with talent. He was a keen observer of a certain class of Russian society, and in his fiction he tried to show the struggle of that class to define itself in the changed conditions of the middle of the last century. The class was, of course, the gentry. In all Turgenev’s works, the peasants, cleverly drawn though many be, are mere foils for the dispirited, despairing landed gentry which is moving toward its certain doom. Mr. Ripp does a fine job of analyzing Notes of a Hunter and Fathers and Sons.

A Companion to “The Cantos” of Ezra Pound: Volume I (Cantos 1—71), by Carroll F. Terrell. California $28.50

Little else need be said about Professor Terrell’s work than that it will prove a truly indispensable companion to any reader desiring entry into the truncated, polylingual realm of The Cantos. The extensive commentary on each poem is prefaced by lists of “Sources,” “Backgrounds,” and “Exegeses” of the individual canto. Further, the volume is as beautifully crafted and organized as it is comprehensive. The completed set should stand as one of the absolute essentials for the study of Pound.

The Other Nation: The Poor in the English Novels of the 1840s and 1850s, by Sheila M. Smith. Oxford $36

Who spoke for the poor in Victoria’s England? Not the various parlimentary commissions, which could chart diet deficiency but had not a clue as to the agony of the soul. Not the early socialists, who swallowed the Establishment’s line that the Kingdom of God would, if given a chance, set things right. The novelists did a little better job, but there never emerged an English Zola or Gorky or Hauptmann. Sheila Smith discusses the work of certain selected authors; and while here history is frequently a bit shaky, her literary criticism is on target.

The Craft of Ralph Eltison, by Robert G. O’Meally. Harvard $14

O’Meally shows that Ellison’s career, which includes a surprising amount of writing other than Invisible Man, warrants a full-length study. Unfortunately, he is not the one to fulfill the need. Were it not for the accumulation of bibliographical and biographical material, this dull, plodding, and excessively literal-minded book would barely merit attention. As it is, O’Meally provides few insights into Ellison’s “craft” and fewer into his art.

Hemingway’s Reading, 1910—1940: An Inventory, by Michael S. Reynolds. Princeton $17.50

An invaluable piece of detective work which proves that half of the authors Hemingway read in depth were British, a quarter Continental, and a quarter American; that the only American novel held in significant numbers by Hemingway’s high school library was The Virginian; that he read nearly all of Conrad, took William James to Cuba but left Hawthorne behind; and that he researched his novels with the avidity and skill with which Reynolds has put together this book.

The Critical Difference, by Barbara Johnson. Johns Hopkins $12

Johnson warns us early that her book is “the record of one reader’s struggles to come to grips with the problems posed by contemporary so-called deconstructive theory.” Surely, readers should not expect a straightforward explanation of a theory which celebrates “ignorance, blindness, uncertainty, and misreading.” Those students of literary theory already familiar with the often outrageous work of Jacques Derrida will find little that is new in Johnson’s ponderous theorizing. But her “undoings” of individual texts reveal an inspired desire, well-fulfilled, to pattern skillfully the oppositions and differences within works by Barthes, Mallarme, and Melville among others.

John Donne: Life, Mind and Art, by John Carey. Oxford $19.95

This is a splendid book which could not have been written before 1970, when R.C. Bald’s admirable biography appeared. Since then there has been room for a book studying Donne’s writings in relation to his life. John Carey, Merton Professor at Oxford, has seized the opportunity and written a lively and intelligent general study which may have originated as lectures and which will certainly be of value to every serious student of Donne, at whatever level. He is a shrewd and unidolatrous critic with an admirable historical sense and the ability to provide the requisite context vividly and concisely. He draws on Donne’s prose writings at just the right points and makes telling comparisons which enliven his criticism.

The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature, by James B. Twitchell. Duke $14.75

Twitchell begins by telling us that he “couldn’t care less about the current generation of vampires” and insisting that his book “is really not about vampires; it is about Romanticism.” The slangy style is as characteristic as the width of interest, but unfortunately Twitchell lacks the learning and perception of a Mario Praz. His strategy is to deal first with male and female vampires in poetry, then with vampires in the novel, and finally with “various attempts to use the vampiric analogy to describe the process of artistic creation.” While this is not a book of distinction, it assembles some useful information as well as offering some erratic criticism. It has eight plates and two little holes in the neck of the girl on the cover.

American Tongue and Cheek: A Populist Guide to Our Language, by Jim Quinn. Pantheon $11.95

Many journalists have lamented the ongoing corruption of the English language, Quinn has sharp words for these “pop grammarians.” Using the Oxford English Dictionary as a main reference, he shows that many supposedly substandard words and constructions have, in fact, been used over the centuries by respected writers. At times this book resembles a heated letter to Edwin Newman. But throughout Quinn augments his zeal with research and leavens both with humor.

The Transforming Image: A Study of Shelley’s Major Poetry, by Jean Hall. Illinois $12.95

In this study, the author presents the thesis that Shelley’s poetic thought, grounded both in empirical skepticism and Platonic idealism, centers around a moment of transformation, a moment wherein the discontinuous perceptions of the Humean world are fused into a coherent whole. Hall traces the concept from the point of view of the protagonist’s failure (Alastor) to universal efficacy (Prometheus Unbound). The argument proceeds intelligently and convincingly; the result is a fine, concise survey of the major works.

Popular French Romanticism: Authors, Readers and Books in the 19th Century, by James Smith Alien. Syracuse $20

This handsomely published work tells us a great deal about popular culture and thinking in France in the first half of the last century. At home with the skills and tools of several disciplines, Alien shows us what romanticism was, the role it played in shaping French consciousness, and the process of its decline. His sources are good, and his many tables are unusually well selected and presented.

HISTORYBaltimore in the Nation, 1789—1861, by Gary Lawson Browne. North Carolina $20

In this important study of the economic, political, and social transformation of Baltimore, Browne rejects conventional modernization theory and shows that new ideas about credit, money, and the role of government in economic life generated a “businessman’s revolution” by 1820 which, in turn, provided the infrastructure for industrialization. The implications of his findings are as revolutionary as the processes he has investigated. In Baltimore, at least, the fundamental early-19th-century changes in social relations and institutions that are usually treated as by-products of industrialism were actually prerequisites for it. The argument is convincing, and it is supported with a welter of detail. Baltimore in the Nation marks the emergence of a gifted young historical talent.

British Military Policy between the Two World Wars, by Brian Bond. Oxford $48

We all know that the generals are always fighting the last war and fighting it badly. The 1914—18 War had shown, one would have thought, that Great Britain ought to have a large, mobile force ready to deploy on the Continent. What did the generals and the politicians do? The Army deteriorated to the point where it would have been difficult to deploy the small force from Kent to Sussex in much under a year. The generals—yes, even they—saw at least some of the folly of all this, but the politicians were always able to find pliant yes men, and so England slept.

A History of Retirement: The Meaning and Function of an American Institution, 1885—1978, by William Graebner. Yale $22.50

The author treats key developments in American retirement policy, not retirement per se, over the past century. He argues endlessly that self-interest (particularly the quest for greater efficiency by the private and public sectors) rather than social justice lay behind these policy developments. This is a less controversial, surprising, and revisionist thesis than is ever acknowledged by the author, who likes nothing better than a good straw man. A certain cynicism, innocence, and arrogance pervade this book. Add a narrow scope and pedestrian style and you have something less than a delight to read.

War on the Eastern Front, 1941—1945: The German Soldier in Russia, by James Lucas. Stein & Day $16.95

Like a hustling, aggressive athlete who pushes limited skills beyond reason and makes a startling contribution to victory, James Lucas has turned very little into something big and has produced a splendid volume on the German war against Russia. Professional historians may deplore some of his quirks, but they will have to acknowledge that Mr. Lucas makes us see what life was like for the German soldier on the ground. The cold, the heat, the dirt, the damp, the mud, and the inhuman courage of the enemy registered upon the psyche of the German infantryman and told him, ultimately, why he had to lose.

Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia, by Peter Hopkirk. Massachusetts $27. 50

In the 1950’s one of the most commonly-asked questions in America was, Who Lost China? Well, comfortable as it might have been to pin the blame upon “fellow travelers” or suchlike, the real answer may involve such names as Sven Hedin, Aurel Stein, von Le Coq, and Langdon Warner. And who, pray, were they? Merely individuals who in the name of science plundered China as the generals and merchants never dreamed of doing. Gold and silk could be replaced; a nation’s history could not. Peter Hopkirk has told a sad tale with remarkable compassion.

Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great, by Isabel de Madariaga. Yale $40

Here it is, the big book on the reign of the Semiramis of the North that scholars have been begging for these many decades. And what a treat it is to have such a thorough and intelligent study, moreover one that is couched in a quietly elegant literary style. Whether dealing with the bureaucracy, foreign affairs, peasant revolts, or intellectual developments, Professor Madariaga moves with the steady pace of the scholar who knows the way. This is a genuinely fine work, a splendid contribution to Russian studies.

Pioneer Women, by Joanna L. Stratton. Simon & Schuster $16.95

This book describes the challenging life of the Kansas pioneers, with an emphasis on the lives of the women. It covers the time period from 1854, when the territory was opened to settlement, until 1912 when women’s suffrage was granted by an amendment to the state constitution. The source material was collected in the 1920’s by the author’s great-grandmother, Lilla Day Monroe. She gathered hundreds of reminiscences from women in Kansas but did not live to write the book herself. Joanna Stratton mentions some of the limitations of the material, among them the fact that the people surveyed did not include any social outcasts, such as dance hall girls or Indian women. Even though the resultant picture is incomplete, these firsthand accounts add interesting detail to our understanding of frontier life.

American Patriots and the Rituals of Revolution, by Peter Shaw. Harvard $17.50

This is a very provocative, well-researched study of public and private drift toward revolution in America (1763—76). Shaw’s argument concerning the influence of “the crowd” and festivals is original, yet in the end he echoes basic conclusions found in any college history text—that the demise of the French threat, England’s efforts to run its new empire, and the reaction of powerful groups (merchants, lawyers, publishers) to the Stamp Act got things going. His quartet of troubled, “conscience” patriots, all from Massachusetts, leave one with an uneasy feeling. Despite much scholarship and research, Boston still clings to the notion that it is the hub of the universe and can take full credit for independence from England. Two centuries after Yorktown a book dealing almost exclusively with Massachusetts patriots, in its eyes, speaks for all who dared defy George III.

The Finnish Revolution, 1917—1918, by Anthony F. Upton. Minnesota $39.50

Preserving their identity through centuries of first Swedish, then Russian, domination, the Finns came to the great watershed of 1914—18 prepared to carve their own way out of the iceberg of foreign tutelage. That they were able to do so attested to their political sophistication no less than to their determination to be free at last. They had good leaders, they recognized the limits of the possible, and they had very good luck. This is an ably told account of the coming of Finland’s independence.

Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome, by Cyril Mango. Scribner’s $17.50

Works like this, if only there were more of them, would undo the mischief done by Gibbon. Because the master ignored Byzantium, considered it a wretched Eastern perversion of the glory that was Rome, disparaged and excoriated and condemned it—because of Edward Gibbon’s foolish prejudices and unforgivable ignorance, we in the West still know next to nothing of the glory that was the Byzantine Empire. And yet it was Byzantium that preserved Christianity when the barbarians were feasting upon human flesh in Christian Rome; it was Byzantium that gave Russia (not to mention Serbia, R6mania, Bulgaria, and assorted other states) her culture; and it was Byzantium that held the gates shut against the barbarian invaders from the East until the final collapse in 1453. This new study, concentrating as it does upon social history, is a most welcome addition to the still too meagre library of works on the Second Rome.

Russia’s Failed Revolutions: From the Decembrists to the Dissidents, by Adam B. Ulam. Basic Books $18.95

Presumably on the grounds that anything with Russia in the title will sell, this book came into the world. From the misleading subtitle (many scholars refuse to call the Decembrist Revolt of 1825 a revolution, and the modern dissidents certainly have nothing revolutionary about them) to the preposterous use of a famous bon mot of Satchel Paige (yes, the baseball player), this book wanders through a swamp of platitudes, questionable evaluations, woefully inadequate data, and awkward constructions. It is, in short, not a serious work.

Hitler’s Secret War in South America, by Stanley E. Hilton. Louisiana $20

Published in Brazil as Suástica sobre o Brasil a few years ago, this book set off a controversy that still rages. Brazilians identified by Hilton as Nazi agents squealed and squirmed, academic rivals in this country pilloried Mr. Hilton for a variety of alleged sins, and everyone claimed that he was a CIA agent (he was not). It would be a great pity if the dispute were to become more influential than the book itself, for this is a very good account of Nazi activity in Brazil during the war.

American Mosaic, by Joan Morrison and Charlotte Fox Zabusky. Dutton $19.95

The reasons immigrants came to America are as varied as the countries whence they came. Starting in the early 1900’s to the present, these people tell their tale. The circumstances that drove them to find a new start and what they found are told in detail. The book is a refreshing presentation of the facts without analysis.

Their Gracious Pleasure, by Claude Manceron. Knopf $19.95

Claude Manceron may singlehandedly convince readers that history can, after all, be fun. His outrageously witty, sparkling history of the French Revolution now moves into its third volume, covering the years 1781 to 1784. A dauphin is born, at last, and at once the unknown poets spring into action with deliciously obscene commentary upon his ancestry. Paul of Russia comes to town and Condorcet tries to talk some sense into his head. La Fayette returns from America and wishes he had not. Huge balloons soar into the sky, and Marie Antoinette rolls merrilly along. These are the books to read on the Revolution.

The Allies and the Russian Collapse, March 1917-March 1918, by Michael Kettle. Minnesota $27. 50

This is as flimsy an account of the first year of the Russian revolutions as we have seen published in quite some time, but then, the author does identify George Katkov as one of his guides. From the utterly banal background chapter to the simplistic judgments on practically every page, this book (which does not use Russian sources and which has no bibliography) is a monument to mediocre scholarship.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRSThe Soviet Union and SALT, by Samuel B. Payne, Jr. M.I.T. $19.95

The trouble with trying to analyze the decision-making process in the Soviet Union is that no Soviet decision-maker has ever, so far as we know, revealed how he and his colleagues make those decisions. Thus this new book on the arcane process strives mightily for objectivity and rationality, but in the end it amounts to nothing more than an educated guess. For nearly 70 years it has been impossible to penetrate the closed council of those 20 or so men who really count in Russia. Payne is a careful scholar, but his science is the political counterpart of astrology, or maybe the reading of chicken entrails.

Gone Crazy and Back Again: The Rise and Fall of the Rolling Stone Generation, by Robert Sam Anson. Doubleday $14.95

Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone helped define the freaked-out generation of the 1960’s. Its frequently excessive use of obscenity, frontal nudity, and pro-drug propaganda in its pages shocked and revolted much of America, and yet there could be no doubt that the magazine told it like it was. It was a crazy time, and it got worse before it got better, if indeed it did. Wenner became a capitalist, his publication became astonishingly respectable by the diminished and distorted standards of the 1970’s, and the pendulum seemed, after about 1975 or so, to start its slow swing back. But Wenner and his magazine made their mark.

The Israeli-Egyptian War of Attrition, 1969—1970, by Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov. Columbia $19. 50

That Israel and Egypt have fought four major wars since 1948 is a well-known fact, but the limited conflict between them during 1969—70 has received far scantier attention. Accordingly, this study aims at integrating into a coherent theoretical framework those factors which tend to curtail or exacerbate local wars between smaller nations, particularly those in which superpower assistance is rendered without the latter’s direct involvement. Toward this end, the model for examination is the “war of attrition” between Israel and Egypt from March 1969 to August 1970. The bulk of the volume entails comparative assessments of Egyptian and Israeli strategies, their respective principal objectives, and how each fared during the conflict. A critical discussion is also provided on the Soviet Union’s military intervention and how it affected the dynamics of the war, as well as the diverse perceptions by each disputant on the war’s outcome. In short, this volume offers a well-documented, fresh approach to an age-old phenomenon—transnational war—and points up the real need for additional case studies of limited local wars to enhance our understanding of conflict management and dispute settlement.

Freedom and Domination: A Historical Critique of Civilization, by Alexander Riistow. Princeton $35

After the Second World War, some Germans turned to making money and some turned to writing about what had happened to them, and the world, since 1933. Alexander Riistow, unlike some historians and philosophers who tried to explain the catastrophe, had impeccable anti-Nazi credentials, for he had spent the entire period in self-imposed exile in Turkey. Thus his reflections lack that pious mea culpa theme that runs through so many similar works. Riistow does not succeed in pin-pointing the birth of the Nazi virus, and much of the ground he covers is all too familiar; but he does make a commendable effort to understand that fatal predilection, in so many times and places, for security— of the powerful ruler, of the supernatural—over freedom.

The Whole Truth: The Watergate Conspiracy, by Sam J. Ervin, Jr. Random House $16.95

Senator Ervin’s position as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee provided him with an important perspective on the events of Watergate. His description of the complicated episode is occasionally repetitious. However, his legal knowledge and thorough documentation are strong reasons why The Whole Truth is an informative and valuable explanation of Watergate.

Revolution and Reality: Essays on the Origin and Fate of the Soviet System, by Bertram D. Wolfe. North Carolina $19 cloth, $11 paper

If there exists a shiftier gang than that of the Kremlinologists, it has not publicly manifested itself. The late Mr. Wolfe, a convert to anticommunism after a protracted youthful flirtation with Marx and Lenin, was one of the more intelligent practitioners of the Red art; but his works have not stood the test of time, and it is a little surprising to find them still being published. We do not need him to tell us that Stalin was evil, and Lenin probably more so, or that totalitarian governments are bad. This was a horse to ride in the 1950’s; it is out of date now, because we have grown up.

Paper Money, by Adam Smith (alias George J.W. Goodman). Summit Books $13.95

Like Smith’s earlier book, The Money Game, Paper Money is aimed at the uninitiated, without becoming condescending. The author describes the history of paper currency, concentrating on the U.S. dollar since WWII. His discussion encompasses the transformation of the dollar into the major international currency, our recent inflation, and the resultant flight from currency into tangibles exemplified by the real-estate boom. The value of the dollar is strongly influenced by OPEC. Smith charts the staggering increase in money sent to OPEC to buy oil and discusses the serious ramifications of this on inflation and global stability. The Money Game may be more lively, but it is not as well written. Paper Money is lucid, very informative, and definitely worth reading.

The American Self: Myth, Ideology, and Popular Culture, edited by Sam B. Girgus. New Mexico $20

This collection of essays reveals the widening breadth of approaches to American studies. The analyses range from literary and social to ideological and archetypal, from popular and religious to feminist and ethnic. For the most part, the essays are competent, sometimes engaging. But the underlying promise that unifies them—the health of the discipline depends on eclecticism and the strength of the individual response—is also the book’s curiously American weakness. However striking and energetic the interpretations herein contained, the book offers little to the theoretical and historical basis for the study of the American self.

Beginning to See the Light: Pieces of a Decade, by Ellen Willis. Knopf $12.95

These fugitive essays by this popular radical journalist chronicle the development of a sensibility-—both personal and cultural. Willis views herself viewing the seventies, and her vision often helps us sharpen our own recollections. Especially when she writes about feminism and the family does she make the most sense, for these are her most urgent concerns. Her reflections on rock, her essays into popular culture, and her comic occasional pieces share in the passion behind her sensibility, but here her voice cracks, if only out of her desire to be a little too comfy with both the reader and the avant-garde. Those who follow Willis are familiar with the split; she regularly contributes to The New Yorker and the Village Voice. But when the stakes are high enough, her personality is strong enough. Her sixties’ consciousness vigorously tests the substance of seventies’ phenomena, as Willis does best in her memoir of a trip to Israel, the concluding piece in this often stimulating collection.

The Balkan Revolutionary Tradition, by Dimitrije Djordjevic and Stephen Fischer-Galati. Columbia $20

A century ago Marx argued that history had passed the Balkans by. He was right, and he did not live to see the violent attempt of some Balkan revolutionaries to catch up with history in 1914. Professors Djordjevic and Fischer-Galati here reflect upon the shift of those political tectonic plates in the southeastern corner of Europe, plates that shifted and grumbled and groaned for so long, and to so little avail, that their noises became a cliche for the kind of sound and fury that used to signify so very little. This is an interesting scholarly study.

In Anger: British Culture in the Cold War, 1945—1960, by Robert Hewison. Oxford $19.95

Austria charmed the world and gave it a cultural benchmark in the years of its decadence. Weimar Germany had a brittle, raffish insouciance that still influences the West. France was born decadent. Why then was postwar Britain such a thoroughly dismal place, one which seems to have left no legacy worth bothering about? There may be answers to this question, but they do not emerge in this mere chronicle of a book. Mr. Hewison tells us once again who the “angry young men” (they rejected the appellation) were and what they wrote and sang and thought, but he has no clues to the nature of a society in precipitate, irreversible decline.

Roll Call, by William S. Cohen. Simon & Schuster $14.95

Aptly described by its subtitle, “One Year in the United States Senate,” this is a very readable diary of the freshman year of Maine’s William S. Cohen. With attention to both the mighty and the meek, Cohen’s choice of detail provides a clear view of the demands, both public and private, which are placed on our senators. We are not, however, asked for sympathy, for there are critical observations throughout—those which are introspectively personal as well as those aimed at the Senate as an institution. In light of recent events on Capitol Hill, we may enjoy the fact that this is not a gossip notebook, containing neither scandal nor tattle.

Europe Between the Superpowers: The Enduring Balance, by A.W. DePorte. Yale $6.95

In a well-written and provocative analysis of postwar European foreign policy, A.W. DePorte suggests that there has been a positive side to the Cold War in Europe. Viewed from an historical perspective, DePorte argues, the political problems in contemporary Europe are not a continuation of the problems that exploded in two world wars but a resolution of the power imbalance created at the end of the 19th century by the emergence of a united German state. The division of Germany and the (military) presence in Europe of the United States and the Soviet Union have created a new state system and a new balance of power that have remained fairly stable since 1945 and are likely to remain so for some time to come. Published earlier in hardcover, this paperback edition of DePorte’s book will no doubt be widely read in courses on European international affairs. And its thesis that Europe now enjoys relative stability will no doubt be widely debated.

POETRYBazaar, by Susan Wood. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $10.95

There are many fine poems here; this is an esthetically pleasing book and a very poised, polished first collection. Though the subjects and approach are commonplace enough—tender evocations of love, loss, desire, nostalgia—the tone and images are all perfectly wedded to the themes. The somewhat narrow range is balanced by the eloquence achieved through the smooth flow of rhetoric and illuminating images. If not yet distinctly individual, it is certainly a voice we can admire and enjoy as among the best of its kind.

Work, for the Night Is Coming, by Jared Carter. Macmillan $10.95

We have seen these poems before: muted, quiet, boring, detail after detail of small-town people and the drab furniture of their lives. Pictorial realism alone, in language essentially the prose of Life magazine, does not signify the advent of a new poet, despite Carter’s holding the 1980 Walt Whitman Award for best first book. Gentle nostalgia, predictable Winesburg grotesques, wistful lingering over lost elders, the obligatory snapshots of men at hard rural physical labor—if these are to command attention, it will take more imaginative power than Indiana-bred, Yale-educated Carter shows. The same earth is dug into by every poet in the Midwest and South, and instead of solid limestone it yields, of all things, plastic. Where are the underground rivers or, in the other direction, the cosmic laughter? In what swimming pool was Galway Kinnell flailing, with his eyes closed, when someone decided in his name that this was the best of 1,200 entries?

The Cheer, by William Meredith. Knopf $8.95

This poet reminds us to be courageous, even cheerful in the face of what we cannot know or in the sorrow of what we do. The chaste simplicity of his verse scarcely masks the doubt and fear that shape his exhortations. The cheer that Meredith bids the readers is “hidden in the right words.” To learn the “secret of heroism,” Meredith remembers his dead friends Lowell and Berryman, visits his mother’s deathbed, consults Freud, recollects and conjures, “If only we knew what to ask.” But it is not despair that makes the poet think, “Sombody or nobody knows these answers.” For if one of these appalling alternatives is true, the poet finds that “here all we have is love,” and we must learn to “walk light” over that which separates us from that wisdom.

The 8-Step Grapevine, by Dara Wier. Camegie-Mellon $9.95 cloth, $4.95 paper

Dara Wier’s second collection opens with a hand-drawn legend of a section of a town on the Mississippi and introduces the book’s characters, three women and a man. All the poems deal with these four people and their terrain, portraying many aspects of a deep-South culture which comes across as empty, impoverished, and demoralized. The 8-Step Grapevine—a square dance—is an apt title, for the lives of these people are dominated by the language and values of country-western songs. Ms. Wier has moved from her previous book to concentrate on the dramatic and narrative, with a kind of tough coyness and whimsical detachment parodying the shallowness of the society she focuses on.

Sentences, by Howard Nemerov. Chicago $8.95

In his first book of verse since his celebrated Collected Poems, Howard Nemerov gathers together some epigrams, lyrics, riddles, and meditations in an uneven work. Many of these poems, as the title suggests, are experiments to see how prose syntax can shape a metrical line. Of course, Nemerov still rewards us with some poems of paradox and startling humor, but too many poems, especially the topical ones, have neither the charm of seriousness nor the subterfuge of cleverness. Only a handful remind us of Nemerov’s emotional range, rhetorical finesse, and social power.

The Poetical Works of Christopher Smart, Vol. I: “Jubilate Agno,” edited by Karina Williamson. Oxford $39.95

This first installment in the Oxford edition of Smart’s works will greatly facilitate scholarly consideration of the Jubilate Agno, so richly deserved and so long overdue. Ms. Williamson’s brief introduction and extensive annotation promote an appreciation of a poem which, beyond its own merits, stands as an important document in the canon of unpolished, “private” verse constituting much of the finest late 18th-century poetry. The volume itself is handsome, though terribly expensive for itsslimness.

Before Sleep, by Philip Booth. Viking $12.95

This poet’s sixth collection of poems, the present volume is comprised of reflections about mortality, These are less intimations than they are glimpses that shape Booth’s meditation on the coming of age and death. These waking thoughts are interrupted with a sequence of “Night Notes,” in which the poet seeks a convergence between the pain he has learned to live with and the “raw beauty of being.” Booth writes a stark, crisp line that pares experience to its sharp edges and makes vivid some of its dimmer recesses, “what we thought to/look into, to all we/cannot see through.”

Contemporary Irish Poetry: An Anthology, edited by Anthony Bradley. California $17.95

This anthology selects 43 Irish poets who have flourished in the last 50 years or so. The introduction discusses the poets in terms of three major themes: social-political aspects, the world of nature, and the world of personal experience. The poems of each author are preceded by a short biography that includes titles and publication dates of volumes of poetry. Because political themes are so prevalent in this poetry, it would have been helpful if Bradley had dated the individual poems. The editor states that his aim is to introduce to a wider public poets whose work has not been easily accessible outside Ireland. He succeeds admirably.

English Folk Poetry: Structure and Meaning, by Roger deV. Renwick. Pennsylvania $19.95

Renwick uses the term “English Folk Poetry” to cover traditional English folksongs, local songs of regional interest, and working-class poetry. While one might quibble over some things included here as “folk,” this book is a welcome addition to—but a departure from—the literature on English folksong. The author dips into whatever scholarly approaches seem pertinent to an analysis of his material, and one finds here structuralism, semiotics, phenomenology, as well as a knowledge of regional history and ethnographic accounts of the people whose songs are being studied. There has been, in the past, a lot of romanticizing over the meaning of folksongs; but Renwick, at last, brings to their study a levelheaded and objective approach, and the result is considerable insight into the meaning and nature of English folksong and poetry.

Poems 1965—1975, by Seamus Heaney. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $12.95

This volume, whose publication was made inevitable by the enthusiasm that greeted Fieldwork, Heaney’s fifth book of poems, in 1979, collects his four previous ones, none of which is available separately in this country. A formalist, Heaney employs a harshly musical Celtic diction in poems that are as mythical as Yeats’, without sharing the occult aestheticism. In Heaney’s most memorable poems Yeats’ “artifice of eternity” seems to consist of the Jutland bogs, in which were preserved the bodies of the victims of a Bronze Age sacrifice. These Heaney transforms, as his publisher notes, “into moving symbols of Ireland’s violent present.” An indication of Heaney’s dreadfully inescapable sense of rootedness in the “old man-killing parishes” of Jutland, a “landscape fossilized,” is his description of himself as one “who would connive/in civilized outrage/yet understand the exact/and tribal, intimate revenge.”

Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968—1978, by Seamus. Heaney. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $15

The publication of these essays, which coincides with that of a one-volume, uniform edition of Heaney’s Poems 1965—1975, establishes this “bard of the Irish soul” as a respectable man of letters. Predictably, the prose consists partly of short reviews such as most “established” authors contribute to periodicals. All of Heaney’s display an acute good taste. More impressive are the extended pieces, many of them lectures; these are of the sort that authors of true rank, conscientious “technicians,” are inspired sometimes to write. Whether Heaney is writing openly of his own poetry or slyly of it while discussing the poetry of Wordsworth or Yeats or Hopkins or Kavanaugh, his foremost concern is technique. For “technique,” writes Heaney, “involves not only a poet’s way with words. . .; it involves also a definition of his stance toward life, a definition of his own reality.”

LIVES & LETTERSThe Hearsts: Family and Empire—the Later Years, by Lindsay Chancy and Michael Cieply. Simon & Schuster $16.95

This is a well-written account that starts out and ends well enough but sags a bit in the middle. After a while, unless one is a Hearst, a Marion Davies fan, or a newspaper buff, unconnected biographical portraits and a litany of publishing problems become somewhat boring. Yet any story that begins with W.R. himself and concludes with granddaughter Patty cannot help but have its moments. Perhaps the trouble is that the Great Man’s boys—all five of them—seem to have been rather inept. At times The Hearsts is pure gossip-column stuff, but the authors have dug deep, researched hard, and produced a volume that is good when the material is good and weak when it isn’t.

The Letters of Henry James: 1883—1895, Vol. III, edited by Leon Edel. Harvard $20

This third volume of James’ correspondence follows the development of the novelist from his dark days as the author of unpopular works through his unrequited love affair with the theater and into his emergence as the Master. These letters record the pain that James always lived with; they argue that it is a singularly sad life, after all, when one or two dismal disappointments are so central to the biography of one of the mighty. Only in the letters do we see how the daily presence of fear and doubt distorted James’ vision, how rarely he was content, how little joy he knew. The correspondence from the decade crucial to his growth again and again makes clear the cost of the writer’s sacrifice as well as his eagerness to meet the expense. Especially of interest is an appendix of letters from Constance Woolson, the shadowy figure in Professor Edel’s version of James’ life.

Swanson on Swanson, by Gloria Swanson. Random House $15.95

Raised as the child of an army officer, petted and dressed by her mother, and taught to be the center of attention, Gloria Swanson was ready for stardom at an early age. Her story is inextricably woven into the history of films, but she transcends their glitter by her determination and independence. No holds are barred in the telling of her private life in this autobiography. Some scenes are meant to be funny, some are inadvertently funny, and some are sad, but Gloria has so strong a personality she is able to deal with all of them easily.

The Papers of James Madison, Vol. XIII, edited by Charles Hobson and Robert Rutland. Virginia $30

The 14 months of 1790—91 covered in this volume represent the first great period of Republican opposition to Federalist financial legislation. Madison, undisputed leader of the House during the first session of its existence, now found himself the frequently defeated leader of minority opposition to Hamilton’s dazzling funding, debt, banking, and trade proposals. Yet Madison succeeded in working important compromises into the Hamiltonian framework, especially with regard to assumption of state debts, trade with England, and the ultimate location of the national capital. This volume is rich, as well, with information concerning farming, public health, the private affairs of Madison, Jefferson, and Washington, and belles lettres of extraordinary quality. Editorial standards continue of the highest. One is saddened to wonder, in these days of “belt-tightening,” what shall be the future of these editorial monuments to posterity—probably to be sacrificed on behalf of some fancy military hardware momentarily desirable.

An Uneasy Victorian: Thackeray the Man, by Ann Monsarrat. Dodd, Mead $15

If this substantial and illuminating biography shows anything, it is that Thackeray would have been uneasy—and also at home—in any time or place in which he happened to be born. Such was the nature of the man, as Ann Monsarrat illustrates graphically and at considerable length. She deserves praise and good readers for her estimable book.

Some Americans: A Personal Record, by Charles Tomlinson. California $10.95

Tomlinson’s essays attest to his deep-felt admiration for his literary mentors and comrades. Thus this short memoir of the moderns in no way resembles Donald Hall’s lurid, gossipy tales. The search for Tomlinson’s kindred spirits begins with those “talismanic fragments” (a few lines from Pound, an image from Stevens) that eased his personal discovery of modernism while a young man in England. After his meetings and correspondence with Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams—who wisely warns him: “Poetry is a tough racket”—Tomlinson dwells among his equals: Zukofsky, Oppen, and Reznikof. Yet his search takes him further as he digresses with Georgia O’Keeffe and ends with the father of his generation—the crotchety Ezra Pound. Stephen Spender has elsewhere argued that Anglo-American literary relations are either full of hate or love. This transatlantic episode clearly emerges from the latter.

Palm Sunday, by Kurt Vonnegut. Delacorte $13.95

In this patchwork of literary remnants— impassioned letters, autobiographical essays, and droll prefaces—Vonnegut reasserts his simple, perennial theme: most human behavior is innocent. Slaughterhouse Five exposed the banality of evil underlying the bombing of Dresden by the United States; Jailbird argued that both HUAC and Watergate stem from the same fumbling stupidity. Unfortunately, Vonnegut once again deliberately blurs facts and genres to turn his sound argument for civil liberties into one more strained appeal for beatific laughter. Rather than analyze the genuine roots of the social loneliness and civil repression he so deplores, Vonnegut acquiesces to the madness and depravity of everyday reality—he is content to confess, smile, and merely endure.

Conrad in the Nineteenth Century, by lan Watt. California $21.50

This first volume is a splendid, earnest voucher that Watt will complete the fullest account of Conrad’s early literary career yet published. Each chapter recapitulates the emerging critical insights of Conrad’s biography, tracing his roots in the 19th-century Romantic tradition and both popular and highbrow novels of late Victoriana. Watt is also concerned with the extent to which Conrad was influenced by the proto-Impressionalist and Symbolist traditions and particularly the more original intellectual discussion of social ethics that crumbling institutions and social order prompted. Watt employs interpretative comment on the early novels to the extent that an understanding of Conrad’s growth as an artist is nourished. The account is thorough, objective, and sensible, not just a scholarly synthesis but an original contribution.

An Ambassador’s Wife in Iran, by Cynthia Helms. Dodd, Mead $12.95

There are two discernible trends in Mrs. Helms’ account of her Iranian experience: one resulted from her diplomatic position which allowed her access to Iran’s high society under the late Shah; the other, from her personal interest which expanded her knowledge of the culture, religion, and history of Iran. Her account, however, is more influenced by the former trend and thus remains one that essentially views Iranian society not only from the outside but from above as well. This book is a good example of how one’s position makes for one’s experiences and how these, by their turn, affect one’s perceptions and judgments.

The Letters of Claudio Monteverdi, translated and introduced by Denis Stevens. Cambridge $45

This is a fully annotated English version of all the 126 discovered letters by the musical giant of the early Italian Baroque, the first great operatic composer. Spanning the last 42 years of his life, 1601—43, when Italian opera first flourished, the letters reveal fascinating details of Monteverdi’s personal life and professional work as composer and musical director, as well as information about opera and performance practice of the time. Stevens’ full, scholarly, and entertaining introductions to the various letters are a fitting supplement to his excellent translations. A major event in the annals of music.

The Find of a Lifetime: Sir Arthur Evans and the Discovery of Knossos, by Sylvia L. Horwitz. Viking $14.95

The title of this book could in truth be inverted: A Lifetime of Finds, beginning with those of Arthur Evans’ father John, in which he early participated. In fact, without his father, many of his own finds might not have been possible, for the father provided long and continued financial support as well as encouragement to uncover the past boldly. Arthur Evans was also lucky in his finds in that almost at the beginning he would strike pay dirt. The discovery of Knossos was, of course, his major achievement, and his volumes devoted to the palace of Minos can still fascinate the eye and the mind. So can this volume in which Sylvia Horwitz rounds out and makes vivid a long and complicated life.

I Saw Tokyo Burning: An Eyewitness Narrative from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima, by Robert Guillain. Doubleday $12.95

First published in France in 1946, this book has been revised and updated in its excellent English translation by William Byron. Guillain, a correspondent for Le Monde, spent a generation in the Far East, married a Japanese woman, and became one of the most respected of the French “old Asia hands.” His account of the war in Asia (he was interned in Japan) is a sober, balanced one that brings his formidable insights into a sharply unique focus.

James M. Landis: Dean of the Regulators, by Donald A. Ritchie. Harvard $15

James Landis, protégé of Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, dean of the Harvard Law School, architect and administrator of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and member of the Kennedy inner circle, is the subject of this important new biography. Ritchie chronicles Landis’ fascinating career and provides a searching yet sensitive analysis of his ultimately self-destructive personality. He also casts bright new light on the evolution of Landis’ perspectives on the independent regulatory commissions, from his passionate defense in The Administrative Process (1938) to his vigorous indictment in the equally famous Report to President Kennedy (1960). The book is written with clarity and force. It is based on extraordinarily thorough research. And it belongs in the library of anyone interested in continuity and change in modern American liberalism.

Personal Impressions, by Isaiah Berlin. Viking $13.95

Sir Isaiah Berlin here gives the American reader the benefit of his knack for knowing the right people at the right time. Churchill is the biggest name involved, and Churchill’s son Randolph makes the biggest ass of himself. The Oxford and London literati are less well known over here, as are the two Russians at the end of the book, Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova. Berlin has a tendency to be excessively generous to his friends, and this has to make us wonder about the accuracy of some of his judgments, but few indeed are those who will want to substitute their own views for those of this remarkable polymath.

FICTIONThe White Hotel, by D. M. Thomas. Viking $12.95

What begins as a straightforward fictional re-creation of a Freudian case history ends as an apocalyptic vision of life beyond the realm of psychological science. Thomas’ Freud brings to the lyrical, erotic fantasies of his sexually-obsessed, hysterical patient the rational science of the case study. We join in the analytic enterprise as intellectual thriller to discover, with Freud, the death instinct beyond the pleasure principle. But Thomas takes us beyond Freud, beyond Eros and Thanatos, and thus challenges the very substance of the Freudian text. Within the analysand, he suggests, buried within her individual neurosis, is the subtext of history—the Final Solution. And beyond the horror is the transcendent vision of salvation thr

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