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Notes on New Books

ISSUE:  Winter 1942


The Don Flows Home to the Sea, by Mikhail Sholokhov.

Let no one who enjoys Russian literature at its best be dismayed by the sight of eight hundred closely packed pages of narrative. Here, it is true, is the Russia of 1918 rather than the Russia of the Czars, the banks of the River Don rather than the cities and plains of the northwest, the Cossack tribes against the Red Armies instead of the classic situations of the drawing room or of the great country estates. Yet here is a Russian novel on a par with the best that Tolstoi and ‘fur-genev have to offer.  Knopf $8.50

The Last Tycoon, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Edmund Wilson has edited the last, unfinished novel of Fitzgerald, which would have been his most ambitious work. This story of a Hollywood magnate is interesting in itself, but doubly interesting in the light of the author’s notes and comments which the editor has appended. They offer a fascinating view of an artist at work. Included in the book are “The Great Gatsby” and five short stories.

Scribner’s $2.75

Day of the Trumpet, by David Cornel DeJong.

Mr. DeJong writes appealingly of the honest, likeable Hollanders whose only shortcoming is a too-great complacency in the face of danger, The reader understands them and their democratic attitude. Not so with the Nazis who invaded their country, however. Mr. De-Jong does not try to explain what makes Nazis or why they are such fanatics. He presents them as bad men and lets it go at that. Otherwise, the book is very good.

Harper $2.50

Strangers in the Vly, by Edmund Gilligan.

From the fabled Catskill country springs this fantastic legend of three midget French regicides, little besmirched souls, who, coming to seek refuge, find in the

chastening mountains and among the simple Vly folk moral regeneration. One regrets that Gilligan was unable to match his fine descriptive powers with those of a first-rate story-teller. Scribner’s $2

Thunder in the Earth, by Edwin Lanhaiu.

This novel is about drilling for oil in Texas in the reckless HMO’s. It is filled with information about the history and geology of oil drilling in America, and it explains in detail such diverse processes as “spudding in” and “proration.” But its non-factual side is not as thorough: the characterizations are relatively commonplace, while the story generates little interest. In other words, the book is long on information and short on imagination.  Harcourt $2.75

On Troublesome Creek, by James Still.

The author of “River of Earth’ ” brings together ten sensitive tales of Kentucky mountain folk who live in a world apart and speak their own earthy language: “We’re old timcy people. We may live rough, but we’re lacking nothing. For them with muscle and backbone, Troublesome Creek country is the land o’ plenty.” These stories, while individually perfect, arc so closely related in subject that the book as a whole seems to suffer from not being a novel.  Viking $2.50

Gentleman from England, by Lawrence Edward Watkin.

The charm of this little book is that it makes no pretense to being anything but romance. Mr. Watkin very skilfully weaves the tale of young Peter McLean, son of a Loyalist, who, near the end of Washington’s presidency, returns to America to avenge himself upon a Philadelphia merchant who stole Peter’s father’s property. It is light, pleasant reading with a dash of braggadocio, full of physical combat, kidnap, escape, and love-making.

Knopf $2.60

The Hills Beyond, by Thomas Wolfe. In the stories collected here there is

mi mostly what we would expect from the author of “Look Homeward, Angel,” hut the title picce,a long story of ten chapters, is an illustration of the attempt Wolfe was making towards the end of his short career to achieve; “objectivity.” Edward C. As-well. Wolfe’s last editor, has provided a long note, partly critical, partly biographical.  ’  Harper $2f>0


Grey Eminence, by Aldous Huxley.

In this biography of Richelieu’s Father Joseph, Huxley seems no farther along the road to solving his moral problems than he was in “Eyeless in (la/a.” Again there is the. deep brooding over world chaos, the ngo.iy of men torn between good and evil, the groping for some hope in individual personality. These un-historical sections of the book arc stimulating. For the biography proper, less can be said. Surely any attempt to dump the whole Thirty Years’ War into a few dozen pages must be doomed to failure. And Capuchin Father Joseph. Richelieu, and all the court figures of the time, rarely come to life for more than a line or two. But Huxley’s chapter on politics and religion is an extraordinary achievement. Perhaps a set of essays would have been better than this study of the sly Cardinal’s pet henchman. ’  Harper $3.50

The Road of a Naturalist, by Donald Cul-ross Pcattic.

To begin with, Mr. Pcattic writes unusually good English; his books would he a delight to readers of good taste even if he had much less to say. This collection of autobiographical sketches, arranged and related to each other in Mr. Peattic.’s characteristic manner, is quite up to the expectations of those who have made the author’s acquaintance before. The thread is the tale of a motor trip through the West ; on it is assembled many a flashing gem.  Houghton $3

James Madison, by Irving Brant.

Dealing with the first thirty years of Madison’s life, this work furnishes a re-

alistic glimpse into the life of the northern Piedmont country of Virginia during the colonial period. The account of Madison’s early education is enlightening, but his entry into politics is discussed from the point of view of one who believes strongly that the. nation is older than the states. Here the author’s documentation is elaborate but his reasoning is hardly convincing. Bobbs Merrill $4f,50

Barrie, by Denis Maekail.

“He is like no one else on earth,” says Denis Maekail of Barrio and proceeds to prove it in a leisurely, sympathetic account of the almost incredible little Scotchman, lie reveals the many-sided genius, with a touch of Ariel and something of Puck, who wrote, himself into bis plays and stories and also into the hearts of his readers. His disciple, Denis Maekail, writing from intimate knowledge of the master and after enormous research, makes us see Barrio in his habit, as he lived and, without any psychic probing, has immensely aided our understanding of him.

Scribner’s $3.75

Tomorrow Will Come, by E. M. Almed-ingen.

This is a good picture of the hardships which harmless non-political people had to face during the Russian Revolution. The author’s account of her struggle to integrate herself with Soviet life, however, is sketchy and inconclusive. Her disgust with many things typically Russian, her persistent longing for England and anything English, and her eventual escape to that country, all seem to stem from a personal conflict which, in true English fashion, she has carefully buried.

Atlantic—Little, Brown $3

A Secret History of the American Revolution, by Carl Van Dorcn.

This much-publicized volume is not a secret history of the Revolution, but an expose of treachery to the, American cause during the struggle. Two-thirds of the work is devoted to the ease of Benedict Arnold, and new light is thrown upon that incident. The treachery of Silas Deane is mentioned, but to have followed

a: that theme would have led too close to the author’s hero, Benjamin Franklin. The Clinton papers furnished new material, hut most of the sources are well known.  Viking $3.75

Laval, by Henry Torres.

An outstanding French criminal law-ycr, turning in this book from defense to indictment, directs a scathing and telling attack against a truly abominable, creature. The author indubitably represents the mass of the French people; and Laval is a most despicable example of the small but powerful minority which now governs France under the aegis of the Germans. The contrast in the book between author and subject is highly enlightening and, to democrats, very satisfying.

Oxford $2.50

The Potsdam Fuhrer, by Robert Ergang.

Frederick William I was the author of the pattern and much of the content of the system called Prussianism. He founded the armv and the bureaucracy, he imposed the idea of civil and military service on the aristocracy, he molded the economy of the state to support the military superstructure. But he also proclaimed the principle of compulsory primary education, initiated judicial reform, and upheld religious toleration. This is a painstaking and unaffected biography by a competent historian. Columbia $3

Gusstav Mahler, by Bruno Walter.

It will be a long time before, the critics and academicians decide just how “important” arc the gigantic symphonies which Mahler achieved. Until then we can be grateful for any efforts to bolster the demand for performances of his works. Toward that end the present volume may do much good, for surely no one today can speak of the composer with more authority and sympathy than Bruno Walter. Chapters by Ernst Krenck round out the figure of Mahler more concretely; and in both sections of the book the reader will find much vigorous thinking on the nature of modern music and the possibilities that lie ahead.  Greystone $3

Master of the Mississippi, by Florence L. Dorsey.

Informative, interesting, and inspiring, The author has the gift of putting more real reading in less than three hundred pages than most writers get into a thousand. To start with, she had a great subject in Henry Shreve, whose biography this is. Then she had a great background in the River. Finally, she has a great gift of narrative.  Houghton $8.75

George Eliot and Joint Chapman, by Gordon S. Ilaight.

The diaries of John Chapman and Marian Evans’s own letters and journals in the Yale Library furnish the basic material of this latest hook on the nineteenth century novelist. The volume is interesting both as a revelation of Chapman, a Byronic figure of good intentions and singular frailties, and as a hitherto unwritten chapter in the life of a famous woman.  Yale $2.75

Iiainer Maria Hilke, by E. M. Butler.

Professor Butler’s biography, taken on its own grounds, is an extraordinarily able work, at times rising to heights of critical interpretation that impart to Rilke.’s obscure and esoteric symbolism a profundity and beauty which Rilke seemed often unable to find for himself. The passages dealing with Rilke.’s connections with Rodin are particularly noteworthy.

Cambridge—Macmi!Ian $^.50

“Fiqhtin’ Joe” Wheeler, by John P. Dyer.

This well documented but badly written volume records the. history of the three dramas in which Joseph Wheeler acted. A major-general before he was thirty, Fightin’ Joe began his career in the Confederacy’s disastrous Army of Tennessee ; he ended it as a major-general in the United States Army contesting Teddy Roosevelt’s option on the glory of the Spanish War. Between wars, as a congressman from Alabama, he created for himself two monuments: the Library of Congress building and the, Wheeler Dam | at Muscle Shoals. This biography is all tactics and no strategy; readers will still | prefer to remember Wheeler only as the white-bearded ex-Confederate who ordered his heroes to charge the “Yankees” on San Juan hill.  Louisiana $3

Eugenie, by Rita Wellman.

An intensely human story of the Spanish beauty Eugenie de Monti jo who became Empress of Franee and a symbol of the Second Empire. Miss Wellman’s excellent portrayal of the life and manners of the France of Louis Napoleon makes particularly good reading. Scribner’s $3

In the Mill, by John Mascfield.

In a bit of entertaining autobiography Mascfield reviews the two years when he worked in a Yonkcrs carpet mill. His most significant experience outside of the mill was his discovery of the older English poets and several prose writers, including De Quincey, who started him on his literary career.  Macmillan $2

The Continental Congress, by Edmund Cody Burnett.

Having collected and edited the “Letters of Members of the Continental Congress,” the author is pre-eminently qualified to write an authoritative history of that body. lie follows a chronological arrangement and presents his material without citation of sources. What would normally have been a tedious factual narrative is relieved by a charm of style which reveals keen personal insight.

Macmillan $6


Faust, translated by George Madison Priest.

Through August Wilhelm von Schlcgel’s translation of twelve of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, Shakespeare became a naturalized citizen of the German Commonwealth of Letters. Professor Priest, with his translation of Goethe’s “Faust, Parts One and Two,” has done a similar service for all English and American lovers of Goethe. His line-for-line translation reproduces Goethe’s rhythms and

(Continued in back


even rhyme-schemes faultlessly; the diction is clear, (lowing, even melodious.

Knopf $5

The Viking Book of Poetry of the English-Speaking World, chosen and edited by Richard Aldington.

The best rule for anthologies, particularly of poetry, would be “Every man his own anthologist.” Failing that, the, brave editor who ventures uncautiously into the arena is sure to feel the slings and arrows of outraged specialists, as Mr. Aldington knows. For those who like their terms defined before they enter into the argument, Mr. Aldington’s long foreword in the shape of “A Letter to My Publisher” ought to eliminate the sort of criticism that aims at proving that the editor did not accomplish what he did not set out to do. For the unprofessional lover of poetry one must candidly admit the “Viking Hook” to be a good job of wide selection and excellent printing. The expert in poetry hardly needs an anthology.  ’ Viking $8.60

The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, edited by E. de Selincourt.

An outstanding Wordsworth scholar gives final text and variant readings for two major sections of Wordsworth’s work, “Poems Written in Youth,” and “Poems Referring to the Period of Childhood.” ‘J’he, editor argues persuasively for his adoption of Wordsworth’s own arrangement of the poems, but many students and readers will still prefer the chronological.  Oxford $6

Collected Poems, by Walter de, la Marc.

The, impression left after a re-reading of these poems is that de la Mare is one of our most necessary poets; that he is in no wise diminished for having outlived the immediate tradition which supplies him with a language, and a character often remote to contemporary cars; that both his taste and his truths are triumphs of an insight residing deeply within the matrix of the poetic; that it is possible today to bear with the essentially skeptical approach to imaginative order, precisely because de la

advertising pages.) (Continued from front advertising pages.)

Mare establishes beyond question the right to imaginative belief. . Holt $3.75

Poems, by Ridgely Torrence.

The selected and newer poems of a sensitive craftsman and a small, though strenuously ordered, talent. In general, the poems seem slight because they are sealed to the line of a verbal melody rather than to the range and intensity of their materials. Mr. Torrence is reticently tuneful where the intention was to be reflective, or baroquely tuneful where the intention was to be brilliant; and in many eases, the rigor of his disciplines seems to have diminished the force of the total response itself.  Macmillan $1.75

llusiness As Usual, by I. F. Stone

Writing at the end of the first year of America’s defense program, Mr. Stone uncovers the reasons behind the delays crippling the country’s attempts to produce the tools with which to finish the war. The story is centered in Washington, around industry’s dollar-a-year men who could not cut themselves oft’ from their own background, and who wanted to arm America only if that could be done in strict accord with the principles of the United States Chamber of Commerce. It is salutary for someone to bring to our attention evidence that hides unnoticed in the back pages of our papers or in the hearings of congressional committees. Mr. Stone has done, this with the skill of a first-rate reporter and the indignation of a man aroused.  Modern Age $2

The South in Architecture, by Lewis Mumford.

Here, sandwiched between two irrelevant lectures on political ideology, are two provocative essays on Jefferson the universalist and Richardson the region-alist. Many readers who will agree with the author that the University of Virginia is “one of the highest achievements of American architecture” will find Ids description of its Rotunda as an “awk-


ward overgrown structure” as invalid as Jefferson’s own dismissal of the William and Mary College buildings as “misshapen piles” distinguishable from brickkilns only by their roofs. Mr. Mumford is mistaken in his belief that the outdoor kitchen in the South was invented by Jefferson as an escape from the utilitarian. He is on surer ground in his interpretation of the modernity of the great Henry Hobson Richardson.  Harcourt $2

Where Stands a Winged Sentry, by Margaret Kennedy,

This is a journal kept between May and September, 1910, when the English people were learning that war is “very nearly but not quite the worst thing that can happen to a country.” It is mainly an account of daily incidents in the lives of Miss Kennedy and her family, friends, and acquaintances during the period when trying readjustments had to be made and were being made by all kinds of people. It again reveals the author of “The Constant Nymph” as a witty, humane observer of life, as a woman who is courageous, tolerant, democratic, and deeply but not blindly patriotic. It is a poignant book which compels great admiration for the unpretentious heroism of the average English man and woman.  Yale $2

The Quest for Law, by William Seaglc,

This book attempts to explain critically the growth of law and legal institutions throughout the ages. With considerable skill the author compresses materials drawn from jurisprudence, political theory, and anthropology, and he has also devised a frame of reference which is broad and flexible enough to be followed easily by laymen. Mr. Seagle discloses a restrained inclination to the left, particularly in his discussion of anthropological materials and in his criticism of the critics of administrative law. He feels that the chief weakness of law has been its concern with amelioration rather than with the solution of the conflicts of society. There, is no attempt here to make a difficult subject easy; Mr. Seaglc has succeeded in making it interesting and stimulating.  Knopf $5

The Oxford Companion to American Literature, by James I). Hart.

A first-rate reference work in every respect. The entries arc thorough but concise, including even notable figures who were not authors but who influenced our literature, as well as noteworthy newspapers and periodicals. Many contemporary writers and hooks arc noted. The typographical arrangement could not be improved on; though the book lias nearly nine hundred pages and is printed on substantial paper, it is not at all cumbersome or unwieldy.  Oxford $5

Reading I’ve Liked, by Clifton Fadinian.

The title of this excellent anthology explains its nature, and there remains only to say that Mr. Fadiman’s introduction, “My Life Is an Open Book,” is an excellent discourse on the profession of book-reviewing, of which he is one of the chief adornments. In the commentaries with which lie introduces each author Mr. Fadinian is at his best: incisive, thought-provoking, and a good stylist—journalistic if vou like—in his own right.

Simon & Schuster $3

Berlin Embassy, by William Russell.

All the hooks on contemporary Germany agree that the Nazi regime, is horrible in its objectives and in the methods used to obtain them. Some writers attach blame to the German people as a whole; others distinguish sharply between the Nazis and the millions of decent Germans. Mr. Russell, wdio was employed from 1937 to 1940 in our Berlin embassy, is in the latter camp. It is clear that his hatred of the Nazis has not obscured his larger vision. He is sensitive to human values as such and his protest against the spirit of vengeance is in refreshing contrast to many wholesale indictments of everything German. The book tells the story of the day-to-day life of simple people—their concern with ration cards, the silent fear that hovers over them, their lack of enthusiasm for this war. It is a good hook, unpretentious and sincere.

Dutton $2.50

The British Constitution, by W. Ivor Jennings.

This little, volume, deserves to be ranked with Bagehot’s well known essays. A highly important subject, characterized by both permanent and ever-changing features, is here treated with profound learning and with freshness.

Cambridge—Macmillan $2,60

Murder for Pleasure, by Howard Hay-craft.

An extra-curricular dissertation on detective fiction done with much thoroughness and no pedantry—not even the jocose variety of the “Raker Street Irregulars.” It has everything you could expect, including a history of the detective story, a bibliography, a detective story quiz, a who’s who in detection, and a good index. Recommended to the detective enthusiast.  Applet on $3

Censorship 1017, by James R. Mock.

Companion volume to the author’s “Words That Won the War,” this book narrates in detail our censorship experiences in the World War. The facts, garnered from unpublished records of the Creel Committee, speak for themselves and what they say does not make pleasant reading. Recognizing the necessity for abridging civil liberties in wartime, the author stresses the dangerous carryover into the post-war period.

Princeton $2.60

Milton and His Modern Critics, by Logan Pearsall Smith.

An American expatriate of pre-War vintage accuses two American expatriates of post-War vintage (and some others) of having too low an opinion of John Milton as a poet. Mr. Smith writes, as always, with urbanity and distinction; but the wit which he chiefly offers as a substitute for thoughtful argument is not enough to carry the day for him, right though lie is. Messrs. Ezra Found and T. S. Fdiot have raised their eyebrows in disapproval of Milton, and Mr. Smith raises his eyebrows in disapproval of them; it is hard to say whose eyebrows have been raised the highest. ’ Little, Brown $1,60 Les Italiens tels qu’ilx sont, by Count Carlo Sforza.

In this collection of penetrating and sophisticated essays, written with genuine grace and charm, a distinguished “liberal of the old school makes abundantly clear how far Fascism is from being representative of the real Italy.

Editions de I’arbrc $1.25

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

An excellent index occupies more than a third of the book’s 879 pages, usually with two and often with more than two important words listed from each quotation, and there are other facilities for finding the quotation you want. Only time can tell whether the, editors’ claim that “this is the best dictionary of its kind” is justified. It is clearly printed and well arranged.

Oxford $5

Humanistic Studies in Honor of John Calvin Metcalf.

The volume contains nineteen articles by members of the University of Virginia faculty and a dedication to Professor Metcalf. These scholarly studies are on a wide variety of subjects, ranging all the way from “The Bronze Bull in Cleveland” to “The Survival of ‘Start-Naked’ in the. South.”

University of Virginia Studies $3

America’s Last King, by Manfred S. Guttmachcr.

Analyzing an extensive clinical record, Dr. Guttmacher draws a true portrait of George III, whose recurrent periods of manic-depressive insanity overshadowed the achievements of a long, useful, and dramatic life—a man whose very faults were “exaggerated virtues.” This is no mere ease history. The full flavor of a turbulent era is there, and the social background of a dissolute court and venial ministry surrounding a troubled, sincere human being.  Scribner’s $3.50

Robert Carter of Nomini Hall, by Louis Morton.

This is an academic and dehydrated account of a Virginia planter’s diversified economic interests in agriculture, iron


manufacture, milling, clothmaking, and the like. An illuminating aspect of the problem of the large Virginia slaveholder is revealed by Carter’s difficulties in carrying out his own program of manumission.  Colonial Williamsburg $3.50

A Subtrcasury of American Humor, edited by K. B. White, and Katherine S. White,

Here are collected humorous pieces by Americans, from Benjamin Franklin to James Thurber, in prose and poetry, together with some drawings. The editors themselves are professional humorists; nevertheless, there is not a forced or strained note in the book. Probably there arc too many good things in the anthology for a determined straight-through reading, but it will make an excellent bedside book.

Coward-McCann $3

Satan in Top Hat, by Tiber Koevcs.

The trend of political journalism lias clearly indicated that Franz von Payien, the subject of this biography, had a rendezvous with the devil’s Hall of Fame. In bringing together the available information about bis career, the author lias performed a real service, but the conversations which he invents diminish the integrity of the work. It will, however, appeal to those who like “hot stuff” on live subjects.  Alliance $3

The Crisis of Our Age, by Pitirim A. So-rokin.

In the three volumes of his “Social and Cultural Dynamics,” Mr. Sorokin expounded at length bis anti-Spenglerian views. Here, in briefer form, be repeats that while the crisis of our times is no ordinary affair, we are witnessing, not the decline of the West, but the final stages itf decay of our “sensate” civilization anil a transition to a “higher” culture that will probably be “ideational.” The book lias many charts and diagrams to support this thesis in a brave attempt to discuss the arts, among other things, in terms of statistics. But in Mr. Sorokin’s belief that a “better” civilization will be the end of the transition one can detect more than an occasional trace of wishful thinking dressed up in “scientific” terminology.

Dutton $3.50


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