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Notes on Current Books, Autumn 1975

ISSUE:  Autumn 1975

At hand is the first volume of the Wilson notebooks, lightly edited by Leon Edel, and possessing all the excitement of a footnote. Since Wilson’s accomplishments were many, it is difficult to understand why he intended for these jottings to be published. Here is the same cast of characters, at home and abroad, and the same youthful attention to detail, especially sexual, one has seen in innumerable similar accounts of the period. Some of this is interesting; most of it is decidedly not. As a posthumous publication, this book seems unworthy of the reputation that preceded it.

The P. R. B. Journal: William Michael Rossetti’s Diary of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 1849—1853, Together with Other Pre-Raphaelite Documents, edited by William E. Fredeman. Oxford $32

So little survives to inform one of the day-to-day activities of the seven artists, poets and aesthetes who composed the antiestablishment and visonary brotherhood of Pre-Raphaelites, that this detailed and reserved journal will always remain the single most important document both of the movement and of its voice, “The Germ.” This complete edition replaces Rossetti’s own highly edited edition (1900), and is attended by excellent explanatory notes. Appendices include the “rules” of the P. R. B., a list of “Immortals” prepared by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Hoiman Hunt as a subsidiary creed, and poems concerning the P. R. B. written by its members. Selected photographs are included. It is an excellent and worthwhile editorial effort, if slow reading.

The Lenin Anthology selected, edited and introduced by Robert W. Tucker. Norton $18.9;

This collection of Lenin’s writings by Professor Tucker is very likely the most comprehensive, well-edited, one-volume anthology of Lenin’s works available. The work covers the whole range of Lenin’s works from the prerevolutionary to the ruling period and presents in the fullest form the most critical parts of his writings, including “The State and Revolution” in its entirety. Tucker’s general introduction provides an excellent summary of the chronology and meaning of Lenin’s life and the index is simply first-rate.

Samuel Johnson, by John Wain. Viking $12.50

A serviceable account of the life of Johnson which is notable less for new scholarship than for its readable, unpretentious style. Wain’s manifest enthusiasm for his subject neatly complements his extensive research and compilation of the available literature. A fine introduction to England’s greatest man of letters.

The Eleventh House, by Hudson Strode. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $10.95

One essential for a good travel writer, as Hudson Strode is, is to have a constant curiosity about the unfamiliar. Another is to be able to enjoy people. Strode has both. In addition he has had a long academic career and has produced a three volume biography of Jefferson Davis. In “The Eleventh House,” a title taken from astrology meaning the house of friends, he has produced an autobiography up until the beginning of World War II. His memories of his Alabama childhood are clear and absorbing, but his meetings with the famous (the friends of the house of friends) do not add much to our previous journalistic knowledge of them. On the other hand his style, as one would expect from a man of his background, is so good that the book is a pleasure to read.

Shelley and His Circle, 1173—1822, volumes V and VI, Donald H. Reiman, editor. Harvard $40

We must congratulate Dr. Reiman and the patrons and staff of the Carl H. Pforzheimer Library for labors on behalf of scientific and descriptive editing. The two recent volumes follow the tradition of their predecessors for presenting monumental and meticulous research as well as clear and stately explanations and essays by such noted scholars as the former editor, Kenneth Neill Cameron, and David V. Erdman, among others. The dates basically covered by volumes V and VI are late 1816 to late 1819. The materials published include letters from Shelley to William Baxter, Isabella Baxter Booth and Byron; the Shelley-Leigh Hunt correspondence; letters of Trelawny; an essay by Peacock; Edward E. Williams’ “Private Journal”; and, most impressively, Shelley’s “A Philosophical View of Reform.” There can be no doubt that this set of Shelley materials properly claims to show “the craftsman’s pride in the handiwork of his most patient and painstaking hours.” These new volumes are a must for any serious Shelley-Romantics scholar.

Shelley: The Golden Years, by Kenneth Neill Cameron. Harvard $20

At the present time when major scholars are writing major books on Shelley, Professor Cameron’s generous study must rank as the best general one published to date. Its focus is not new critical; it does not consume itself with the subtle language one can find in Shelley. Rather, Cameron’s book approaches Shelley from a historical perspective. Although Cameron makes a convincing case for Shelley being neither a Platonic nor a sceptical thinker, the usual dichotomies into which Shelley is placed, the emphasis of this study is upon contemporary political events and Shelley’s biography. The research is monumental and the results are presented in clear, readable prose. Surely this is a book which all who are interested in Shelley will want to read.

Alexander I, by Alan Palmer. Harper & Row $15

Mr. Palmer already has to his credit a biography of Metternich, which was justifiably praised by reviewers as “immensely readable” and as a “well-researched, sprightly life.” His new biography of the Tsar whose troops fought Napoleon to a standstill and entered Paris in triumph in 1814 is equally fine. Mr. Palmer brings to the subject a remarkably perceptive intelligence, familiarity with an immense amount of material in several languages and a lively, lucid style all too rare among academic historians. Equally refreshing is his willingness to speculate on the enigmatic personality and motives of the Tsar, and on his mysterious death in 1825, or was it 1864? But Mr. Palmer’s comments are always sensible and factually based.

Wilfred Owen: A Biography, by Jon Stallworthy. Oxford $17.50

Neither a calculated journey from obscurity nor a sudden shock of recognition brought the poet Wilfred Owen to maturity of genius. This splendid book explores the quixotic and temperamental, the halting and the dilettantism, the experience and growth, the qualities of a full life such as might inform a vision of life “sweeter to the taste” than the horrors of war. Owen’s life was ended mid-anguish, seven days before Armistice and 14 months since he had begun to write his greatest poetry. More than having provided a standard biography, Stallworthy has renewed the image of one among the truest of “heroes-” love for mankind in its worst inhumanities bred sad tranquility in Owen’s troubled soul.

Mythology and Humanism, the Correspondence of Thomas Mann and Karl Kerényi, translated by Alexander Gelley. Cornell University Press

Kerényi, the Hungarian classicist and mythologist, first began the correspondence with Mann in 1934 and Mann, recognizing an intellect with whom to share thoughts and ideas and a scholar who could provide assistance and advice, joined in what was to be an exchange that would last until his death in 1955 with the exception of an hiatus during the war years. Kerényi collected the letters and originally published the first part, those before 1941, in German. Both parts were published by Kerényi in 1960. In the present translation there is a very elucidating foreword by Kerényi. The letters are particularly helpful in aiding the reader and student to follow much of Mann’s thoughts and methods of composition during the writing especially of the tetralogy, “Joseph and his Brothers” as well as later works such as “Dr. Faustus.”

The Hesse/Mann Letters, Edited by Anni Carlsson and Volker Michels with a foreword by Theodore Ziolkowski. Harper & Row $10

As is pointed out in the foreword to this collection, it would seem difficult to imagine two writers, who happened to be also both German, who were so very different about them. Their life styles, one very public, speaking tours, lectures; the other very private; one who traveled so much that it is amazing how he found adequate time to write; the other who made only one long trip in his life. One could go on in many facets of their lives to show the contrasts. Yet these two men, both Nobel prize laureates, had a lengthy correspondence and friendship lasting over half a century though they remained rather formal in addressing each other at least in their letters. In this collection numbering almost 140 letters, those from Mann to Hesse appear to have been preserved in their entirety while some of Hesse’s to Mann have been lost. Most of the letters are followed by explanatory notes, and there are eight appendixes as well by way of explanation. Altogether this collection is an important source book for anyone interested in either writer or their relationship.

An Exceptional Friendship, The Correspondence of Thomas Mann and Erich Kahler, translated by Richard and Clara Winston. Cornell Univ. Press $12.50

This rich collection of letters between Mann and one of his closest friends adds to our understanding of these two complex men. The collection includes all the extant letters exchanged between the two men as well as two between Kahler and Katia, Mann’s widow shortly before Kahler’s death in 1970. This type of collection, the letters of two correspondents with each other, is much more interesting and meaningful in many ways than the previously published collections in German and translations into English of Mann’s letters to various people, without any of their replies. The collection is somewhat marred in lacking many of Kahler’s replies to Mann, as these were lost by Mann’s several moves, often on short notice, in which many of his possessions had to be left behind. The translators have added numerous notes at the conclusions of the letters in explanation of points for the reader.

Robert Louis Stevenson, by James Pope Hennessy. Simon & Schuster $9.95

A mostly sympathetic reading of Stevenson, whose reputation seems always to have been in flux, which emphasizes less his adult posturings than his romantic, adolescent nature. Descriptively the book is flawless, evincing the style which earned Hennessy, who died in 1973, deserved recognition as a first-rate biographer. Thoroughgoing and insightful.

Ivan the Terrible, by Robert Payne and Nikita Romanoff. Crowell $12.95

Literate, religious, murderous, 16th century tsar Ivan IV remains a model of the contradictions and complexities of the psychopathic personality. Payne and Romanoff examine each facet of Ivan’s Russia, balancing one against the other: the military victories which shaped the country’s boundaries, the attempts at establishing trade with Europe, the enormous wealth of the treasury, and a governmental environment so bizarre and monstrous that it was without parallel for nearly 400 years. Faithful to detail and source material without being pedantic, the authors’ scholarship is perfectly matched by their concinnous writing. A definitive study of a man whose greatest gift to his countrymen, as the authors note, was his own death.

POETRY New Southern Poets, edited by Guy Owen and Mary C. Williams. North Carolina $6.95 (paper $5.50)

Commemorating the 15th anniversary of “Southern Poetry Review” (founded in 1958 as “Impetus”), this collection of 91 reprinted poems features poets with a Southern connection, though SPR has consciously (as Louis Rubin notes in a per-functory introduction) developed into a national magazine. Strenuous examination would probably reveal certain biases of the North Carolina editors that could yield the “voice” of the magazine, and it would turn out to be a relatively conservative and well-mannered voice. There are lots of trees and animals, very few vulgarities and evidence that the ballad and sonnet are still honored forms. Yet it is more accurate to say that the collection typifies mainstream American poetic tendencies of the last couple of decades, which themselves are not remarkable: the omnipresent “I” in observation-meditation, the flexible free verse line varying in length, the reluctance to make intellectual demands, and the too-easy slipping from sharp image into soft signification or flaccid question, as if the art of ending is beyond mastery. Poets need to go to track meets. It is a good volume, though, nicely blending established poets like Ammons and Dickey with newer ones, who tend to emulate their elders respectfully.

Atlantic Wall and other poems, by Rosalie L. Colie. Princeton, cloth $7.50, paper $2.95

The late Professor Rosalie L. Colie was a wide-ranging, subtle scholar of Renaissance literature, especially interested in the relations among genres and, more importantly, always conscious of the relations between works of literature and the cultures in which they were written.

The 37 poems in “Atlantic Wall” exemplify the belief that literature is vitally important to life. Although they are “academic” poems, they are neither timorous nor overly abstract; their tone is vibrant and their language alive. Professor Colie displays technical virtuosity in a refreshing variety of forms. Her wit is often both metaphysical and comic: she writes of the creation of Adam, “God gave him labyrinthine ears / For balance, and to hear the spheres.”

The creation of Adam and Eve and their fall from Paradise is a pervasive topic, and those who find the myth of the felix culpa empty will find many of these poems empty as well. Professor Colie writes, “Men take their measure from the world they see.” The world seen in these poems is fallen and contentious, but it is also charged with natural beauty and with human and divine love; it is described by a very intelligent and capable poet.

Poems & Political Letters of F. I. Tyutchev, translated by Jesse Zeldin. Tennessee $8.95

Undismayed by Robert Frost’s disdainful comment that poetry is what is lost in translation, Mr. Zeldin has labored at the thankless task of putting into English the poems of Tyutchev, now established as the major Russian poet of the 19th century after Pushkin. Much is, of course, lost; but Mr. Zeldin’s workmanlike translations are welcome, particularly those of the lyrics. Tyutchev’s political poems are of little interest, and in any case, like the letters included here, many were written by Tyutchev in French. For his introduction and notes Mr. Zeldin leans heavily on studies by Pigaryov and Gregg, whose aid he acknowledges.

Gathering the Bones Together, by Gregory Orr. Drawings by Brad Holland. Harper & Row $7.95

Mr. Orr’s second volume of poems is even better than his first. His heart muscles and eyesight increase in strength; his memory lengthens. More and more, he is gathering the world into his night-gleaming terrarium. It is full of American owls, ponds, mirrors, bones—and children. One may trace Michaux or Trakl in the genealogy of this surreal allegorist, but the name that counts is Orr.

The Awful Rowing Toward God, by Anne Sexton. Houghton Mifflin $3.45 (paperback)

Apparently Anne Sexton belonged to a suicidal generation, one for whom world drama was contracted to the torment its members inflicted on their own bodies. But if suicide is merely introverted homicide, it sometimes indicates a virtuous preference on the part of its victim; that is, to kill oneself rather than others. Anne Sexton was not alone among confessional poets in being religious, and perhaps she really transcended in these poems what she could not avoid in her bodily life.

Index of American Periodical Verse: 1913, by Sander W. Zulauf and Irwin H. Weiser. Scarecrow Press $17.50

These days poetry is thriving as perhaps never before—even poets themselves admit it, in frequent interviews on poetry as both craft and commodity. The latter aspect—publishing and distribution—has become a vast network needing maps and charts. One such is the “International Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses,” now in its nth edition. Another is the annual “Directory of American Poets.” At least two magazines regularly monitor the rise and demise of small presses and literary magazines. “American Periodical Verse” is one of these essential reference works. It quickly and accurately tells who’s publishing poems these days, where and how often. (Albert Goldbarth, who seems to publish everywhere, actually had only 54 poems in some 20 magazines in 1973; Lyn Lifshin placed 38; W. S. Merwin, active as translator and poet, 71. ) Some 3600 poets and translators are here alphabetically, and over 170 United States (no Canadian) magazines are covered, with only a few visible omissions— didn’t “Chelsea,” “Dacotah Territory” or “The Sou’wester” publish in 1973? Useful is the alphabetical index of poems and the list of periodicals’ mailing addresses and prices. The first year covered by this annual volume was 1971; all volumes are in print, and all academic libraries should have them.

Selected Poems, by David Ignatow. Wesleyan $7.50

These poems have a modest dignity which is ill-served by the modish and boring comments of Robert Bly, which are everywhere among the small but fine selection made by Bly. Ignatow has a sense of a people existing within the historic moment, but his cool tenderness never freezes into the pompous ice of theory. Sometimes his poems are as simple as newspaper paragraphs, but they are soon lifted into the realm of music, humor and feeling by Ignatow’s ability to put the urban fact into wide perpective. He sees the patterns without which poetry can’t exist, but he always senses the trembling human skin.

Ten Poems and Lyrics by Mao Tse-tung, translation and woodcuts by Wang Huiming. Massachusetts $7

Chairman Mao’s poetry continues to attract attention in the West. The ten poems contained in this new volume, all relating to incidents in the Chinese revolution, have already been rendered into English by a number of translators—Willis Barnstone, Wong Man, and the Engles. The principal distinction here lies not so much in any literary superiority as in the manner of presentation. The poems are given in Mao’s own calligraphy; in addition, each line of each poem is presented in the formalized Chinese characters (contemporary Communist version) with phonetic rendering, literal meanings and smooth English translation. Finally, the lines are put together into balanced verse form. Certainly, one must credit Wang Hui-ming of the Department of Art at the University of Massachusetts with complete honesty in the presentation. Curiously, the total structure of the lines is not indicated.

FICTION Below the City, by Marguerite Young. Vantage Press $4.95

“Below,” in this case meaning towards the delta from New Orleans, is the setting for most of these stories. It is undeniable that an atmosphere has been created for the early zoth century days of the tales, and it is also undeniable that a series of engrossing characters has been created. But the style, and sometimes the grammar, are so curious as to impede one’s enjoyment. Surely the act of writing should embrace an expressive instead of an awkward technique.

The Samurai, by George Macbeth. Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich $6.95

Poet Macbeth’s first novel is an episodic allegory that is part sensually violent thriller and part metaphysical pornography. What there is of a plot centers on a band of modern ronin trying to reinstitute the ancient Japanese ethos of perverse purity through death and their destruction by a group of British agents whose own purification comes through perverse sex, acts which are not merely symbolically equivalent but, ultimately, identical. The story is basically unconvincing, and is bogged down by excessive eroticism, but Macbeth is so adept at portraying the subtle exoticness of it all that one cannot help but become involved and engrossed.

The Short Stories of Frank Harris, selected and edited by Elmer Gertz. Southern Illinois $8.95

Few authors have been as controversial during their lifetimes, or as great a cause célèbre after their deaths, as Frank Harris, now most remembered for his erotic auto-biography, “My Life and Loves.” While these stories, a representative selection from a half-dozen collections not generally available, have much of the easy narrative style of “My Life and Loves,” they have neither its psychological force nor its dramatic proportion. Harris has a tin ear for characterization and dialogue and an unfortunate penchant for mediocre aphorisms that reduce his stories to the level of transparent fables of sociopolitical morality.

Grass on the Wayside: A Novel by Natsume S&obar;seki, translated with an Introduction by Edwin McClellan. Chicago $2.95

This is a paperback edition of the translation of “Michikusa” which was issued in 1969 together with a pair of critical essays on S&obar;seki and T&obar;son by Professor McClellan of Yale University. “Grass on the Wayside” is an autobiographical novel, written just before S&obar;seki’s death in 1916. It is a novel of solitude-in-the-midst-of-human-relationships, and this translation beautifully and delicately conveys the sense of futility which is so much a component of the Japanese recognition of mono no aware, the essential sadness of things.

First Love, Last Rites, by Ian McEwan. Random House $6.95

It is likely that McEwan will be compared to other practitioners of the short story form, Roald Dahl in particular. There is about this collection of eight writings the same juxtaposing of simple quirks and complex pathologies, and the same blurry distinctions between the normal and abnormal behavior of seemingly sane individuals that Dahl mastered in “Kiss Kiss” and “Someone Like You” a decade or so ago. At the same time, the comparison is perhaps unfair. McEwan is no mere emulator of the style of others as “Solid Geometry,” perhaps the quintessential example of the genre, and contained herein, readily demonstrates.

The Nail Hotel, by Deyan Sheldon. Crowell $7.95

A curious novel concerned almost entirely with emotions, “The Nail Hotel” displays a certain power within its circumscribed limits. If one is willing to accept that people do nothing except react to one another, the book provides a rich field of interest, for many sorts of personal relations are explored, developed and allowed to deteriorate. But the effect is a little two-dimensional. Or perhaps one should say that the descent into madness is not surprising when one turns away from logic.

Moise and the World of Reason, by Tennessee Williams. Simon & Schuster $6.95

Williams’ gifts as a writer make it difficult to dismiss this novel as the superficial piece of writing that it is. “Moise” is an attempt to explore characters so gratuitously insouciant that there is little worth exploring; individuals, homosexual and straight alike, whose mundane lives are filled with platitudinous hyperbole. These are exceedingly loathesome characters, made all the more offensive by the manifest sympathy in which they are portrayed. A repellent book filled with pretentious nonsense.

The Death of Mr. Baltisberger, by Bohumil Hrabal. Doubleday $6.95

Fourteen harmless bagatelles from the Czech author of the novella for the film “Closely Watched Trains,” all devoid of any compellingness, direction or humanity. Hrabal seems to share the Czech proclivity for simplistic political satire feebly expressed through surrealistically metaphorical plots—heavy-handed allegories on the insanity and incompetence of bureaucracy which get their entire motivation from the dialectic incongruity of pompousness and mediocrity. These are stories without compassion, without conviction, and unfortunately, because of the perpetual fog of fey symbolism, without meaning.

Beauty and Sadness, by Yasunari Kawabata. Knopf $7.95

This is the final novel by one of Japan’s foremost writers who died by his own hand without explanation in April 1972. The theme of this work blends two of his previous writings into narrative form—Kawa-bata’s acceptance speech for the 1968 Nobel prize entitled “Japan the Beautiful and Myself,” and his book, “The Existence and Discovery of Beauty,” published in English and Japanese in 1969. In “Beauty and Sadness,” the tone of aware (which is inadequately rendered by the word, “sadness”) is set at the very outset under the heavy fabric of nostalgia. Oki Toshio is journeying to Kyoto to listen once again in the New Year’s bells, and to see Otoko, his former mistress. From this point on, the plot unfolds gently but authoritatively. This work does not quite measure up to “Thousand Cranes” and “Snow Country,” but it has that curiously haunting quality which is almost a Kawabata signature.

The Limner, by Paul Darcy Boles. Crowell $8.95

Although the materials for a really good picaresque novel are here, the transfer of the author’s conviction to the reader fails. Worse still, it is difficult to say why. Is it lack of intensity; is it the inaccuracies in the period atmosphere; is it characters who are doers rather than talkers and thinkers; is it a certain lack of understanding of the attributes of a painter; or is it a combination of all these and more? A good try but not a triumph.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Watchmen in the Night: Presidential Accountability after Watergate, by Theodore C. Sorenson. MIT Press $8.95

In this slim volume, the one-time principal assistant to President Kennedy returns to the study of the Presidency as an office of risk and power. Sorenson is admittedly much more in favor of controls over presidential power than he was ten years ago, but the remedies for Watergate that he mainly seeks would consist of a fuller use of the restraints that were built into the original Constitution. The Senate should make more use of its authority to scrutinize Cabinet members before confirming them. Congressional control of the budgeting for White House staff functions should be taken seriously. The scrutiny and repeal of obsolete presidential emergency powers should be pushed. One powerful chapter is devoted to what the courts have generally failed to do, but what they could do if they would continue in the tradition of United States v. Nixon. Although highly concise, the book is a major addition to the post-Watergate literature on the Presidency.

War in the Next Decade, by Roger Beaumont and Martin Edmonds, editors. Kentucky $11

The central focus of this collection of essays by British and American scholars is not upon the tactical, strategic or technological conduct of future warfare but upon the social, political and administrative elements which undergird its conduct. Although the book is billed as containing “radical new ideas about the effectiveness, acceptability and purposefulness of war as an instrument of policy in the future,” in fact the essays are generally pedestrian and uninspired. The book is not likely to suggest many new lines of research and inquiry.

A Responsible CongressThe Politics of National Security, by Alton Frye. McGraw-Hill $10

In a timely and careful analysis, Mr. Frye explores the role of Congress in the formulation of national security policy. He examines the interventions of Congress in the last decade in the area of strategic weapons policy, defense budgeting and foreign policy, and concludes that the role of Congress has been more generally constructive than often assumed. Moreover, he projects an even more sophisticated involvement of Congress in foreign affairs in the future. While conscious of the defects of congressional foreign policy, his study generally accords with the earlier study of Samuel Huntington. Like the earlier study, Frye’s book seeks to dispel the crude caricatures which dominate most commentaries.

Plantation Societies, Race Relations, and the South: The Regimentation of Populations. Selected papers of Edgar T. Thompson. Duke $12.75

This collection is drawn from the lifetime work of a distinguished sociologist and historian, a former student of Robert E. Park at the University of Chicago and a pioneer in the study of his native plantation South. Thompson is among the last children both of the undisrupted plantation society and of American sociology in its first blush of institutional study. The closeness and distance of the plantation races, one to the other, is the heart of Thompson’s theme, a contradiction which he probes sensitively and with healthy respect for its complexity and living mystery. Not all of this study is tightly conceived and executed, nor is the whole indexed, but there is much good thought in this thick volume.

How Communist States Change their Ruler, by Myron Rush. Cornell $15

Professor Rush of Cornell University in an excellent sequel to his previous book on “Political Succession in the USSR” (with A. Horelick) examines the general character of Communist politics from the point of view of changes in the top leadership in Eastern Europe and China since 1945. He attempts to identify key elements and establish generalization in the succession process in terms of which he makes projections as to the pending crises of succession in China and Yugoslavia. One important conclusion relevant to East Europe is that the Soviet leadership will continue to be the dominant element in leadership changes—thus rendering premature talk of significant political liberalization.

Multinational Oil, by Neil H. Jacoby. Macmillan $12

Mr. Jacoby, a professor and former dean of UCLA’s Graduate School of Management, has written a competent, non-evangelical study on pricing, development and management in the oil industry. Contrary to accepted myth, he finds that a competitive rather than monopolist situation prevailed in the oil industry until 1972 when the OPEC cartel seized control and was at the basis of the vast expansion of supply. He recommends a U. S. -led policy which would stabilize prices, royalties, taxes, and production, thus providing ranges for market competition. In terms of economic analysis and policy recommendations, he has done an excellent job, but one is less certain about his predictions. He assumes that economic calculations will override political aims and force a reduction in oil prices.

The Anatomy of Communist Takeovers, edited by Thomas J. Hammond. Yale $25 cloth, $5.95 paper

So accustomed have we become to the view that Communist takeovers of various countries always succeed that we tend to forget that they have more often than not failed. This study is unique in its field in that it focuses more on the failures than the successes. Thirty-one scholars from around the world have contributed to this study. The range of material presented runs from Dennis Duncanson on Vietnam, Jurgen Domes on China, Justus van der Kroef on the 1965 coup in Indonesia, to Edgar Tomson on the annexation of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union, Successful Communist takeovers since Russia in 1917 are also dealt with in a series of fresh and insightful essays. The subject matter spans the most important and dramatic political events of the zoth century aside from the two world wars. It is a sobering but at times reassuring book to read. A welcome edition to its field.

Essays on John Maynard Keynes, edited by Milo Keynes. Cambridge $16.50

John Maynard Keynes, the economist and author of the “General Theory,” is perhaps the best known academician of this century. Certainly the effects of his most important writing have been as hotly debated by persons who know little about it as anything in recent memory. But the popular image of an economist wholly absorbed by charts and graphs and statistics and the like is almost wholly misleading. Keynes was a remarkable personality with a range of interests and activities that has been too little known. For example, he was one of the great rare book collectors of the century, a devotee of the theatre, a collector of art, a skilled diplomat, a family man, a much admired teacher in fields other than economics, and a host of other things. This excellent collection of essays on these and other topics in his life have been put together by Milo Keynes in a most handsome edition. The 28 pieces cover a range of Keynes’ life not generally known or appreciated. The work is divided into three sections. Part I on his early family and student life. Part II on the influence of his General Theory, his diplomatic days, and his influence in America. Part III is perhaps the most interesting of all. It deals with the many facets of his life that are the least known among those who are interested in his economic ideas alone. A most worthwhile edition to any library.

Instant Cities: Urbanization and the Rise of San Francisco and Denver, by Gunther Barth. Oxford $11.95

Mr. Barth, a professor of history, has here examined the early years of both San Francisco and Denver. They are called instant cities because of their rapid and permanent growth, a pattern which has rarely occurred in other urban centers. One would suppose that such a chronicle would be full of the excitement of change, but Mr. Barth’s calm appraisals reduce his history to an unexampled calmness as well. And certainly the lack of any illustrations at all, with the exception of two small maps, adds to the unruffled tenor of the text.

The Shaping of Southern Politics, by J. Morgan Kousser. Yale $15

Employing the “ecological regression” analytic tool developed by Leo Goodman, Kouser attempts to demonstrate subversion of political diversity in the post-Reconstruction South by suffrage restriction. His approach and carefully marshalled tables of election return data are impressively fresh and persuasive. If the method of retro-analysis from extant election data to individual voter mentality is ambiguous, Kouser’s enthusiasm and grasp of generally reported “facts” of the political history of the period carry him beyond the unreadable statistics of historical accountants: this study is well-written. It presents a serious challenge to the consensus version of Southern history.

The Limits of Liberty. Between Anarchy and Leviathan, by James M. Buchanan. Chicago $12.50

In this spirited defense of the idea of the social contract, Professor Buchanan proposes a basically economic rational for the organization of the state. The contract is made necessary because the world is chaotic rather than orderly. If there is to be order in civil society it must be imposed either from above, by an outside force, or through some sort of mutual agreement, such as the classical idea of the social contract. Professor Buchanan’s preferences for the good society are strongly reminiscent of Rawls’ arguments on justice. The contract will restrict some freedoms, Buchanan says, but will insure others. In any event there is no alternative; the continuum of choices runs from anarchy on the one hand to Leviathan on the other. The contract is an attempt to set-up a halfway house in between. The problem from the theoretical point of view is that there has been a great deal of water under the theoretical bridge since the hey-day of contract theories in the ryth and 18th centuries. The reasons why the contractual theories were adopted by Hobbs, Locke and Rousseau as well as the reasons for their rejection form an essential part of modern political thought. Professor Buchanan would do well to brush up on this chapter of political philosophy in order to avoid some of the errors of his predecessors.

Fragile Structures, by Peter Amory Bradford. Harper’s Magazine Press $12.95

The topic is oil and the focus is Machiasport, Maine, a community with a scenic coastline, high unemployment, a relatively depressed economy, and a harbor deep enough to accommodate oil supertankers. Bradford’s exhaustive, though wordy, study of the oil industry’s battle for Machiasport covers a 14 year period and includes enough political maneuvering, payoffs and chicanery to rival the events of the Watergate episode. If there is a significant weakness in this book, it is that the author, presently Maine’s Public Utilities Commissioner, fails to come down hard enough on the six New England state governors who, more often than not, have been willing to trade off significant environmental debasements for dubious economic advantages.

Curing the Mischiefs of Faction: Party Reform in America, by Austin Ranney. California $8.50

Taking off from James Madison’s warning against the “mischiefs of faction,” Austin Ranney has produced a major and most thoughtful study of party reform in America. He finds three main periods of reform: 1820—40, 1890—1920 and the one beginning around 1956 that is still going on. Energy for each period has been provided by the factions at play, who need party reformist issues, or already have them built in. Similar issues have recurred in all periods, based on fundamental conflicts over the role of the parties, how they can be made to behave, and who should be in charge. As a participant in recent reforms, Ranney has discovered, like many of his predecessors, that reforms do not always have the consequences intended—which may be a good thing, since there has always been so much ambivalence among both people and experts on what is desirable.

A Time to Die, by Tom Wicker. Quadrangle/New York Times $10

A report of the events at Attica Prison in September, 1971, by one of the individuals who was closely involved as a prisoner-requested observer. Wicker, who refers to himself in the third person throughout the book, demonstrates his well-known and prodigious writing ability which rescues and eventually dispatches the occasional and unfortunate lapses into pop sociology and fatuous sentiment. His most personal writing to date, the book is thus far our most important document on this tragic incident in which there were no winners.

HISTORY Peasants and Strangers, by Josef J. Barton. Harvard $12

This monograph is an important contribution to the growing literature of “new social history.” This study is not about the immigrant as a representative American, but rather as a different American. Using foreign language sources few of us could, Barton focuses on three ethnic groups (Italians, Rumanians, Slovaks) who settled in Cleveland. Because of the small data base, his generalizations are limited but significant. He found, for example, that migration was not random but followed denned patterns; also, migrants did not come from areas where land was monopolized but rather from areas where there was not sufficient land to provide for all the members of a large family in sufficient quantity to allow them to retain status. Designed primarily for professional historians, this volume will have limited appeal beyond that circle.

History: Remembered, Recovered, Invented, by Bernard Lewis. Princeton $6.95

In this short and illuminating book, composed of the Gottesman lectures at Yeshiva University, Bernard Lewis addresses himself to questions about the nature of historical knowledge. His examples are taken mostly from Middle Eastern history, but their application is clearly contemporary. There is, he points out, a relation between historical interpretation and political ends, and although he recognizes a difference between the writing and rewriting of history, he takes for granted that historical interpretation is governed by underlying concepts of religious, national and social behavior. The presentation is learned and witty, and the reader cannot help becoming aware of the hypocrisy as well as the irony of historical interpretation.

A History of Russia, by Paul Dukes. McGraw-Hill $12.50

There are a host of general histories of Russia on the market and it is hard to think up reasons for issuing another, except perhaps to update older accounts. Mr. Dukes suggests two reasons that motivated him. First, he wanted to take account of Soviet historiography (he feels that has not been done adequately yet), and second, he wanted to incorporate more fully than he claims is normally done economic and cultural developments into an overall political survey. One might well take issue with him here, but Mr. Dukes has certainly produced a reliable and readable history. Whether it will supersede present standard histories, such as those by Riasanovsky, Billington, etc. is rather doubtful.

WW 2, by Theodore A. Wilson, editor. Scribners $12.50

Professor Wilson has assembled a competent anthology of documents, speeches, memoirs, and interpretations on the origins, nature and legacies of the Second World War. The book ranges over such topics as the concept of total war, strategies, bombings, war crimes, diplomacy, and the aftermath of destruction. The book seems primarily intended as a text for undergraduate courses in history and political science and serves that purpose well. The selections are well-chosen and taken together should give the student a sense of those awesome events which shaped our world.

The Formation of National States in Western Europe, edited by Charles Tilly. Princeton $22.50

This eighth volume in the series of Studies in Political Development represents a “return to Europe” in a collaboration between political scientists and historians. Focusing on 17th and 18th century European developments in armed forces, taxation, policing, food supply, and the education of technical personnel, this volume seeks perspective in political generalization, suggesting the weakness of theories of political development unconfronted with systematically assembled historical data. This large work is careful and avoids the jargonism of social science; if it has little concern with the development of the judiciary or folk culture or literature, this book is highly informative of the rise of the national state. The distinguished contributors include Rudolf Braun, Samuel Finer and Gabriel Ardant. Despite some unevenness in style and approach, it is a readable volume.

Secrets of the Fascist Era, by Howard McGaw Smyth. Southern Illinois $15

This former OSS officer and historian in an account as thrilling as fiction reveals how the United States gained access to Fascist-Italian state papers during World War II. The book should be an excellent text for students of historical research as he carefully examines not only how the documents were acquired but how their authenticity was established. The documents examined include such importants items as the Ciano papers, Mussolini’s private papers and a number of important military documents. The book should be helpful to researchers in Italian-German political and military history, as well as to students of historical criticism and methodology. Given the easy style of the author, the non-professional reader should also find the book of interest.

Revolution and Mass Democracy. The Paris Club Movement in 1848, by Peter H. Amann. Princeton $14.50

It is not that the 19th century was a revolutionary century, because it was not, that we in the 20th century are so interested in revolutions. It is rather because we seek the roots of modern revolutionary ideas and organizations that we have become so fascinated with past revolutions. The revolutions of 1848 are a case in point well brought out in this excellent study. Of all the revolutionary outbreaks of the last century, those of 1848 are perhaps the best known in outline and the least understood in substantive detail as an historical phenomenon. Amann’s study of the Paris Club movement should go a long way toward correcting those gaps in detail. These clubs, Amann says, were a part of the transformation of France from a semi-feudal society into a modern industrial state. He argues that these clubs are roughly analogous to the British Jacobins of the 1790’s. They are one of the stages between mob or crowd participation in politics and contemporary democratic societies. As such they are an historical movement not likely to be repeated once other forms of democratic participation are developed.

Students and Society in Early Modern Spain, by Richard L. Kagan. John Hopkins $13.50

A study of the interrelationship of university education and the bureaucracies of the Spanish church and state from 1500 to 1809, this is a remarkable book for a young scholar to have written. Rich in detailed information on the character and objectives of education in Habsburg Castile, Kagan’s account includes much information on private, primary and secondary educational institutions. Sensitive to changes in curriculum, the professorate and student background (social and geographical), Kagan explains the spectacular rise and collapse of the Spanish university system in terms, respectively, of the needs of modernization followed by over-professionalization and resistance to change by the professional institution. Limited in its treatment of medical and scientific education, the fine portrait of legal and professional education as well as a survey of liberal arts and humanistic training recompense this omission. Thoroughly readable and scholarly, this work is a contribution to Hispanic and educational history.

Venice: The Hinge of Europe, 1081—1797, by William H. McNeill. Chicago $10.75

It should come as no surprise that the city built by pale enchantment over the water possessed, like all fairy cities, its imprisoned horror, which when released caused the whole beautiful airy fabric to dissipate like a dream. Thus the glory of Venice was founded on an immense and successful imperialism, as well as a most fantastic traffic between east and west. It was influenced by and transmitted a hundred cultures and the very subtlety of its strength made it perishable.

France in the Age of Louis XIII and Richelieu, by Victor-L. Tapié. Praeger $17.50

A distinguished historian dramatically discovers the romantic, Catholic and contradictory France of the 17th century. Arnold’s perhaps intolerable alternative between social roles, that of the madman or the slave, all too obviously obtained for many Frenchmen of the time in a land ruled by fanatics or realists (or fanatical realists). Tapié’s chauvinism, however, obscures both his compassion and his sense, since he does not seem to see the eventual instability of any state built on the desolation of its people.

Slaves Without Masters; The Free Negro in the Antebellum South, by Ira Berlin. Pantheon $15

At last we have a major book on free blacks in the Old South. Ira Berlin, pulling together a wide range of previously published studies and drawing upon a considerable research effort of his own, succeeds finally in telling us almost as much about slavery and the whole of Southern society as about free blacks. They were, he reminds us, revealing exceptions to the general rules of black-white relations. Not chattels, free blacks in many instances rose to prominent places in antebellum Southern cities; black men on the loose in a slave and racist society, they called for extensive white attempts to limit their activities and even to deport them. In Berlin’s three part book he first discusses the development of the free black caste in the years between the Revolution and the War of 1812 and then devotes most of his attention to a topical treatment of free Negro life in the following three decades. Berlin examines the way population character changed, the way whites reacted to growing numbers of free blacks, how blacks trimmed, fought back silently, helped one another, discriminated among themselves, formed their own churches and associations, and managed to frustrate virtually every statute that whites passed to regulate them. A final section deals with the effects heightened sectional tension in the 1850’s had on Southern free blacks and with the postwar racial pattern as a logical extension of prewar white efforts to control them. Though in several ways Berlin’s study is a flawed one—relying for much of the book on a topical organization, Berlin loses his reader’s sense of chronology and repeats himself over and again—it is all the same valuable. “Slaves Without Masters” explores the psychological dimension and notices the ironies of the free black-white experience in the slave system; it distinguishes usefully between that experience in the states of the Upper and Lower South.

The Political South in the Twentieth Century, by Monroe Lee Billington. Scribner’s $8.95

The author contends that “there is a place for a brief, general, up-to-date, interpretive account of Southern politics in the twentieth century.” This readable book is a straightforward effort to fill that place. It begins with the Progressive movement in the South early in the century and continues with chapters on the first World War, the great depression, the civil rights movement, the presidential Republicanism of recent years, and the current outlook. It does not include the events or election of 1974, which have produced a setback to Republicanism in the South that may be only temporary. A paperback edition is available for classroom use.

A Concise History of India, by Francis Watson. Scribners $9.95

A history, less of India than of its invaders, so condensed that it is little more than an annotated chronology of battles, dynasties and monuments, all lavishly illustrated. There is no balance or perspective, no sense of cultural history or historic context and process. Watson’s style is so turgid and choppy that what few insights he permits himself pass by invisibly in a morass of superfluous details and subordinate clauses; and he is so Anglocentric that one is left to wonder just what, during all those centuries when the British were busily gallumphing around India, the Indians were doing.

England in the Age of Hogarth, by Derek Jarrett. Viking $15

Using Hogarth and his engravings as a springboard, Mr. Jarrett examines many aspects of mid-18th century English life, often with surprising results. Not only does he look into politics, but he delves into many facets of daily life, including both the dolorous and the joyous. It is an extremely well written series of essays and it has been produced with much flair and style by the publisher.

Reconquest of Mexico, by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Vanguard $6.95

Mr. Bruccoli followed the trail of Cortés from Vera Cruz to Mexico City on foot, on horseback and in a bus. Though he is determinedly good natured through all his difficulties, his trip reveals little except the extreme rurality of Cortés route and the wonder that the Spaniards would press on through such an unpromising land. Mr. Bruccoli’s journal is largely taken up with menus, the inevitable internal rumblings which followed such menus, shelter or the lack of it, sore muscles, a day on a horse, and encounters, sober and alcoholic, with the population. The subtitle’s adjective “amiable” is really the operative word for this account of a not very enticing journey.

Life History and the Historical Moment, by Erik H, Erikson. W. W. Norton & Co. $9.95

Composed of essays “offered to diverse gatherings” over the last decade, this book is a useful retrospective device through which Erikson views some of his constant and evolving interests: the nature of the self’s identity; the relationship between identity, biography and history; the structure of liberation. Although Erikson’s style is sometimes confusing or awkward and his thought not terribly profound, he has a sense of the ethics of responsibility toward both oneself and others which is as important for personal freedom as it is for the future of the race.

Leadership in the American Revolution: Papers Presented at the Third Symposium, May 9 and 10, 1974. Library of Congress $4.50

The third of five symposia on the American Revolution sponsored by the Library of Congress’s Bicentennial Program is on “Leadership in the American Revolution.” Consisting of four essays: Alfred H. Kelly, a broad overview; Marcus Cunliffe, on Congressional leadership; Gordon S. Wood, on the democratization of American life; Don Higginbotham, on Military Leadership; and Bruce Mazlish, on the psychological dimension of leadership, the papers differ in terms of their level of generalization. There is no question but that the role of leadership is critical in understanding the nation’s past and present.


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