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Notes on Current Books, Autumn 1982

ISSUE:  Autumn 1982

Both tribute and scholarly collection, this valuable anthology of 19th- and 20thcentury reactions to Whitman’s poetic spirit makes easily available many otherwise inaccessible poems and essays. No book that I know better takes the measure of the long shadow Whitman casts over literature in America and abroad and better proves that Whitman is the literary forefather with whom modern writers most often wrestle. Blessed with an eloquent introduction and a useful bibliographical essay, both by Ed Folsom, The Measure of His Song gathers together standard responses like Emerson’s “greeting” and Pound’s “pact” and combines them with entirely new pieces by such contemporary authors as Bly, Ginsberg, Simpson, and LeSueur. I am tempted to invoke its publisher’s name and shout “Holy Cow!” over this marvelous book.

In Defence of the Imagination, by Helen Gardner. Oxford $15

One cannot confidently characterize Dame Helen Gardner’s witty and elegant polemic either as the long needed counterblast to the inanities of current fads in literary theory or as parting shots from a bypassed bunker that is soon to be no part of the fray. There is, one suspects, more than a bit of both in this brilliantly crusty attack on some of the more perverse practitioners of reader response criticism, on various psychologisms in literary study, and on the cult of the director in Shakespearean productions. The prose is urbane, exuberant, and wonderfully lucid. It is difficult to imagine a response of comparable literary quality from those critics who are the butts of her criticism here.

The Parasite, by Michel Serres. Johns Hopkins $17.50

Imagine a Frenchman. Someone who knows science and the history of science. Someone familiar with new criticism. Someone interested in information theory. He reads La Fontaine. And Molière. And Rousseau and Homer and Plato. Even the Bible, He reads them through information theory. Communication and interference (the parasite). He writes only short sentences. Sentences like these. 253 pages of sentences like these. Imagine. He makes many assertions. He refers to no criticism. He seldom refers to a text. He keeps the order of his ideas a secret. And the purpose. Imagine all this. This is The Parasite. If you can imagine it, you don’t need to read it. Don’t.

A Band of Prophets: The Vanderbilt Agrarians after Fifty Years, edited by William C. Havard and Walter Sulli Louisiana $12.95

A Band of Prophets consists of six papers presented at a symposium commemorating the 50th anniversary of the publication of I’ll Take My Stand. Also included is the transcription of a panel discussion featuring the three surviving members of the “Twelve Southerners” who wrote the essays in I’ll Take My Stand— Lyle Lanier, Robert Penn Warren, and Andrew Lytle. Each of the six essays approaches the book I’ll Take My Stand from a different vantage. The first essay, by Charles Roland, places the Agrarians within the context of the 1920’s, and states that the appearance of I’ll Take My Stand was a response to continued attacks on Southern society and Southern economics, dating from the time of the Civil War. Other essays place I’ll Take My Stand within the context of literary history. A Band of Prophets is highly recommended to anyone interested in the literary or intellectual history of the South in the 1920’s.

Medieval Readers and Writers, by Janet Coleman. Columbia $27.50

Ms. Coleman attempts an overview of the literary culture of the late 14th century in England, a period that saw not only the productions of Chaucer, Langland, and the Gawain-poet but also produced a substantial and often sophisticated corpus of plays, lyrics, sermons, and devotional prose. Concentrating as she does on sermons, social complaints, works of theology, on the consequences of lay literacy, and on the kinds of writing that were addressed to noncourtly audiences, Ms. Coleman offers interesting new perspectives on the great as well as forgotten authors of the period. As might be expected in a work that attempts to cover so much ground, there are lacunae in the scholarship, instances in which she has relied upon inferior work done by others, but, on the whole, this is an extremely useful work of literary history.

Barges at Eighty: Conversations, edited by Willis Barnstone. Indiana $15

Borges” interviews, even if they seem to have been written by lonesco, are always fascinating. This collection is no exception: the reader learns here about Borges” nightmares, his fear of mirrors, how a poem or short story is born in his mind, how it works its way to the printed page, Borges” loathing of his first books (and how he destroyed the copies he could locate), and who his favorite authors are. Beyond a general expression of disgust, he says little about politics or religion. The editing is spotty: Herbert Read is Herbert Reed, Leon Bloy is Leon Bloch, Salammbo is misspelled, book titles are either incomplete or incorrect. But the book must be read.

Reading Georges Bataille: Beyond the Gift, by Michèle H. Richman. Johns Hopkins $15

Ms. Richman’s book is an important one for several reasons. It provides an intelli. bl gent summary and analysis of Georges Bataille’s theories of general economy, situating them in and against those of his predecessors and contemporaries. It demonstrates how these theories shaped other aspects of Bataille’s thought, such as his works of literature and literary theory. It also shows how Bataille’s ideas continue to play a significant role in contemporary French thought, as in the writings of Jacques Derrida. Finally, Ms. Richman’s book is important in that it presents to the English-speaking public in a cogent way a significant figure little known outside the French-speaking world. A book strongly recommended to anyone interested in the recent developments of European thought.

Imagination and Meaning, edited by Norman J. Girardot and Mac Linscott Ricketts. Seabury $11.95

Essentially a Festschrift to honor polymath Mircea Eliade on his 75th birthday, this highly miscellaneous collection juxtaposes studies of the great man’s learned works with appreciations of his fiction, and theoretical articles with extracts from Eliade’s autobiography. When the pretext for an anthology was born under the sign of Proteus, perhaps there is no alternative to such kaleidoscopic effects. At all events, the book is eminently stimulating and invites the reader to pursue Eliade and his interests well beyond the last page.

The Institution of Criticism, by Peter Uwe Hohendahl. Cornell $19.50

A Marxist history of book reviewing and more formal modes of criticism in Germany from the late Enlightenment to the late 1960’s, this volume not only exposes the social and political forces underlying public analysis and judgment of literature but expounds a theory of critical tasks and responsibilities. Though predictably dogmatic and turgid, Hohendahl’s study is factually rich and contains models of analysis certain to interest students of “reception history” in any field of the humanities.

F. O. Matthiessen: Christian Socialist as Critic, by Frederick C. Stern. North Carolina $24.50

Stern arranges this affectionate yet critical study as a chronological review of Matthiessen’s books, from Sarah Orne Jewett (1929) to Theodore Dreiser (1951), which Matthiessen did not live to see through the press. Both an introductory chapter, “The Man and His Work,” and a coda on Matthiessen’s “The Responsibilities of the Critic” reinforce Stern’s insistent theme. Matthiessen, he argues, strove passionately to reconcile opposing tendencies in modern literature and intellectual life: social criticism and close formal explication; democratic solidarity and intense study that was bound to isolate him from the literary tastes and daily life of the masses; Christian faith and a socialism that in his mature years was dominated by movements that were aggressively secular. Stern gives a moving account of Matthiessen’s devotion to literary study and to his students.

Excess and Restraint in the Novels of Charles Dickens, by John Kucich. Georgia $19.50

As John Carey reminds us, Dickens is immeasurably greater than any of his critics. That, certainly, is true with Kucich. His work suffers greatly from a dogmatic approach: we are never treated to a convincing explanation as to why a quasi-postmodernistic approach is valid with Dickens. We just have to take it on faith that it is. The author has some insight, but it is made practically inaccessible through a diction crammed with confusing critical and pseudo-critical jargon.

The Book Known as Q: A Consideration of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, by Robert Giroux. Atheneum $17.95

Literary criticism of Shakespeare’s sonnets has for some time tended to dismiss the factual questions about them as unanswerable and irrelevant. Giroux brings a cultured but practical publisher’s mind to bear on the complex evidence and affirms with a good deal of spirit and sense that the young man is certainly Southampton, the rival poet almost certainly Marlowe, and the sonnets and other Shakespearean works look appreciably richer for having this occasion reconstructed. There is more fresh air here than in any other recent book on the topic.

LIVES & LETTERSTo Raise Myself a Little: The Diaries and Letters of Jennie, a Georgia Teacher, 1851— 1886, edited by Thomas Dyer. Georgia $20

“Jennie” was Amelia Jane Akehurst, born in England and raised in New York state, where she began teaching in 1851. She came to Georgia in 1857 to teach school and to fulfill her ambition “to raise myself a little and to be something in the world and not remain all my days a blank in society.” These diaries and letters record her years of teaching in Georgia, her courtship and marriage to another transplanted New Yorker, Sylvanus Lines, the years of war and reconstruction, and her life thereafter as a poor widow, still teaching, with one surviving child. She did not really like teaching; her husband, though devoted to her, was not successful enough to support her in comfort; two of her three children died young. It is hard to feel that she succeeded in her ambition “to raise myself a little.” Yet these letters and diaries are vivid in their recording of a rather dull and monotonous life of drudgery in the Georgia backwoods and in Atlanta and Macon. They have been carefully edited by Thomas Dyer.

Isla Negra: A Notebook, by Pablo Neruda. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $18.95

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides.” Neruda was 59 when he wrote this autobiographical text, a series of evocations and divagations. The poet is reconciled to his past—he does not regret his blind loyalty to Stalin, brushing aside that dictator’s career as a momentary aberration in the history of communism—and he expects us to do the same. Neruda died on Sept. 23, 1973 during the coup that brought Allende down. He was a politician and a poet. This book is a fitting homage to his greatness as a poet. Alastair Reid’s translation is admirable.

Last Waltz in Vienna: The Rise and Destruction of a Family, 1842—1942, by George Clare. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $16.50

It is a tragedy when a family dies out from purely natural causes. When a family is destroyed, when millions of families are destroyed, simply because powerful rulers have outlawed them on grounds of “race,” the word we employ is Holocaust. This is the story of one such family, the Klaars of Vienna. Moderately distinguished in several fields, notably medicine, the Klaars were the kind of family that brought stability, culture, and social decency to the Hapsburg Empire and its successor states. When Hitler destroyed them, he impoverished history.

Edmund Ruffin: A Biography, by Betty L. Mitchell. Indiana $22.50

Ruffin was the moody Virginia agricultural reformer and fire-eater who crashed John Brown’s hanging, fired the first shot at Sumter, got into the action at First Bull Run, and then in a sense issued the last blast of the Civil War when in June 1865 he shot himself in the face rather than accept the verdict of Appomattox. The late Avery Craven examined this bizarre character in a creditable biography published in 1932; and if the time has come for another look, we now have it. Apparently addressed to a wide audience (“Bull Run did not end the Civil War. Contrary to Ruffin’s bright expectations, this bloody battle marked only the beginning of a long, drawn-out conflict that would last almost four more years.”), Ms. Mitchell’s book draws out the sad Ruffin story long enough and so indulgently details his every brief euphoria and trough of depression that even he grows tiresome.

The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson—The Drive for Power, from the Frontier to Master of the Senate, by Ronnie Dugger. Norton $18.95

This is a big, sweeping book, written about a big, sweeping career, and full of big, sweeping generalizations. Dugger, the longtime editor and publisher of the Texas Observer, takes his subject only as far as Johnson’s election as leader of the Senate’s Democratic minority in 1953, making it difficult to assess the author’s claim that “these last five clustering decades from Roosevelt to Reagan are best understood as the Johnson Period because Johnson, more than any other Presidents of the time, helped generate the values and participated in and then presided over the trends that ultimately prevailed.” Still, the book is clearly the product of an immense amount of research, and those seeking information on Johnson’s early years—Did “Landslide Lyndon” steal his 87-vote victory in his election to the Senate in 1948?—will find this a useful, and often fascinating, volume.

Read This Only to Yourself: The Private Writings of Midwestern Women, 18801910, by Elizabeth Hampsten. Indiana $22.50

A dazzling study of the private letters and diaries of Gilded Age American women. The arrangement is first by topic (sex, housing, death, etc.); then Ms. Hampsten turns to an examination of the writings of three women. The tremendous value of this book lies in the fact that the women treated are of the farm and labor classes, and not of the professional upper class that has been studied elsewhere. The book’s only flaw is that Ms. Hampsten’s comments focus more on the syntax and diction of the women’s writing and not on content. But the book is a welcome addition to a sparsely studied field.

Disraeli’s Grand Tour: Benjamin Disraeli and the Holy Land, 1830—31, by Robert Blake. Oxford $14.95

This book might be called a postscript to Robert Blake’s 1966 biography of Disraeli, produced by a visit by Blake to Jerusalem in 1979. The young Disraeli’s tour of the Mediterranean and the Near East, from May 1830 to October 1831, was occasioned by ill health. His wanderings began at Gibraltar; he then went on through Malta, Corfu, Greece and Constantinople, Jerusalem and Egypt, and thence, after the death of one of his traveling companions who was engaged to his sister, home again to England. Blake draws heavily on Disraeli’s letters home and ties in the experiences abroad with several of the later novels, including Alroy, Tancred, and Contarini Fleming. “I do believe,” Blake writes, “that his tour of the Near East, and in particular his week in Jerusalem, had a profound influence upon him, and that an effort to analyse it is worth making.” Blake’s effort was indeed worth making.

The Papers of Henry Clay, Vol. 6, edited by Mary W. M. Hargreaves and James F. Hopkins. Kentucky $35

This huge volume of 1,400 pages is the first to issue from the Henry Clay shop in Lexington, Kentucky in many years and is the last under the joint editorship of Mary Hargreaves and James F. Hopkins. Like the two previous volumes in this distinguished series, it encompasses a single year in Clay’s life as secretary of state. Nothing of great moment occurred in foreign affairs in 1827, but in domestic politics Clay became the central figure in machinations and maneuvers preparatory to the presidential campaign of 1828, and on these matters this volume is especially illuminating. Despite telling Jacksonian victories at the polls, in which charges of “bargain and corruption” against Clay drove out the reasoned discussion of public issues, he remained optimistic about the ultimate outcome. As in the past, the papers are meticulously annotated, even to excess; and the summaries that often replace the text in certain categories of documents—instructions and dispatches, miscellaneous letters, applications and recommendations—are expertly done.

Churchill and De Gaulle, by Francois Kersaudy. Atheneum $19.95

Churchill was a cantankerous curmudgeon who waited all his life to prove his greatness and did not fluff the opportunity when it came. De Gaulle never doubted his own grandeur, but he tended to confuse his own destiny with that of France, and the two did not always mesh. In the Second World War these two monumental talents and egos clashed repeatedly; the wonder was not that they quarreled but that they did not kill each other. Based upon recently opened archives and other new evidence, this is a splendid account of the relations between the two men.

Thomas Hardy: A Biography, by Michael Millgate. Random House $25

This is Millgate’s second full-length book on Hardy. He is also the co-editor of the Clarendon Press edition of Hardy’s letters. With his deep interest in his subject and an obvious familiarity, with the source materials, Millgate has produced the most informative and balanced account of Hardy’s life available. Because Hardy guarded his privacy and was not one to speak openly of his innermost thoughts and feelings, we must often content ourselves with an external view of even the most important events in his life. On the whole, Millgate has resisted the temptation to flesh out the facts of Hardy’s life with speculations and written as objective an account as is possible, though he does try to sort out the thornier questions of Hardy biography, such as the nature of his relationships with his two wives. The book is enriched by a large number of well-chosen illustrations: family trees, maps, and superb reproductions of photographs and drawings, including a marvelous cartoon by Will Dyson in which an obviously embarrassed God stares at a sternly doubting Thomas, saying: “But Mr. Hardy, Mr. Hardy, if you only knew all the circumstances.”

The Grande Dames, by Stephen Birmingham. Simon & Schuster $15.50

Gracefully written and crammed with delightful anecdotes, Grande Dames recounts the lives of eight women who during the past century tried to fashion American culture in their own image. From Philadelphia’s Eve Cromwell Stotesbury to Ima Hogg of Houston, they are a bizarre lot with perhaps only three things in common: considerable spunk, vision of a way to improve their world, and lots of money. Although Birmingham occasionally wanders a bit from his paddock of “driving” or “driven” women, as usual his prose is a joy to read.

The Enemy: A Biography of Wyndham Lewis, by Jeffrey Meyers. Routledge & Kegan Paul $19.95

Jeffrey Meyers maintains such a stance of judicious impartiality in this account of the life, accomplishments, and trials of Wyndham Lewis that it is hard to decide what he really feels about the man. He can write: “An analysis of his major defects as an artist—his dissipated energy, his lack of form and inconsistent style, his offensive tone, his negativity—helps to explain why he never fully achieved the promise of greatness in Blast and Tarr.” He can chronicle the loud and angry feuds Lewis carried on with Bloomsbury and the Sitwells. He can show how Lewis accepted financial support (much needed) from various sources but almost invariably turned viciously on the friendly donors. His final summary of the man is probably just and so, too, is his concluding sentence: “Lewis” range of knowledge and intellectual vitality, his gale-force energy and daring honesty, his vigorous experimentation and fighting spirit, his caustic wit and analytic ingenuity, his whip-cracking prose and astonishing invention are unmatched in the twentieth century.” Throughout the book Meyers acknowledges Lewis as a genius— a genius who was, however, “self-condemned; his greatest enemy was himself.”

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRSThe Second American Revolution and Other Essays (1976—1982), by Gore Vidal. Random House $15

Vivid, though often vicious and vituperative, usually vivacious, but sometimes vapid, this volume is vintage Vidal. Presiding as sage and fool over the demise of our country in these final hours of the century, Vidal ranges over nearly every possible subject from sex, politics, and movies to Fitzgerald, Lincoln, and the Wizard of Oz. Only Reggie Jackson has been left out. As an essayist Vidal specializes in satire, though one never quite learns what his ideal society would be. Vidal can be very funny debunking the hacks of academe, intellectual fashions, political pinheads, bigots, and philistines, but, like fellow TV stars Woody Allen and Tom Wolfe, strange bedfellows whom he resembles, he often tries a bit too hard, lapsing into tiresome cuteness. He is to be read in small doses. Nonetheless, in an age when the essay is about dead, his verve and lively prose are to be prized.

Mole, by William Hood. Norton $15.95

The term is John Le Carry’s, but the “moles” are real. This is the astonishing story of the CIA’s first big catch in the Soviet Intelligence Service, Pyotor Popov. Popov was a “walk-in” who seemed at first merely to need a bit of cash to replace some unit funds he had squandered. It became clear over time, however, that he harbored a deep and abiding hatred of the Soviet system. The damage he did was enormous; not all of it can—due to security restrictions—be revealed in this exciting true account by a former CIA official.

Controlling the Bomb: Nuclear Proliferation in the 1980’s, by Lewis Dunn. Yale $21 cloth, $6.95 paper

During the decades since Hiroshima, a small number of countries have developed nuclear weapons, but the much feared nuclear holocaust has been avoided. The increasing use of peaceful nuclear technology in the Third World, coupled with lessening disincentives against obtaining the bomb point to an accelerating proliferation in the 1980’s. The author traces the history of the bomb, analyzes the technical resources and motivations of countries which may soon go nuclear, and outlines steps the United States might take to slow nuclear proliferation. The problem is extremely complex, and Dunn’s thoughtful, detailed treatment is an important resource for those concerned by the threat of nuclear war.

Strategies for Change: The Future of French Society, by Michel Crozier. MIT $17.50

William R. Beer’s translation of this important sociological study by Michel Crozier, a leading French analyst, is highly recommendable. While Crozier’s focus is primarily on the successes and failures of French society, the essence of his analysis seems to be valid for most other industrialized states. The author’s criticism of state bureaucratic practices is severe and far from conclusive. That indiscriminate regulations have kept French industry from expanding at will is accurate; and while it is true that state monopolies in “prestige” projects have always drained considerable funds from the treasury, to blame state management composed of elite leaders seems to be too shortsighted. These same highly qualified graduates of acclaimed universities have “pulled” France out of a post-WWH malaise into an industrialized and prosperous state. And while many projects were excessively high, they were justified by the technological benefits that ensued. Furthermore, it is crucial to think of the element of prestige in the context of the French “vision” of the country’s historical role. Crozier proposes strategies for change which place France’s goals on a solid track bypassing revolution and centralized authority. In light of recent changes in socialist-governed France, Crozier’s perspectives add a dramatic flavor to the debate for change.

Who Runs Washington? by Michael Kilian and Arnold Sawislak. St. Martin’s $14.95

When President Jimmy Carter called the city of Washington an “island” isolated from the realities of American life, he was ridiculed by the Washington press corps and rewarded by a temporary improvement in his ratings in the national polls. Anyone who doubts that Carter was right in his assessment of our nation’s capital need only peruse this gossipy book by two of the island’s beachcombers. Kilian and Sawislak not only tell us who’s who in the social, political, diplomatic, legal, and bureaucratic hierarchies of Washington; they also tell us where we might rub shoulders with these various elites while we shop, eat, or purchase overpriced real estate in the District of Columbia. Their style is amusingly light, but their theme is serious, and seriously flawed. When they answer the question of who runs Washington, they believe they are also telling us who runs America and who runs the world. In fact, they are describing only the peculiar natives who live on an unusual American island that seems to be moving further offshore.

An English Temper: Essays on Education, Culture, and Communications, by Richard Hoggart. Oxford $15.95

Warden of Goldsmith’s College, University of London, and author of The Uses of Literacy, Hoggart has collected here essays from the late sixties and late seventies; there is none from 1970—75 when he was at UNESCO. As educator and social critic, Hoggart believes “that there are abilities in many people which are still untapped, that our educational system at all levels is still tapping them inadequately.” He objects eloquently to the lingering social inequities of the English educational system and writes of the pernicious effects of consumerism on the arts. Influenced by Raymond Williams, E. P. Thompson, and George Orwell, Hoggart is committed to improving the general cultural life of England, and he brings his deep convictions to a number of topics—adult education, television, Penguin books, mass culture—in graceful essays that deserve to be read and pondered.

The Modern American Vice Presidency, by Joel K. Goldstein. Princeton $28

Created as an afterthought in the waning days of the Constitutional Convention, the vice presidency has often been considered a minor appendage of the executive branch. Some who have held the office have had even less flattering comments, as demonstrated by one officeholder who stated that the vice presidency was not worth “a pitcher of warm spit.” Joel Goldstein’s analysis of the “transformation” of the office since World War II convincingly demonstrates that the vice president no longer must remain powerless but can have a significant influence on political decisions and the policymaking process. He argues that changes in American politics since the days of FDR—expansion of presidential power, the decline of political parties, the changes in the nominating process and campaign techniques, and the adoption of the 25th Amendment—have all made active participation by the vice president more feasible. Goldstein goes on to use Walter Mondale’s tenure as a model for future vice presidents and concludes with some ideas and suggestions for improving the stature and importance of the office. A worthy contribution to the study of American government.

Witnesses to the Origins of the Cold War, edited by Thomas T. Hammond. Washington $22.50

Mr. Hammond has gathered this unique collection of memoirs by ten eyewitnesses who served as American officials in Eastern Europe during the 1940’s in order to shed some light on the origins of the Cold War. The list of these men-on-the-spot includes George F. Kennan, Cyril Black, Louis Mark, Jr. , Martin F. Herz, and John A. Armitage, all of whom later played important roles as the Cold War intensified. Hammond has contributed two chapters: an introduction surveying the debate between “revisionists” and “traditionalists” over the causes of the Cold War and a conclusion which summarizes the views of the ten officials. From their perspective, the Soviet Union, by its conduct in Eastern Europe, bears the major burden of responsibility for the falling out of the two wartime allies, aided and abetted by American naivete.

Perspectives on the American South: An Annual Review of Society, Politics and Culture, edited by Merle Black and John Shelton Reed. Gordon & Breach $35

This book was a good idea. The editors, one a political scientist and the other a sociologist, decided that the workers in the enormous industry of Southern studies could use a forum where specialists in different disciplines could share ideas in nontechnical language. This volume, the first in a new series to be published annually, presents 27 articles on things Southern, from violence to politics to ethnicity. Not all the selections will appeal to everyone, but any person interested in the South is bound to find several articles well worth reading.

The Road to OPEC: United States Relations with Venezuela, 1919—1976, by Stephen G. Rabe. Texas $25

The United States” successive policies of cooperation with Latin America since the turn of the century should have established links and bridges capable of sustaining any and all hardships. Thus, from our Open Door diplomacy in the twenties to Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress in the sixties, we could only hope for the best in return for our genuine efforts. Stephen G. Rabe’s incisive research indicates how mistrustful government officials were in the case of Venezuela and how the Latins chose to follow a bold and risky policy in their petroleum exportations to the U.S. From the nationalization of U.S. oil companies to the formation of OPEC (with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait) in 1960, through the turbulent period of the seventies, sharp divisions seem to have flourished between exporter and consumer states. OPEC’s rejection of the existing economic relations with the importer states might have been unavoidable and an eventual recognition of the organization as a dominant financial and political power inevitable. But it seems that it has received constant support from the oil corporations all along. And Venezuela was only the first act of the popular and best-selling play.

HISTORYThe Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders, by James Oakes. Knopf $16.95

American slaveholders, like American slaves, have long tormented American historians. Were those who owned slaves restless capitalists on the make or conservatives wedded deeply to land and family— or something else altogether? James Oakes speaks forcefully for those who would see the slaveholders as more typically American than not, as more businesslike, more mobile, more guilt ridden over divided loyalties than the usual stereotype of the plantation owner would suggest. Oakes” perspective reveals much that is interesting and important but little that is startling. The debate is still open.

Stalin’s Secret War, by Nikolai Tolstoy. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $18.50

Someone has decided that Mr. Tolstoy, bearer of a famous name, knows something about Russia. It is not so. His earlier The Secret Betrayal (1978) was a mere rehash of the scholarship dealing with Operation “Keelhaul” (the forced repatriation of Soviet citizens to the U.S.S.R. after World War II), and the present work only restates what Solzhenitsyn, Shalamov, Antonov-Ovseyenko, and many others have said about Stalin and Stalinism. One can get an idea of Mr. Tolstoy’s own “scholarship” from a footnote on p. 447, where he claims that the 20 million Soviet war dead were, most of them, killed on Stalin’s orders. This is a travesty of monumental proportions.

Daily Life in Louisiana, 1815—1830, by Lilian Crété. Translated by Patrick Gregory. Louisiana $25

First published in French four years ago, now masterfully translated, Crété’s volume heats up for her readers what surely was the spiciest cultural gumbo this country ever produced. It consisted of old-world French delicacy, decadence, and violence; of superimposed American ambition, license, and violence; of Spanish traditions; Indian customs, African beliefs; of slavery but also, in New Orleans, of a free mulatto society that even could claim its own military heritage; of rivermen who doffed their hats to nobody, steamboat captains who raced (often exploding) their boats on any pretext, pirates, evangelists, alligators, gamblers, whores, Arcadians, small farmers, transients who usually were confidence men, and (did we mention?) picaresque sex and fighting. All this in a luxuriant setting. With an eye as sharp as her wit is penetrating, Crélé gives us a delightful book.

Balkan Economic History, 1550—1950, by John R. Lampe and Marvin R. Jackson. Indiana $32.50

A product of the combined efforts of an economist and an historian, Balkan Economic History traces the development of southeastern Europe from the days of the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires to the establishment of communism in much of the area following the Second World War. In their study, the authors make a point of presenting and evaluating the interpretations of Marxist scholars from present-day Yugoslavia, Romania, and Bulgaria, giving a comprehensive economic history of these countries as well as Greece and Albania. Their work is rich with charts and statistics and should appeal to anyone interested in economic history.

Garbage in the Cities; Refuse, Reform, and the Environment, 1880—1980, by Martin V. Melosi. Texas A&M $21.50

This monograph on the often-ignored sanitary reform effort of the late 19th and early 20th centuries expands and enlightens our understanding of the larger reform effort that was progressivism. Stressing the themes of cleanliness, education, and municipal responsibility, these Progressives campaigned to scrub clean the urban ecology and to torpedo the commonly held belief that what was out of sight was also out of mind. The reformers were successful in collecting and removing garbage from the cities, but they never did solve the root problems of the generation of ever-increasing amounts of refuse and of its ultimate disposal. The author clearly shows the Progressives” concern with reform by both citizens and experts, their reliance on management and technology to accomplish the reform, and their emphasis on efficiency and expertise. The major part of the book covers 1880—1920, with only the last chapter treating the subsequent developments of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

The King’s Debts: Finance and Politics in France 1589—1661, by Richard Bon Oxford $54

The King’s Debts studies the changes in French financial policy between 1589 (the death of Henry III and the beginning of Henry IV’s struggle for the throne) and 1661 (the death of Mazarin and the commencement of the personal rule of Louis XIV), a period which all too often saw spiraling royal debts and financial instability and crisis. Bonney leads us through a labyrinth of complicated financial arrangements and the frequent revocation and renegotiation of these arrangements, of the often intensive and bitter struggles over finance, of domestic intrigues and civil wars, and of wars abroad. He places the financial policy of the ancien regime in a broader social, political, and economic context, and he displays the intricate causal relations which existed between finance and these broader concerns.

Army Generals and Reconstruction: Louisiana, 1862—1877, by Joseph G. Dawson, III. Louisiana $25

Dawson examines the activities of the U.S. Army in Louisiana and the personalities of the generals who carried out Reconstruction policy. Although he seems to add little to Joe Gray Taylor’s discussion of the state’s politics, Dawson does a creditable job of explaining the changing influence and organization of the Army in Louisiana, and the changing political views of its officers. He argues convincingly that the Army did a fine job of keeping the peace and instituting change. Although Sheridan is the dominant figure in the book, lesser known men such as R. C. Buchanan come in for the greatest praise. Competently, though not always engagingly, written and at times not strikingly original or deep, the work is impressively researched and is a useful addition to the growing Reconstruction literature.

Who Voted for Hitler?, by Richard F. Hamilton. Princeton $50 cloth, $16.50 paper

Hitler committed suicide in 1945; thus only people roughly 50 or older have any real firsthand knowledge of the man and his time. To the overwhelming majority of the people alive today, Hitler is as remote a figure as Napoleon. Each new generation will have to learn about him, and each new generation will have to be astonished to learn that the German people voted the man into office in free elections. For the first time ever, Professor Hamilton shows just who did vote for the Nazi leader. Even the older generations may be surprised to learn that it was the upper middle class and the rich who played a major role in the tragedy.

East Central European Society and War in the Pre-Revolutionary Eighteenth Century, edited by Gunther E. Rothenberg, Béla K. Király, and Peter F. Sugar. Columbia $35

This collection of essays deals with the Hapsburg Empire, the Polish territories under foreign occupation, the Balkans, the Cossacks of the Russian Empire, and with the recruitment by the French government of soldiers from Central and Eastern Europe. As in any collection, the quality of the essays varies considerably, but most of those in this book are sound and of a high scholarly order. The book will be of interest primarily to specialists and advanced students.

A Liberal Descent: Victorian Historians and the English Past, by J. W. Burrow. Cambridge $45

To the Victorians, there was nothing quite so magnificent as English history, and they liked that history served up Whigstyle. The past was—in that view—all prologue to the glorious England of Victoria’s day. No one did this better than Macaulay, Stubbs, Freeman, and Froude, and in this excellent study Professor Burrows gives us outstanding portraits of those preeminent historians. This is one of the better books on Victorian England to come along in a long time.

The Knights Templar: Christian Chivalry and the Crusades: 1095—1314, by Stephen Howarth. Atheneum $18.95

In 1314 Philip “le Bel” of France ruthlessly eliminated the Knights Templars from France, setting the example for the other European monarchs. At one fell swoop he confiscated their wealth and obviated any threat from the foremost warriors and tacticians of the age. Beginning with the burning of the Grand Master, Howarth moves backward in time to trace the history of the Templars and to take his readers on a guided tour of the Templar fortifications. Finally, he speculates about the basis of some of the accusations leveled against them and points out that their secrecy even more than anything they might have done brought about their downfall. Howarth’s book is that hybrid, the scholarly popular history. Writing in a clear, enjoyable, journalistic style, the author weighs the evidence as a historian should. Thus, although the book is not documented in an approved style (beyond a bibliography), which hampers somewhat any further research, the text shows the author’s command of his sources and should be considered alongside “serious” medieval military histories.

Transcendentalism as a Social Movement, 1830—1850, by Anne C. Rose. Yale $22.50

“Alienated by a culture built on fear,” argues Rose in this study of Transcendentalists amidst and against society, they “took steps to establish social relations allowing freedom, growth, justice, and love.” Rose places their ideas in the cross currents of Boston church politics and social change; she offers a fresh discussion of applied Transcendentalist theories of economic organization—notably at Fruitlands and Brook Farm—and sheds new light on the Transcendentalists” concern for human fulfillment in friendship, marriage, and the family. A creditable first book.

Blacks in Topeka, Kansas, by Thomas C. Cox. Louisiana $27.95

A social history of the black community of Topeka, Kansas, in the years 1865—1915. Cox explores the great Negro exodus from the South of the 1870’s as it relates to Kansas; he portrays the development of an extraordinarily strong and unified black community in Topeka. The book is certainly interesting, and well researched, but it cannot be considered to be of central importance. If Topeka had a thoroughly typical black community, perhaps the book would be more valuable, but Cox emphasizes the exceptional aspects of Topeka. Cox is an excellent writer, but his book will be of interest only to those who specialize in black social history of America’s gilded age.

FICTIONThe Glad River, by Will D. Campbell. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $14.50

Will Campbell is a Southern Baptist minister known to many for his active involvement in the civil rights movement. He is the author of a superb biography, Brother to a Dragonfly, and as insightful an analyst of human nature and the American South as you could hope to find. So it seemed time for him to write a novel, and this, his first novel, is as successful as such a novel can be. His characters are lovingly crafted, and his plot is clear and coherent. While plumbing topics such as the nature of religious faith and the authority of the state, Campbell is never pedantic. Those who know and love the South and narrative can only wait for his next novel.

The Portage to San Cristóbal of A.H., by George Steiner. Simon & Schuster $13.50

The “A. H.” of this novel is Adolf Hitler, found alive in the remote South American jungle by a team of Israelis dedicated to avenging the Holocaust. It is a moderately good yarn, but it is so farfetched—and strives so hard to make sense out of incomprehensible evil—that it must be accounted a failure. Mr. Steiner has made many of the same points in his earlier works (especially In Bluebeard’s Castle), and his attempt to recast them in fictional form here simply does not succeed.

A Separate Development, by Christopher Hope. Scribner’s $10.95

On the surface, this is a funny novel about growing up surreal in South Africa. It chronicles the misadventures of Harry Moto, adolescent misanthrope: he has budding breasts, flat feet, goes to a seedy Catholic school that, bit by bit, is being sold off to the surrounding Protestant hordes; but worse, Harry has a “bit of the tarbrush.” Needless to say, the peculiar trauma of Harry’s adolescence deftly illustrates the absurd inhumanity of white South African society.

The False Inspector Dew, by Peter Lovesey. Pantheon Books $12.50

All contemporary fans of mystery novels should be familiar with the name of Peter Lovesey. He is the creator of Sergeant Detective Cribb, the Victorian sleuth who has stalked murderers in seamy athletic arenas as well as down the Thames. Here Lovesey turns his attention to the 1920’s and brilliantly creates a story of intrigue and suspense aboard the luxury ocean liner Mauretania. The plot is ingenious and complex. The characters are carefully crafted. The story’s resolution is delightfully surprising. Another Lovesey success.

The Death of a Beekeeper, by Lars Gustafsson. New Directions $12.95

To the criers of life as meaningless and death undignified, this brief, quiet novel speaks with a brave voice. The novel, the first translation of Mr. Gustafsson’s work available to American audiences, concerns a man who learns he will soon die. A former schoolteacher, middle-aged, now a beekeeper, discovers that he has cancer. Refusing to die with his life unclarified, unexamined, he rejects the sterile confines of a hospital and, for the few months left to him, retreats to the isolated Swedish countryside to work among his bees, to endure the progression of pain, and to record his accompanying, disquieting insights. The beekeeper’s journals form the novel. Gustafsson, by juxtaposing the beekeeper’s notes on his inner life, feelings, and memories, and his notes on his outer life, the daily running of the apiary, suggests by the inquiring, sometimes self-mocking, seemingly spontaneous entries the deeper relatedness of life, death, and hope.

New Writers for the Eighties, edited by Joe David Bellamy. fiction international $10 paper

A brave book, publishing as it does under one cover the short fiction collections of three excellent young American writers: Satin Palms by Elizabeth Inness-Brown, Bedlam by John Domini, and Gravity and Other Stories by Catherine Petroski. Perhaps most impressive are the very short, densely packed stories of Inness-Brown, whose consistent, individual voice seems to want to burst from the page. Petroski’s work is also fine, especially in the title story, though quieter, while Domini’s collection is extremely eclectic, ranging from realism to surrealism to science fiction— his “Laugh Kookaberry, Laugh Kookaberry, Gay Your Life Must Be” is an utterly convincing depiction of the relationship between two devils in Hell. All three books collected here are highly recommended,

Eternal Curse on the Reader of these Pages, by Manuel Puig. Random House $13.50

Manuel Puig’s first novel in English shows him in complete command of the language. Eternal Curse consists entirely of dialogues between the two main characters; a set of letters at the end clears up some of the mysteries these conversations have created but by no means all. Ultimately, Puig seems to be using the novel to reflect on the genesis of fiction itself. His two characters, reduced for different reasons to living shabby and sordid existences, try to talk themselves into more interesting and exciting modes of fiction. One even tells the other: “I wish my life were as vivid as your imagination.” The most disturbing implications of the book stem from the hints that the aging Argentine invalid may be Puig’s surrogate, and, as such, a portrait of the artist as an old parasite, remote and alienated from life, surviving like a vampire on the passion (real or imagined) of the young. As a story, Eternal Curse is compelling and thoughtprovoking, though its brilliance may in the end be only a surface brilliance. Puig does not rank, as some reviewers have suggested, with Borges and Màrquez or even Fuentes and Carpentier, but the vitality and experimental quality of his latest work is a good reminder that when the novel was pronounced dead, somebody forgot to inform Latin America.

Tom Mix and Pancho Villa, by Clifford Irving. St. Martin’s $16.95

This is a rambling, rollicking historical fantasy, one of those maybe-true-in-spots tales, but largely false. It has sex and violence galore, and you meet George Patton, Black Jack Pershing, Franz von Papen, and a host of other famous personages. Irving spins a good yarn as pre-Hollywood Mix shoots and fornicates his way through the Mexican Revolution. His strong point is the clever, deft turn of phrase; few current writers do it better, but his characters are wooden, one-dimensional figures, merely names on a page.

Distant Relations, by Carlos Fuentes. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $11.95

In this evocative, highly allusive, and richly textured novel about the shocking way in which one man reconciles himself to his past, Fuentes proves himself a remarkable storyteller, if not a teller of remarkable stories. Fuentes” stylistic abilities are wasted on such prosaic themes as the presentness of the past and Old World/New World conflict. His language and imagery draw us into a fantastic world of phantoms, specters, and intertwined destinies. But the potential for this world to be compelling is lost in light of his failure to develop a truly intriguing idea and by an uncharacteristically conventional, explanatory ending. Although the story is ultimately disappointing, Fuentes here writes in his most imaginative and personal style yet, and for this alone the book is well worth reading.

Cuban Passage, by Norman Lewis. Pantheon $13.50

What this book is, beyond an assortment of words on paper, is hard to tell. The protagonist seems to be a 15-year-old English boy who detests his mother’s Cuban lover and kills him or perhaps does not kill him. In any event the lover dies, Castro’s revolution intrudes, a teen-age wharf rat speaks in ponderous tones worthy of a senile sociologist, and some of the most unlikely dialogue ever to disgrace the novel stupefies the reader who plows on through this.

The Frog Who Dared to Croak, by Richard Sennett. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $11.95

A novel in the form of a memoir, this is the story of Tibor Grau. Unfortunately, there is not much of a story to tell. Intellectuals who sell out to Stalinist regimes are a kopeck a hundred, and the number of homosexuals among them (this is the second theme of the novel) is no doubt substantial. But to elevate this banality to the level of art requires the skills of a Kafka. Richard Sennett writes well, but he is no Kafka, and his novel tends to mistake caricature for irony.

The Collected Short Stories of Mary Johnston, edited by Annie Woodbridge and Hensley C. Woodbridge. Whitston $25

Mary Johnston did not begin to publish short stories until some years after her popularity and financial success as a writer of historical novels with a thick icing of sentimentality had waned. The stories in this volume appeared in various magazines (including the VQR) from 1920 to 1935, a year before her death, but this collection is the first in book form. The style of the stories is a little simpler than that of the novels, but in most of them the vein of sentimentality still runs strong and thick. They will not appeal to readers nourished on the fiction of today, but they do have the faded charm of a period piece.

The Manuscript Murders, by Roy Harley Lewis. St. Martin’s $10.95

Roy Harley Lewis starts by accepting Rowse’s identification of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady of the Sonnets as Emilia Lanier and goes on to fabricate a journal written by Mistress Lanier which has surfaced in Holland and is to be auctioned off, The antiquarian bookseller Matthew Coll (who also appeared in Lewis” A Cracking of Spines) is commissioned to purchase the diary for an American university. He acquires it. Then comes the murder of the Dutch former owner—and after that the tale spins on with proper detective work and more violence. A Grade B story.

A Bigamist’s Daughter, by Alice McDermott. Random House $13.50

This is nothing less than a brilliant first novel. Elizabeth Connelly is an editor at a vanity press who has seen everything and has few illusions about any of it. A young man then brings her an unfinished novel about a bigamist. The story is based on fact, and Elizabeth begins to wonder, at a given moment, whether her own father—whose mysterious, lengthy absences scarred her childhood—might have led a life like that of the bigamist in the young writer’s novel. A love affair between writer and editor ensues; some mysteries are resolved, some remain. Splendid.

Cinnamon Skin, by John D. MacDonald. Harper & Row $13.95

The latest John D. MacDonald thriller will neither advance nor damage the author’s reputation, but it will provide a good solid few hours of reading for those who relish the adventures of Travis McGee. An apparently accidental explosion on a pleasure boat turns out to be murder, and McGee is called in by his old friend Meyer, whose girlfriend was among those killed. The trail leads to Texas and upstate New York and Mexico; as usual, it is a complex and bit improbable set of clues and false leads that he has to contend with. The conclusion is, also as usual, unexpected and exciting.

Guardians of the Singreale, by Calvin Miller. Harper & Row $6.95

In this first part of a projected trilogy, Miller introduces the fantasy world of Estermann and the protagonists Raccoman and Velissa with the same vividness and power of his Singer trilogy. Here is high romance with some very interesting variations in the usual conventions. While there are significant points of unevenne


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