This scholarly, imaginative, and fascinating study is the best work of military history in recent times. At one level, it is a straightforward attempt to compare three battles in terms of what it was like to face combat for the participants: Agincourt in 1415, Waterloo in 1815, , and the first day on the Somme in 1916. Here Keegan succeeds in writing some of the most gripping battle pieces in modern literature. But the book is far more than just compelling battlefield scenes from the soldier’s eye view. It is also a discourse on the usefulness and deficiencies of traditional military histories. The reader of Keegan’s admirable book will never again be able to read the traditional accounts of battle with the same uncritical perspectives. Nor will the great battle paintings of Waterloo and Gettysburg and Custer’s Last Stand seem the same. It is one of those rare books that is capable of genuinely changing the reader’s mind on the subject. If there is a weakness to the book, it may be in Keegan’s exclusive reliance on British examples to draw some of his conclusions. The role of officers in the British Army may not be quite as analogous to American forces as Keegan suggests. But this is minor. This ought to be one of the most widely read books of the year.
This impressive collection of the best essays by Horowitz over the past 20 years is most welcomed by those who have followed his insightful and often witty comments during much of that time. Most collections of this sort, however interesting they may be, lack the cohesion of Horowitz’s comments. There is an incredible diversity of subject matter, but underlying it is a unity of purpose and a fundamental concern. It is a concern over the quality of political and social discourse in the United States. Bad though Horowitz thinks that much of it undoubtedly is, it would have been far worse had these essays never been written. The essays are grouped under six categories, but the subject matter overlaps more than the section headings would suggest. The topical headings are: Presidential Politics, Class-Race Politics, Ideological Politics, Sociological Politics, Military Politics, and The End of Politics? Most worthwhile reading.
This book sets out to analyze the social group composition of American political parties and the extent to which this has changed or remained the same in recent decades. Six national surveys conducted in connection with the presidential elections during the period from 1952 to 1972 provide the empirical base for the study, and these data are analyzed by a variety of multivariate techniques. In an effort to make the material more accessible for persons with limited background in quantitative methods, the author includes a methodological appendix and endeavors to present the findings in a straightforward fashion, an effort which is largely successful although the uninitiated reader must be prepared to make a serious investment in the book. The principal contribution of the book lies in its attempt to provide a more rigorous accounting for some of the dynamic forces underlying American political behavior in the last two decades.
The book’s lengthy subtitle accurately states the author’s thesis: “An inquiry into the purpose and meaning of those formal signals by which urban man once identified himself to his fellows and how the weakening of those signals has made our lives more isolated and less civilized.” The ideal of public life for Sennett, apparently, was the 18th century; and despite his introductory quote from de Tocqueville on the decline of civic-mindedness, the point of view is more reminiscent of Rousseau than of the former. Basically Sennett takes the reader on a tour de force through architecture, public manners, morals, etc., to show the decline of community in the bourgeois world. The antisocial retreat to privacy he associates with “narcissism,” and it has made the public place, the community, less civilized as a result. Despite a distracting sociological jargon in the writing of the book, this is a formidable thesis and deserves a close reading.
The story of man’s inhumanity to man is certainly a valid topic for historical investigation, one that is no less useful than, say, cancer research. But it has to be done systematically, exhaustively, without the undue intrusion of emotion and reportorial opinion. Alas, it is precisely such an intrusion that mars this work, a big, full-blown volume that is badly conceived and badly written. About the only thing one can say in its defense is that it offers a moderately useful chronology. But it is not complete in any sense, it is not objective, and it is overpriced.
The energy crisis has raised anew the question of who should develop the resources of the nation—the federal government or private industry? Kenneth Dam, who has served with the OMB in Washington as well as on the law faculty at the University of Chicago, argues here against the efficacy of the federal government in such enterprises. Dam examines the experiences of Great Britain and Denmark in the North Sea reserves and contrasts them against the American tradition of leasing oil reserves to private companies. In terms of the efficient delivery of fuel to the consumer, lower cost, and greater efficiency in terms of exploration, Dam concludes that the United States pattern excels over the others. The economic efficiency of the auction system receives a considerable boost from this excellent study of a problem that is sure to grow in coming years.
There have not been very many theoretical works of socialism in the latter half of the 20th century. The reasons for this are varied, but Hugh Stretton has here attempted to fill that void. He argues that the economic, social, environmental, and political malaise of our time has given socialism a “second chance” to establish the values of equality if only the Left will develop new approaches to conservation, women, children, etc. Stretton considers various traditional socialist solutions to these problems and finally comes up with his own proposals. The discussion is interesting and well articulated, though it leaves the reader with the impression common to most such polemics of what Madison in Federalist No. 10 once referred to as a “theoretic politician” addressing practical problems unrealistically. On the whole an interesting work, if only because it is suggestive of the sterility of modern socialist thought.
Is there such a right as “the right to die” or have we confused this notion with the right to refuse medical treatment? If we allow a 70-year-old cancer patient a “natural” death by permitting refusal of life-prolonging treatment, must we also allow a 25-year-old Christian Scientist cancer victim to refuse such treatment and die a “natural” death? Can so-called “living wills” actually reduce the legal rights of hospitalized patients under certain circumstances? The increase in life expectancy to 71 years, the case of Karen Quinlan, and California’s adoption of a Natural Death Act, have raised numerous medical, ethical, and legal questions about our way of death in the last quarter of the 20th century, as Veatch’s important study disturbingly points out.
Case studies from east and central Africa in the late 1960’s show how the administrative structures of multilateral (especially the UN) aid organizations encumber their ability to encourage economic development. Gordenker, writing largely from an international bureaucrat’s point of view, considers the perspectives of the recipient nations less than he might; most interesting to insiders.
This outstanding translation of the classic work on war supersedes all previous English translations by Jolles and Graham. Jolles’s long out-of-print edition had always been the better of the two prior translations but has been unavailable for some time. Colonel Graham’s translation is probably the most widely used English version but is a poor translation that makes Clausewitz’s reasonably clear thoughts all but opaque. Paret is a distinguished scholar of Clausewitz who earlier authored the superb Clausewitz and the Modern State. A long overdue work in translation.
Dr. Haq’s light-handed, lucid analysis of development strategies joins a growing body of literature on roadblocks to development and the need to work out a new international economic order. This volume is of special interest, however, because his is a personal document, charting the shifts in his outlook from the economic theory acquired at Cambridge and Yale to the third world realities encountered in 13 years as an economic planner in his native Pakistan, and later as an official of the World Bank. His views on the changes in development thinking gain force because Haq has been at the centre of that change.
The book builds on the theme that mal-distribution is the basic problem within underdeveloped nations and in the relations between them and the developed world. Dr. Haq is especially emphatic on the point that underdeveloped nations cannot forever blame their situation on historic subordination but must make the hard political decisions to attack internal structures of inequality. On the other hand, he is concerned that while there are some signs of this unpalatable fact being accepted by the poor nations, there is as yet little recognition by the developed world that international relations must be altered so as to distribute growth possibilities more equitably. He argues that OPEC is not an exceptional case; the balance must inevitably shift towards the underdeveloped nations.
At times the liberalism that Haq still professes causes him to draw back from the apparent implications of his arguments. Nonetheless, this book presents a thoughtful analysis of the current development dilemma as seen by a knowledgeable and candid spokesman for the emerging third world perspective.
This series of studies constitutes a recent and up-to-date analysis of the dynamics of Korean politics. Focusing on the crucial area of political leadership, the authors examine varying facets of this problem in the light of current methodological advances in the field of comparative politics. While available data are sparse on North Korea, their insights into the South Korean political climate are highly illuminating and make this volume the most cohesive and systematic penetration of that country’s political system to date.
Borrowing the arguments and rhetoric and anger of Saul Alinski, Andrew Greeley, and Michael Novak, Krickus arraigns American liberals for believing that beneath every hard hat there is a hard head and a hard heart. There is not a fully developed argument in this well-meaning book, : Where the author senses conflicting commitments—such as those to the immediate improvement of the position of blacks and the preservation of white ethnics sense of place and equity—Krickus simply waffles.
Unlike other authors in this series—William Sansom on Proust and John Lehmann on Virginia Woolf—Graves, the nephew of the poet, adds nothing to our understanding of T. E. Lawrence and tends to simplify that extremely complex figure. There is no new information and no original insight, and Lawrence’s story is merely retold in the words of the author—losing a great deal of significance in the process. The principal value of this reasonably priced book lies in the 98 illustrations, most of them interesting and some unusual.
Page Smith reveals only a caricature of Thomas Jefferson in this odd book. Smith’s Jefferson is an artist a la Lord Byron— passionate, self-indulgent, impulsive, irrational, driven obsessively to serve the Muses, living constantly in a private purgatory “invested with a suffocating awareness of death and insanity and evil that he dared not confront.” If this Jefferson does not resemble the generally optimistic, well-balanced disciple of science and reason that we all know, according to Smith, it is because Jefferson’s most successful artistic creation was his own image. He was only masquerading as a Virginia planter and political leader. In order to present his Jefferson, Smith, without identifying his sources, concentrates on many topics on which little or no evidence is known to exist, and yet he barely touches on Jefferson s life after 1793 when he was leader of the opposition, vice-president, and president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia. About a third of this large-print American Heritage book is devoted to nice pictures which have very little relation to the spirit of the text.
It was, for the most part, a worldly and wonderful whirl, spinning from the snows of Kilimanjaro to the slopes of Ketchum, Idaho, from Spain’s soaring mountains to Cuba’s sunny clime. Meeting in wartime London and becoming lovers in liberated Paris, the Hemingways never—until the tragic end—lost their lust for life or, as Mary shows in abundant detail, for liquor. If she tells us much about the importance of being Ernest, she reveals equally as much about the importance of having Mary as his devoted but undominated wife. And while life with a world-famous writer could often be difficult, it was certainly never dull. Though too long by at least a third, the book is a fascinating recollection of a fascinating man by the woman he loved longest and last.
John Manningham’s Diary is here finally published in a complete, unexpurgated, and fully and meticulously annotated edition. Though Manningham will hardly be ranked with such diarists as Evelyn and Pepys, his Diary can be read with pleasure and profit by readers generally interested in early 17th-century life; for Shakespearean and Elizabethan scholars, this edition should secure the Diary’s place as an important source of literary and social history and as a treasure trove for students of the period’s sermons.
This first half of a planned two-part autobiography covers Shirer’s leap from Main Street (Iowa) to Paris as a 21-year-old desk man for the Paris edition of the Chicago Tribune. His deskmates included James Thurber and Elliot Paul; his acquaintances ranged from Hemingway to Grant Wood. The book, an absorbing portrait of the times, ends in 1930. Berlin Dairy, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and his other books were to come later.
Despite its title, the only mystery about this book is why it was written. It is the trite story of an Eastern Gay who discovers sex with a woman in San Francisco while trying to discover his true self. The publisher says that it is the sensitive autobiography of former Yale Law Professor Charles Reich, author of the best seller The Greening of America, way back in 1970, who left his academic womb in New Haven in order to become a writer and learn what life is all about. Either way, the result is disappointing. The author should return to the classroom and leave the production of literature to the professionals.
A typically beautiful volume in the Bollingen Series, this selection of letters from the last decade of Jung’s long life shows the master secure in his sagehood, consulted by all and sundry on the philosophical and topical questions of the day. He dispenses his sometimes platitudinous wisdom with charm, modesty, and patience. He is genial and gives warnings to mankind with grace. His learning seems to be prodigious. He has evaded his disturbing teacher, Freud.
Peer of Dickens, Eliot, and Thackeray, Trollope still does not quite have their reputation. And yet the reasons for his occasional disrepute—his civil service career, his modesty, his fecundity, his sanity, his professionalism—are really rare virtues which ought to excite admiration. Snow’s well-illustrated and informative critical biography is justifiably admiring but a little shallow. Trollope’s mundane magic is hard to catch.
Miss Boyd’s search into the heritage of British writers, especially the Bloomsbury Group, caused her early to be struck by the extraordinary women, the sisters and the mothers and the aunts—and the cousins!— in the family background of all of them. She has here limited the results of that search to a few of the ancestors on the distaff side of Virginia Woolf (the Pattle sisters, including the one who took up photography, Julia Margaret Cameron) and of Lytton Strachey (his militant mother, Jane Maria Grant). Besides these eminent Victorian females, Miss Boyd casts further light on Lady Ritchie (Thackeray’s novelist daughter) and Lady MacCarthy, wife of Desmond MacCarthy and also a Thackeray by inheritance. The strongest reason Miss Boyd gives for her book is that so many of these female progenitors and contemporaries appear, transmuted, in Virginia Woolf’s novels. That’s reason enough.
Although this volume purports to treat the last years of Thomas Hardy from 1912 to 1928, several chapters go back to his early life and his first wife, Emma, as background for discussions of Hardy’s attitudes to the past, his late play, The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall, and numerous poems of various import in the volumes published after “The Dynasts, Part Third” in 1908. Parts of this book are very interesting and perceptive indeed, but there are also tedious stretches.
Isherwood has decided to come out of the closet and proclaim his homosexuality, albeit in a detached third person manner, through these revisionist memoirs of his travels across Europe in the 1930’s with fellow gay blades W. H. Auden and E. M. Forster, among others. While some of the social comments and depictions of noted individuals offer a modicum of general interest, most of the book is merely a more complete accounting of who did what to whom and where. Boys were always Isherwood’s central passion, and even unto manhood he has maintained a boyish silliness and an unfortunate reverence for the ephemeral.
The immense interest that Sherlock Holmes has attracted and maintained from an international audience has inspired extraordinary labors of dedicated Holmesians in the reconstruction of virtually every detail of the lives both of the creator and of the detective—as well as of the tangential lives of Doyle’s associates and the countless proposed models for each of the characters of the tales. Higham, who has tilled the fertile resources and rich variety of Doyle’s associations, has applied the crisp prose of a Hollywood free lance to a mass of detail and has rendered a compelling account of a most remarkable man. An unforeseen talent for good historical judgment enriches this excellent study with an appreciation for Doyle’s age, character, and creations.
This is one of those books to which the overworked characterization of “brilliant” simply must be applied. Anything less would do a disservice to Mr. Karlinsky’s magnificent achievement, which falls into the category of the 1 or 2 per cent of literary criticism that is worth the paper it is written on, and more. No one who reads this book will ever read Gogol in quite the same old way, and no one who reads it, one ventures to guess, will be able to resist going out to grab the first piece of Gogoliana he can get his hands on. But no one should get the idea that Mr. Karlinsky is somehow obsessed by Gogol’s latent homosexuality, which several earlier writers have cautiously and timidly explored. Rather this is a book that reveals Gogol’s obsessions, as he himself revealed them in some of the greatest classics of Russian literature. Struggling frantically against an unspeakable—in those times—passion, Gogol poured that passion into his works in a manner that unlocked his literary genius. It has taken the genius of Mr. Karlinsky to show us the agonizing but ultimately inspiring process.
To the author of The Crowning Privilege, a crowning insult: perhaps the last collected edition of his major work to appear during Graves’s lifetime, this volume is indistinguishable from a Literary Guild selection, being flimsily bound and carelessly printed on cheap paper. Not content with all that, the publisher commissioned a preface by Graves’s self-styled friend and admirer, James McKinley, whose snideness about the poet’s life and contacts is exceeded only by his indifference to poetic achievement. Neither the portraits of Graves—as child, youth, and sage—nor the reproduction of revised manuscripts featured here do much to counter the overall effect, which is emetic.
This young poet is good. Whether writing of his migration from his native Georgia to Michigan, or of youth, an old blind man, or nature’s renewal, Mr. Cline has an eloquent voice, a sensitive ear, and a perceptive eye which “sees” rather than merely sensing. He writes for the brain, the imagination, and the heart in a warm, inviting fashion; his poems welcome us rather than hold us at arm’s length.
How painful it is to be negative about writing so obviously sincere and heartfelt! However, these verses are overly sentimental and too “homespun” in the worst sense of that word to be fully poetic. They cloy, they weaken, they bump along as if written with a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus. At times they are reminiscent of the weaker efforts of Emily Dickinson, which is, of course, no compliment.
This book is mistitled. It should have been called, “Translations of Japanese Love Poems.” The translations are done by a number of persons, and id no case is the Japanese original, either in Kanji or Romaji, given. The poems seem clearly to have been selected on their merits in English in the eyes of the editor, bolstered to some extent by the fame of one or more of the Japanese authors. A foolish book, badly illustrated.
This first book of Montale’s poems to be translated into English since he received the Nobel Prize in 1975 will intrigue and perhaps please his longstanding admirers. Many of the poems, which are selected from Satura (1971) and Diario del ‘71 e del ‘72, are highly personal and introspective, and readers are always interested in intimate glimpses of writers who have become old friends. The many who will come to Montale for the first time in this collection, however, are likely to be disappointed. Montale’s vaunted formal virtuosity is nowhere evident in these translations; on the contrary, one faces an array of hackneyed poetic devices: the pregnant pause (marked by an ellipsis) to end poems; heavy-handed repetition; relentless personification of grand abstractions (history, words, poetry, genius, art); the yoking of traditional, highly resonant poetic images with up-to-the-minute ephemera; and a heavy sprinkling of obscure personal allusions which require explanatory notes. The Fire, for example, begins thus: “It is Pentecost and there’s no way / for tongues of fire to descend / from heaven. And yet a Jeremiah / who appeared on the television said / that it could happen any time. / There is no fire to be seen, only / some smoke bombs at the corner of Via Bigli.” As for content, too often it is comprised of such banalities as that “the twilight of the Gods . . . began when man / started thinking he was / greater than a mole or a cricket.”
Gunn’s grappling with the problems of human consciousness continues in this latest collection. In contrast to much of his earlier work, the formal poems here are generally the least interesting; he makes his best use of his remarkable facility with formal poetic techniques in modulations between free and formal strategies within a single poem. “The Geysers” typifies the book’s themes, as the speaker, “born” naked and anew in a womb-like valley, seeks to lose himself in a vision of mystical union with the flow of nature: “torn from the self//in which I breathed and trod//I am//l am raw meat//l am a god.” Very American, this Englishman’s poetry of vision; other poems such as “Thomas Bewick” and “Behind the Mirror” involve acts of immersion and surrender of consciousness, while in “Bringing to Light” and the long title poem the speaker attempts to penetrate and order his mind’s own caverns and conflicting worlds rather than taking Hight from the burdens of consciousness. The poet finds consolations for mortality in the beautiful “Breaking Ground” and builds in “The Outdoor Concert” to a marvelous conceit which summarizes his vision of immanence and immersion. These visionary poems are moving celebrations of the inter-connectedness, the surging vitality and unity of all life; they comprise an important achievement in Gunn’s poetic career.
The trouble with Francis remains the trouble with Francis, as we have this edition at last to remind us. Francis’s lean puritan wit, his impishness, his insatiable meddling with forms and tones and voices which few poets of our era match, his homegrown nonconformity to any school of poetry, and his mastery of prosody— these qualities make him ever a pleasure to encounter. Francis has been deliberately an odd man out in American poetry, a stately if Thoreauesque minstrel, of whom Frost might as well have been thinking when he said, “We want poets, not masters.”
This is an anthology of poems whose makers are citizens of countries without histories, citizens who write poems about two countries which come into existence in the imagination only. The reader expects a host of varying visions, and he gets them, though in the end the idea which informs the anthology, that poetries have nationalistic characters, cannot contain the individual voices which it presents. The anthology is more interesting for its Australian selections than for its American selections, since its American poets are old hat.
Russell Edson has been shaking a bottle of cola some years now. With this new volume of prose poems, he lets the spray shoot out and cover the surrounding landscape, the consequences of his syntax active from the same source as Magritte’s brush. The essential mystery of Edson’s work is here so palpable, so tasty, there’s no longer any hiding: his concerns, while idiosyncratic as ever, have increasingly become everyone’s. Read this collection with delight and worry.
Albert Goldbarth has extraordinary lyric and imagistic gifts, which are ail too often marred by an overindulgence of effect: he breathes out much more than he breathes in. In addition, since he purports to anthropological/socio-cultural knowledge in his poetry, he would do well to avoid the reductionistic texts of Joseph Campbell and such like, and begin to read the works of Victor Turner, Gregory Bateson, et. al. Still any poet who can write poems such as “Translation From Far Away” deserves praise and attention.
In a masterful mixture of history and art history, the author attempts to link the failure of the Spanish Enlightenment, Spain’s involvement in the Napoleonic Wars, and the roots of its own civil wars to the works of Goya, particularly his Caprichos and Disasters of War. This superbly illustrated essay traces the artistic development of Goya’s commitment to the people of Spain even as he increasingly recognizes that their own superstition, ignorance, and violence are largely responsible for their political and economic problems. Long recognized as one of the supreme artistic condemnations of the horrors of war, Goya’s works are historical documents for a critical and distinct period. Those interested in the general history (as well as in the art) of Spain during the 18th and 19th centuries will find this book both useful and stimulating.
In this book, Weber persuasively argues that the early years of the Third Republic were a critically important period in the transformation of traditional rural patterns of life and thought. The spread of urban values and institutions into the countryside brought previously isolated regions into the cultural and economic mainstream of French life. He emphasizes particularly the growing use of French in place of local dialects and the incursions of roads and railroads into rural areas. Although Weber readily concedes that this period was not the only major era of modernization, he maintains that it has been too often overlooked and that historians have assumed a national cultural and social uniformity in 19th-century France which did not in fact exist. Politics are treated only to the extent that they influenced or reflected changing popular world views and rural social relationships, but students of all aspects of modern French history will profit from this thorough and highly readable examination of the nation-building process at the grassroots level.
Henry Adams observed of Thomas Jefferson that “he seemed during his entire life to breathe with perfect satisfaction no-where except in the liberal, literary, and scientific air of Paris in 1789.” Howard Rice, who for many years has been dogging Jefferson’s footsteps in Paris, has produced a wonderful book dedicated to this proposition. Handsomely illustrated with many old maps and engravings, paintings, drawings, and documents, the book deftly blends the story of Jefferson’s five-year sojourn as American minister to France with a topographical and cultural history of the Paris Jefferson knew and loved. Rice’s narrative is full and gracefully written, but it is especially distinguished for strict accuracy of detail. Readers who are curious about Jefferson’s saunterings, acquaintances, or activities in Paris may rely on Rice’s account. This is a rarity among illustrated books: a valuable work of scholarship as well as a delight to the eye.
A rather unfortunate title and a very garish dust-jacket give this book the appearance of a Christmas-time pot-boiler; and the profusion and diversity of the illustrations, once one has opened this volume, do little to relieve this impression. However, the text is a different matter altogether; Mr. Severin has managed to put together an extremely readable account of the exploration of Asia after Marco Polo and to lace his story with revealing anecdotes and seldom-recorded bits of history. How many readers know, for example, who was first able to establish the identity of China and “Cathay”? (‘Twas de Goes.) A comparison with Alan Moorehead’s narratives is not inappropriate.
This is a collection of 18 papers presented at a conference held at the National Archives, Washington, D. C., in June, 1971. Howard University Press has turned out a fine-looking product, true, but one cannot help asking why? Five of these papers had been published elsewhere in scholarly journals, and the others, if they possess merit, undoubtedly could have trudged the same route to an eager, if pitifully minute, audience. This is, in fact, very questionable use of public money, and it is not comforting to learn this is volume eight in a series presumably composed of still more conference papers, some of which also are merely expanded footnotes to history and reprints to boot. Jimmy Carter please take note.
A clear-headed discrimination of four enlightenment movements in America: the Moderate Enlightenment of Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams; the Skeptical Enlightenment popularized by Paine; the Revolutionary Enlightenment—least coherent theoretically, but very widespread, and most prepotent socially and politically, and the Didactic Enlightenment of the Scotch common-sense variety which dominated colleges and universities for a century. “Never anti-scientific nor obscurantist, never cynical,” May observes, “it opened no doors to intellectual chaos.” An annalist more than an analyst of ideas, May provides a useful map of the current of ideas which constituted the major emotional alternative to the evangelicalism about which he has also written magisterially in other books.
The illusion of order and pattern in the affairs of men that time and historians have conspired to produce is a provoking contrast to the disorderly events of one’s contemporary reality. Popular historical accounts generally fail to dispel this mythic contrast and replace it with the more useful appreciation of the universality of human error, misdirection, and the ancient tendency of events to smother judgment. Richard Ollard is a thoughtful scholar, a graceful writer, and an historian worthy of his attempt to explain historical events to nonspecialists. His portrait of mortal weakness and waste provides a durable foundation upon which immortal names and events might comfortably rest. Beautifully illustrated and excellently organized, this brief account is sufficient to engage the attention of any active reader.
In his introduction to this book, Mr. Rabinowitch asks the question, Why should anyone want to produce still another (about the 1917 Russian Revolution)? Presumably, in the more than 300 pages that follow, he answers the question to his own satisfaction and that of his publisher, but both the specialist and the general reader are left mystified. The author was denied access to Soviet archives, so he presents no new material (one has the impression that he did not even make proper use of the holdings of such organizations as the Hoover Institution at Stanford). Nor has he any new interpretation. What we have here is the same old story, retold in rather pedestrian language. It is an agreeable enough interpretation—if one knows little or nothing about the subject—but it has had so many predecessors as to be simply irrelevant.
The 1938 hurricane that struck the eastern coast of the United States with 130-mile per hour winds and a 20-foot tidal wave is today recognized as the worst natural disaster in recorded American history, surpassing by far the destruction wrought by the Chicago Fire and San Francisco Earthquake. It came without warning at a time when hurricanes were virtually unknown north of Cape Hatteras, and when it was over, the character and appearance of coastal New England had been changed forever. Alien’s extensive use of newspaper accounts and first-hand recollections of the event give this volume a striking immediacy, though he has lazily neglected to edit out numerous contradictions and non sequiturs, choosing instead to apologize for them in the preface.
Brassai’s text is superb; his photographs are unforgettable. This record of night life in Paris during the 1930’s is the poignant evocation of a world vivid and complete in itself and now completely gone. It is no accident that Brassai is obsessed with Proust. This book is a negative of all the concerns of A La Recherche. We begin with those who work in the night, the tramps, the sewer and street cleaners, and those who run hopeless little street fairs. Then we move into a darker world, one filled with “the beauty of sinister things” where whores and pimps and criminals share a mutual contempt for the daylight ambitions of the bourgeoisie. But in those days the criminals did put up a night life for those bored or daring enough to enter it. There are wonderful pictures of the great bordellos, the Bal Negre, and the “specialized” night clubs for men or for women. The pace quickens through the Folies-Bergere to the hectic artists’ balls and student street dances in Montparnasse. The book closes on a note of crowded desperation, like the end of Les Enfants du Paradis, with throngs of people and deafening gaity. Almost. The final sequence is in an opium den. There is a photo of Brassai with his pipe. Was it all a dream? The last picture in the book shows a man lighting a street lamp—or is he putting it out? It was a world where pleasure was more important than money. The book is beautifully printed and utterly fascinating.
Prospect Mountain, near Bennington College, is the setting for this richly allegoric novel which concerns four days, more or less, in the lives of two elderly Vermont eccentrics, brother and sister. Cardner tries his hand and succeeds at all manner of tricks here, including offering a book-within-the-book and mingling real people with fictional characters, and the result is a dramatic narrative that unfolds in perceptive counterpoint. The focus is sharp, the descriptions are vivid, and the thematic messages ring true without sentimentality, heroics, or trivialization. Written and illustrated with care, style, and intelligence, October Light is close to perfect.
Admirers of Miss Oates’s novels will rejoice to find once again a familiar setting for her latest work; the style, characterization, and narrative mode also recall her previous novels. Miss Oates has what used to be called a way with words, but perhaps there is reason to be a little troubled by her repeated use of interior monologue a la Joyce (James Joyce, that is). I confess I am getting rather weary of it. There is a sameness and monotony about Miss Oates’s novels, and those of some other contemporary novelists, which make me wonder whether she should not stop publishing for a while and reassess her work. The pause would upset her publisher, but it might be worth it in the long run.
Jerry and Sally love each other. They are married to other people. Sound familiar? Maybe so (from Updike’s Couples, certainly), but nothing will prepare you for the onslaught of agonized discussions, painful moments, and wrenching partings and unitings. At the end, we’re given three possibilities for an outcome: the reader is put in the same dilemma Jerry has been in throughout the book. All possibilities seem either silly or unacceptably bleak, whether he ends up with wife, lover, or alone (best guess). What we keep thinking about is not the outcome but the anguish of getting there. What Jerry goes through is like a man being asked to run a too-long race, and as he completes it, he falls off the edge of the world. A bleak, believable novel that also becomes a tactile experience because of the shifting colors and textures.
Martha Foley’s introduction mentions “a young reader at Esquire” (now departed, like les neiges d’antan, for the record) who explained what she did in her job of reading unsolicited manuscripts as being “arbiter of the slush.” This offended Miss Foley, and she says it offended writers. Yet the statement is true: unsolicited stories are almost uniformly dismal, and if one is to judge by The Best Short Stories of 1976, a lot of the ones that get published are too. There are exceptions: stories by Peter Taylor, Alice Adams (despite a frail ending), M. Pabst Battin. But how to explain including the contrived and trite “The Boy Who Was Astrid’s Mother”? Alas, this year’s collection is about as lively as a pearl in a bottle of Prell.
Although the main character laments that “too many people have access to your state of mind,” Speedboat is about the state of a woman’s mind, defined by the people and things surrounding her. A little boy asks his mother what it means that their flight to Martha’s Vineyard is “decisional. “It means we might have to land in Hyannis,” she tells him. How nice if we all had someone to clarify and simplify for us. But Adler certainly won’t be the one. The book is full of complexities, ironies, disappointments, and the unexplained, and we, like the author who records her impressions of civilization gone awry, are left “fighting for our lives.” Recommended reading: Eliot’s The Waste Land,Didion’s Play It As It Lays, Warhol’s autobiography.
Miss Beattie’s first novel, which came out at the same time as her first collection of short stories, does not fully live up to its title. It has a happy ending. This astonishing fact can be understood and finally accepted if the reader follows the happy sweep of Miss Beattie’s mind, which is entirely aloof from self-pity. Despite the hero’s being a puerile piece of flotsam adrift in the 70’s, at home in the 60’s, grace is incongruously bestowed upon him in the end. Incongruity perhaps is what gives us a chance in this novel jam-packed with colliding bits of life.
Lovers and Tyrants belongs to the tradition of the novel of education that in our time has become the novel of liberation. The work, therefore, is traditional in form and subject matter. The author traces the life of Stephanie, the protagonist, from her childhood in France in the 1930’s to her schooling in the United States, her marriage, her motherhood, and her liberation from home and children. The years of recollected childhood are described with subtlety and understanding, but the adult quest seems like a fool’s errand. It is unfortunate that the author’s talents could not have had wiser guidance. Half the novel would have been better than the whole one.
It is intriguing to suppose a variation in an event known to us through history and thereupon to determine a probable sequence of consequences. Pursuit of the “might-have-been” seldom enriches whimsy with a conviction that suspends disbelief. There is a journalistic electricity in this novel, based upon the assumption that Custer survives the massacre of his cavalry on the Little Big Horn to be tried by court martial, that provides a dramatic stage for a reexamination of the well-known event. A sifting of the records and testimony of historical inquiries serve as the basis for Jones’s highly effective imaginary inquest. The inevitable verdict hinges on the complex testimony, while the opinion of the reader is left to reflect on personality and history. The horrors of the slaughter, the tangle of tawdry motives, and the hardship of frontier service are woven into the suspense in a trial of psychology—not of pure history.
It has been well known for years that James T. Farrell, whose 50th book this is, has an ear for speech and a narrative sense beyond compare. In The Dunne Family he has added a new mastery, or at least one new to this reviewer, for he makes repetition a virtue and an active tool in the fabric of his book. As a result, congratulations are due Mr. Farrell not only for the appearance of his 50th novel but also for his continued growth in his craft.
Automatic writing, costume Gothic romances, a John Stonehouse (staging one’s own death while disappearing abroad), daubs of spiritualism, a rich fantasy life, and especially obesity recollected as atrocity add layers to a novel which is essentially shallow but delightfully entertaining and witty. Margaret Atwood, one of Canada’s best and best-known novelists and poets, returns in Lady Oracle to the realism of her first novel, Edible Woman. Women’s relation to food may come to be regarded as a sub-theme in her work, as her heroines’ extremes of gluttony and anorexia are seen as protective if neurotic reactions to their untenable life situations. But seekers for symbolism and significance beneath the impasto of amusing satire will inevitably be frustrated here. “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” she says to herself, “does not have time for meaningful in-depth relationships.”
The eighth in a series of novels about the adventures of Captain James Ogilvie of the 114th Queen’s Own Royal Strathspeys, this is a story guaranteed to stir the hearts of all British Empire lovers. Once again, Ogilvie is defending Queen, country, and the Raj along India’s fabled North West Frontier. The plot has something to do with the evil machinations of a fanatic Mullah to form an alliance with those nasty Russians and thereby to eject the British from India. The narrative is corny enough to be camp (“on the North West Frontier where life was held cheap as dirt”), and the dialogue is reminiscent of an Errol Flynn screenplay (” Open with your guns, man!’ “); but the action seldom slackens, as the bullets fly, bayonets thrust home, and bodies fall. And, of course, thanks to Ogilvie’s noble efforts, Queen and Empire emerge triumphant. MacNeil is not in a class with such adventure writers as John Buchan or John Masters, but he keeps one entertained.
One suspects that Higgins wrote this novelistic exploration of the underside of the Massachusetts law enforcement apparatus less out of conviction than as a frustrated response to the critical reproval and public disinterest in the two works that immediately preceded it, both of which were attempts to break out of the mold cast by a trio of remarkably similar, hard-edged, Boston-based novels he wrote in 1972 and 1973. Deke Hunter apes the style and substance of those early works, including The Friends of Eddie Coyle, but the fun seems to have gone out of it for Higgins, and that attitude rapidly rubs off on the reader.
A tough private eye of the California School pops up in Paris and quickly becomes violently immersed in the middle of an international art forgery ring. Many corpses later and after much intrigue and sundry romantic conquests, he outwits both the Surete and the racketeers. The caper is as breezy and fast moving as its provocative title. It makes for an altogether pleasant evening of diversion.
To write a convincing historical novel, the author must not only have enough knowledge to recreate an era but also enough energy and clear vision to give the characters life. After a very few pages of The Alexandrian, the new novel about Cleopatra, the reader relaxes secure in knowing that these essentials are present in it. In fact, Cleopatra, who is here demythologized becomes more fascinating than ever. In addition, she also becomes more a creature of logic than a creature of love, a transformation which makes her tragedy all the more touching.
Professor Prawer of Oxford University reminds us that Marx was not only widely read in the literature of Classical Antiquity and Western Europe but wrote poetry as a young man and had literary pretensions. Although Marx soon realized that he had no future as a poet, he continued to draw upon his reading in his own social, economic, and political treatises. Prawer’s learned and beautifully written book is concerned not with Marxism but with Marx, specifically the complex interplay between literary styles and models and Marx s ideas, e.g., alienation and reification. A fascinating and most rewarding book, which does full justice to its subject.
This book must suffer, appearing as it does in the same year as Mary Jacobus’s excellent study of the same subject; Jordan s account is inferior in every respect. To “explain’ the Lyrical Ballads, he recounts critical statements, largely by-way of paraphrase. His analysis of such central terms as “naturalness” and “diction ignores the best in recent criticism, and his chapter on “simplicity” adds only some new examples to R. D. Havens’s famous essay of several decades ago. Jordan’s most interesting sections attempt to show that much in Wordsworth and Coleridge s achievement was anticipated by earlier poets, but since he has no clear notion of what is innovative in these poems, his comparisons lack focus.
No more qualified student of modern Greek literature might be found to introduce Cavafy to the Western reader than Edmund Keeley. This slim and appreciative volume is that rare sort of long essay that captures some essential thing about its subject. In this case, it is the central and pervasive metaphor of the city of Alexandria, often noted but never so penetratingly analyzed, that offers an essential understanding of this very private and elusive poet. There remains, despite long familiarity, something untouchably haunting about the poetry of this sensual and yet pristine Hellene; Keeley’s text and translations richly reward a reading.
The title of this collection of favorite pieces, written over the past two decades for Life, Newsweek, McCall’s, and CBS and interlaced with contemporary comments, originated, like its author, in vaudeville where “a talking woman was something special, rather like a horse that cou