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Notes on Current Books, Spring 1979

ISSUE:  Spring 1979

It may seem bizarre to the more sober-minded that we now have holocaust scholars and pre-World War III specialists on the literature faculties of our best universities. For all our potential misgivings in this regard, however, The Age of Atrocity is a brave and important book of exceptional erudition. Langer gives us two valuable essays on Mann and Solzhenitsyn and introduces us to the considerable literary figure of Charlotte Delbo, until now virtually unknown.

Zola’s Crowds, by Naomi Schor. Johns Hopkins $14

Modern literary theorists have found more promising source material in both Zola’s life and in his novels than belletrists of the turn of the century could ever have suspected. Accordingly, Naomi Schor shows us just how intelligent an analysis of Zola’s previously deprecated oeuvre can be. By using mythic, linguistic, formalist, and semiotic approaches, she succeeds in writing the best book we now have on Zola.

Reading the Thirties, by Bernard Bergonzi. Pittsburgh $9.95

Bergonzi is noted professionally for his wide-ranging publications on modern British literature. They are invariably judicious, indifferently written, and always a bit dull. In Reading the Thirties he does not disappoint our expectations of him; but he does give us a fine and useful book on Auden, Isherwood, Spender, Upward, Graham Greene, and Louis McNeice. A competent book about a fascinating era.

What is Literature?, edited and with an introduction by Paul Hernadi. Indiana $12.95

Literariness—its sources, nature, and functions—is the central concern of the 19 essayists invited to contribute to this volume. As an indicator—however partial— of present-day critical thought in America, the symposium alerts readers to the increasingly important role of integrative definitions of literature. Rather than deal with the problem differentially and inductively, the vast majority of Hernadi’s authors refer it (heuristically, at least) to other disciplines—sociology, semiotics, and psychoanalysis, among others—whose categories are systematically (but non-reductively) imposed. As meta-level enterprises go, this is a highly readable book, one that should call forth further discussion in its own cheerfully unpolemical spirit.

Shakespeare: The Poet in His World, by M. C. Bradbrook. Columbia $13.50

Few of Shakespeare’s critics are so well prepared by training, reading, and innate sensitivity to write of his life and works as Ms. Bradbrook. She is eminently qualified not only to analyze his plays but to place him in his times by showing his relationships with his fellow dramatists and how his own career responded to his nation’s development. But her emphasis falls on Shakespeare’s own passionate attachment to the theatre and the transformation of his World into dramatic Dreams. Only one small conjecture is left unexplored, indeed not even included in the index—her nomination for yet another Dark Lady of the Sonnets. And it’s a fascinating one.

The Comic Hero, by Robert M. Torrance. Harvard $15

In this study, Robert Torrance has chosen comic heroes from Homer’s Odyssey to Joyce’s Ulysses by way of Don Quixote and Bouvard et Pecuchet.Despite tantalizing chapter titles and the often colorful prose, the work is not always satisfying. Torrance readily admits that the comic hero is “too protean a character to be delimited by any prior definition,” and suggests that the book as a whole should be taken as an attempt at definition. In this context, however, the absence of a methodological framework deprives the work of focus. In the place of a systematic analysis or a model formed from earlier cases and applied to later ones, we are given descriptive summaries of the activities of the comic heroes with a set of running commentaries. This approach scatters the author’s ideas instead of concentrating them and, in the end, provides too few insights into the nature of the comic hero in his many guises.

The Grim Phoenix: Reconstructing Thomas Pynchon, by William M. Platter. Indiana $12.50

Criticism of Thomas Pynchon’s fiction is fast becoming the academic light industry of the 1970’s. With Mr. Platter’s Baedeker in hand we can now travel through this perhaps unfamiliar terrain with a minimum of inconvenience. Nor should we complain that he has rendered Pynchon’s closed systems and entropic solipsism a trifle too readable, although preserving some of the indirection of Herbert Stencil, Oedipa Maas, and Tyrone Slothrop would seem to be a special part of the critical enterprise. It is a fortunate thing for his book, however, that Mr. Platter has eschewed mystification. Intelligently, even agreeably written.

Alexander Pope and the Arts of Georgian England, by Morris R. Brownell. Oxford $38.50

Attempting to do for Pope what Martin Battestin did for the whole Augustan period in his Providence of Wit, Brownell traces Pope’s interests, accomplishments, and opinions in painting, music, sculpture, architecture, and gardening. In his general ideas Brownell has nothing original to say, but it is delightful nonetheless to be reminded of so many Augustan artistic practices in so well written and splendidly illustrated a book.

The Shakespeare Companion, by Gareth and Barbara Lloyd Evans. Scribner’s $14.95

Yet another “companion” to Shakespeare? Yes, and a good one, too. The compilers have covered so many things so thoroughly yet succinctly that these pages, 368 of them, are a storehouse of information. There are sections on the dramatist and his times; on productions of his plays and the players from his time to ours, including films; on the plays themselves (a section they call the “nitty-gritty of this book”), with plot summaries, lists of dramatis personae, a royal genealogical tree, and a glossary of unfamiliar words; and finally one on Stratford-upon-Avon itself, which is also the authors’ home. There are some 50 appropriate illustrations,

The Probable and the Marvelous: Blake, Wordsworth, and the Eighteenth-Century Critical Tradition, by Wallace Jackson. Georgia $14

Jackson promises to explain the growth of Romanticism as a revision of the meaning of those traditional literary polarities, the probable and the marvelous. This he notably fails to do; his book does, however, contain excellent material on the poetics of such mid-century writers as Gray, Collins, and the Wartons, and occasionally makes insightful remarks on Wordsworth’s criticism.

Henry James and the Experimental Novel. by Sergio Perosa. Virginia $11.95

The critical material available to the James scholar is of a near oceanic and ever-growing immensity. However, if one wishes to reestablish James as a major experimental novelist, “one of the fathers of literary Modernism,” and to situate him in the broad context of English and European contemporary movements as they redefine modern literary history, Professor Perosa’s chapters on The Sacred Fount, The Sense of the Past, and The Ivory Tower are mandatory reading. Not for the traditional Jamesian.

Four Postwar American Novelists, by Frank D. McConnell. Chicago $4.50 paperback

Mr. McConnell chooses four canonical novelists, Bellow, Mailer, Barth, and Pynchon, and devotes fairly extensive commentary to each of their novels. There is no particularly flashy thesis being ridden here, and the reader in all probability will be grateful for it. Very few people will regret the complete omission of a scholarly apparatus from the text, although it seems certain that Mr. McConnell will himself be acknowledged as a fine reader of modern American fiction.

Joyce’s Voices, by Hugh Kenner. California $8.95

We always come to Professor Kenner’s books expecting a very high quality of writing, a lively wit, a dexterous play of mind over difficult material. We usually do not pause over them to demand strict accuracy because things simply are moving too quickly for that. It should be said, however, that what Kenner is doing here is cashing in on a very fashionable literary theory of multivoiced prose at the most obvious window, Joyce’s Ulysses.The “double narrative voice” of Joyce’s Voices inspires an ambivalence in the reader: the book is meretricious and irresponsible, yet its every word is intelligent and soon to be gospel.

Fiction and the Ways of Knowing: Essays on British Novels, by Avrom Fleishman. Texas $14.95

It is a sad spectacle to see so gifted an interpreter of literary works as Avrom Fleishman caught in the war of literary theorists. Against Ingarden, Hamburger, and Derrida, Fleishman contends that fictions can and do make reference to reality. He is right, of course; yet how much has he ceded to his enemies! Willingly he eschews talk of correct and incorrect readings; now we are to seek “comfortable orientations towards” what we read. More disheartening, Fleishman’s own principles—that fictions provide kinds of knowledge no other discourse can, that fiction has its own “inner laws”—inspire no more than do his opponents’. Readers sensitive either to aesthetics or to Fleishman’s many virtues should skip his theoretical discussions and proceed to the twelve fine essays on individual novels.

A Rhetoric of Literary Character: Some Women of Henry James, by Mary Doyle Springer. Chicago $17

Not a routine study of James or of feminine personages in a fictional oeuvre, this volume continues the author’s explorations undertaken in Forms of the Modem Novella (1975). Deeply influenced by R. S. Crane, Elder Olson, Norman Friedman and—above all, perhaps—Sheldon Sacks, Professor Springer seeks to extend and refine the Chicago poetics of fiction, which seeks through inductive formal analysis to identify the affective power of the individual work. An invaluable complement to Bernard Weinberg’s Art of Jean Racine(1963), which added several new variables to the neo-Aristotelian vocabulary of character and thought, Professor Springer’s essay also sheds light on didactic forms, whose literary legitimacy both she and Sheldon Sacks before her have striven to reassert. The volume’s chief merit, however, lies in its convincing demonstration that fictional personages are best understood differentially (not by analogy with extrapoetic models) and contextually, or within the frame of the story’s plot.

Marianne Moore: The Poet’s Advance, by Laurence Stapleton. Princeton $15

The first critic to make full use of this poet’s manuscripts, notebooks, and correspondence, Professor Stapleton lovingly traces her subject’s lyricism from its precocious beginnings, through its attainment of a mature and extraordinary voice, to its final, sadly trivial phase (treated here with unseemly indulgence). Close reading is not Professor Stapleton’s forte; instead, she juxtaposes evidence of conception, elaboration, and revision, proceeding by quotation, paraphrase, and casual commentary on the poet’s more obvious strategies. Set in the context of family relations, contacts with fellow poets, and dealings with publishers, this thesaurus of data will arrest and enlighten the sympathetic reader. Less valuable, however, are the tedious, super-added chapters on the poet’s heavily mannered prose, and her checkered adaptation of La Fontaine’s Fables, as well as her slow recognition by the critics.

HISTORY Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers, by Michael Schudson. Basic Books $10.95

Although this revised Harvard dissertation undoubtedly fulfilled its original goal, it hardly lives up to the promise of providing a “social history” of the U. S. press—an awesome and somewhat puzzling undertaking at best. There are still far too many footnotes, too much emphasis upon Manhattan, and too many quotes introduced by a bewildering galaxy of names. Some will find Schudson’s disregard of Civil War journalism a bit shocking, and not all historians would agree that American newspapers began in 1830.Yet this highly personal foray has merit. Philosophical reflections upon “objectivity” are indeed thought provoking, and Schudson’s approach—the penny press, the work of Pulitzer and Ochs, and the age of public relations and government management of news—certainly is one way to analyze the development of an important influence in American life.

The Pacific War, by Saburo Ienaga. Pantheon $10

This is a fascinating account of the Japanese involvement prior to and during the Second World War. It is written by a Japanese professor who critically analyzes Japanese war policies during the period of 1931 to 1945.Any World war II buff certainly should read The Pacific War; the book could possibly become a classic portrayal of Japanese life during the war. The most interesting portion of lenaga’s narrative is his examination of Japanese policies toward China.

The Death of Woman Wang, by Jonathan D. Spence. Viking $10.95

In previous publications Spence has given us valuable information on the life of the literate elite and on the court during the Ch’ing dynasty. With this book, he turns his attention to a much more difficult problem, the evocation of the enduring hardships, and fleeting joys, of the common folk. His focus is on a single small county, T’an-ch’eng, in northeastern China. By drawing on the local history of the county, the memoirs of a disgraced magistrate who remained in T’an-ch’eng, and the imaginative writings of a famed literatus of a neighboring district, Spence weaves a vivid tapestry of 17th-century peasant life, with special attention to the plight of women. The result of thorough-going scholarship, the book is written with an eye to the general reader and makes fascinating reading. A small, but not insignificant, masterpiece.

Russia in Revolution, 1900—1930, by Harrison E. Salisbury. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $18.95

This is the finest work to come from the desk of Mr. Salisbury, the distinguished New York Times writer, since his classic study of the siege of Leningrad. This collection of photographs, few of which have appeared in publication until now, is simply a superb study of Russia in war, revolution, civil war, and socialism. From the incredible photographs of cannibalism to the rare shots of Lenin, this book tells the story of a nation in agony. It would be a bargain at twice the price.

The Simon and Schuster Encyclopedia of World War II, edited by Thomas Parrish. Simon & Schuster $29.95

The greatest conflict the world has seen has heretofore been beyond the grasp of most of us. The major theaters were too many and too widely scattered, the major actors too numerous to count, and the sheer magnitude of the violence all but incomprehensible. Now, with the aid of the late S. L. A. Marshall and many other dedicated, highly skilled researchers, Mr. Parrish and his publisher have given us an exhaustive yet succinct and extremely usable encyclopedia of the Second World War. This is a publishing masterpiece.

The Yugoslav Experiment, 1948—1974, by Dennison Rusinow. California $5.95

For a wide variety of reasons, not all of which do us credit, Americans have had an unusual interest in Yugoslavia since the Second World War. This interest has been reflected in scores, perhaps hundreds of books and countless articles in the popular and the scholarly press. Forget them all if you really want to know what Titoism is all about: Mr. Rusinow’s book represents such an advance over previous scholarship that it is downright embarrassing. His book is no literary triumph, and it will be useful only to specialists; but his message will be heard.

A Distant Mirror. The Calamitous 14th Century, by Barbara W. Tuchman. Knopf $15.95

Intrigued initially by the effects of the Black Death on late medieval society, Mrs. Tuchman understandably has sidestepped this knotty problem to give us, instead, a succession of vignettes in the development of France and England in the 14th century. The writing is intelligent and lively in high-class journalistic style. The pace is rapid, the episodes entertaining. The cruelty, cunning, cupidity, and compassion of her men and women are described in vivid colors, and the endless minutiae of daily living are given to us to feast upon.

The Great Mutiny, by Christopher Hibbert. Viking $15.95

A new history of the uprising that shook an empire—the 1857 sepoy mutiny against the British rulers of India—this is a splendid account of tragedy and triumph. The tragedy was that the British did nothing to avert a rebellion whose signs were months in the making. The triumph was that a small, outnumbered force of British and loyal Indian troops maintained the rule of the Raj in spite of everything, including deceit, disease, and a climate unfit to move in, much less to fight in. Mr. Hibbert has done exhaustive research on the mutiny, and the result is a work that puts Hollywood to shame. Indeed, one wonders why events like the massacre of Cawnpore and the siege of Lucknow have never been brought to the screen.The Great Mutiny, in short, is a helluva book that would make one helluva movie.

Divide and Conquer: German Efforts to Conclude a Separate Peace, 1914—1918, by L. L. Farrar, Jr. Columbia $12

Splitting your enemies is a tactic that goes back to the attempt of the first humanoid attacked by two of his kind to deal with them one at a time. We know that the Germans wanted to make a separate peace with us and the British in 1943 (and this is what the Russians feared above all else), but most of us are less familiar with the attempts of the Imperial German politicians and military to do the same thing in the First World War. This extended essay of little more than one hundred pages tells the story of the unsuccessful efforts of the kaiser’s diplomats and generals to split the Entente.

Exile and Return, by Martin Gilbert. Lippincott $12.95

This book begins with a very brief summary of the history of the Jews from Biblical times to the beginning of the 20th century. The book then shifts focus to the Zionist movement and its work toward the establishment of Israel. Gilbert’s discussion of negotiations with Great Britain and the other powers during the period encompassing the two World Wars, as well as his study of developments in Palestine where the Jewish colonists established their communities, first under Turkish rule, then under the British, is quite detailed, yet well written and clearly explained.

Iron Road to the West: American Railroads in the 1850s, by John F. Stover. Columbia $14.95

The importance of the development of the American railrdads during the 1850’s has rarely been appreciated. The continent was not to be spanned until after the Civil War, but most of the important track was laid during the 1850’s. One result was that the railroad supplemented the steam-boat enough for the economic dependence of the Northwest to shift from the South to the Northeast by 1861.Stover has written a general account of the railroads during this period. Though rambling, his account is peppered with fascinating anecdotes, excellent tables, and illustrations which will be a treat to anyone interested in railroads or the 1850’s.

Has History Any Meaning? by Burleigh Taylor Wilkins. Cornell $15

This is a clearly written and thoughtful study of Karl Popper’s philosophy of history. The author distinguishes those features of Popper’s argument that he supports from those he finds unacceptable. In answering the question which is the title of his book, Mr. Wilkins agrees with Popper that “the question whether history has meaning is a self-referential question, or in other words a question about what meaning we decide or choose to give to history.”

The War Path: Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939, by David Irving. Viking $14.95

Germany under the Nazis has been the subject of countless studies, and it is debatable whether another one is needed. Certainly this journalistic effort adds little to our knowledge: Mr. Irving makes a game try, but he has, ultimately, nothing to say that has not been said countless times before. The Nazification of Germany is simply too big a topic for the talents of this author.

Freemasonry in Federalist Connecticut, 1789—1835, by Dorothy Ann Lipson. Princeton $18.50

Dorothy Ann Lipson chose an excellent topic for a dissertation, conducted her research with commendable industry, and found much of genuine significance. Unfortunately, the result of all her efforts is a rather poor book. It is overloaded with unsubstantiated generalizations, sociological jargon, and references to secondary works. A first-rate editor might have made all the difference.

Knowledge and Explanation in History: An Introduction to the Philosophy of History, by R. F. Atkinson. Cornell $14.95

The need for a book of this kind has long been apparent, not only to students of history but also to students of the humanities in general. Atkinson has provided an example which one can only hope will be emulated in the frequently rarified field of the philosophy of history: he has actually used examples of historical situations to illustrate his arguments. This valuable book is lucidly and intelligently written.

Medicine and Slavery: The Health Care of Blacks in Antebellum Virginia, by Todd L. Savitt. Illinois $15

This book is superb. Carefully researched and documented, well-written and fascinating, it will be invaluable to anyone interested in slavery in Virginia or elsewhere. Savitt examines malaria, worms, insanity, and other diseases which attacked blacks before the Civil War and assesses what it was about the nature of slavery and the physiology of blacks which made their health care profoundly different from that of whites. In doing so, he provides new ammunition for both sides in the historiographical debate about the care of slaves.

A History of the Russian-American Company, by P. A. Tikhmenev. Washington $35

The reappearance in a good translation of this old classic is a welcome event. Professors Richard Pierce and Alton Donnelly have rescued the best, most complete study ever published or likely to be published of the company (chartered in 1799) that regulated Russian trade with the Aleutians and Alaska. While perhaps not so significant as its counterpart, the East India Company, the Russian-American Company was nevertheless of monumental importance in Russian commerce and, indirectly, politics. Because the archives which Tikhmenev used have largely perished, his work will always be a primary source.

FICTION Secrets and Surprises: Short Stories, by Ann Beattie. Random House $8.95

Each story begins with a different young couple. They are living together. Sometimes they are married. Exhausted (by the sixties?), these people seem waiting, just as Chekhov’s and Turgenev’s people waited, in lonely houses in the country; but these, it seems, have no neighbors. The skill with which their gifted author renders their passing days tends to convince the reader, as the stories pile up in his mind, that this eventlessness is in fact the rhythm of life itself. The secrets and surprises of the title are tiny ones, but come to seem life-sized to them. Impressive reporting of curiously Russian, technology-age lives; nobody in the book seems to read a paper.

The Coup, John Updike. Knopf $8.95

Updike once explained his ambivalent patriotism by saying he felt married to this country and would not divorce her. In The Coup, however, he leaves home for Kush, an imaginary African nation, ruled by Colonel Elleloú , a Marxist-Muslem who is violently anti-American. Through his dictator-narrator, Updike attacks our spiritual emptiness and material excess—the very flypaper in which his earlier suburban dramas were stuck. The worst moment in the book is when Ellelou comes unexpectedly on a town where lawns have been made to grow in the desert; people live in “ranch” houses; shops sell all the “gimmicky, plasticky, ball-and-jacky, tacky” junk Elleloú wants to keep out of Kush. But he falls victim to a new coup, mounted by men who embrace the American junk ethic. The book abounds in political insight and sexual adventure; it is aglitter with the author’s observations, intelligence, and fluently spun sentences. But, as Elleloú would be the first to cavil, all that glitters is not gold.

The Cement Garden, by lan McEwan. Simon & Schuster $8.95

In the shadowy cement valleys of urban London, lan McEwan has developed as gripping a story as one may ever expect to read. The author develops the complex characters of this story to an astonishing degree in the brief 153 pages, and through the intricate familial relationships of the three orphans (two sisters and a brother) McEwan takes the reader to the very roots of human nature. With grace and eloquence, the author approaches the ultimate questions which confront modern man; and along the way he touches upon the more bestial passions of man which always flow just beneath the surface of civilization. This is a novel one will not be inclined to put down until finished. A truly fine book.

One of our more prolific authors—this is his 29th book—Auchincloss is our most polished profiler of High Society, particularly the society found amid the pages of New York’s Social Register.As a longtime Wall Street attorney, he is equally adept at depicting the closed, conservative society of Manhattan’s corporate law firms. These societies provide the background for Auchincloss’s latest novel, one set in Old Guard New York during the mid-1930’s, with side trips to Long Island’s posh North Shore and Southampton, and involving the perils, passions, and privations of Amy

The Country Cousin, by Louis Auchin-closs. Houghton Mifflin $8.95

Hunter, the impoverished cousin of an Establishment family. The plot is sometimes intricate and involved, but it will hold a reader’s interest throughout. And this is a tribute to Auchincloss’s skill as a novelist, since he is writing about a world most of us have never known and never will—yet one this writer makes continually fascinating.

The Praise Singer, by Mary Renault. Pantheon $8.95

In her latest novel Mary Renault reconstructs the life of the Greek lyric poet, Simonides. Beginning with his childhood on Ceos, she traces his probable career up to the murder of his patron, the tyrant Hipparchus of Athens. The strength of the novel lies in the characterizations and in the wealth of background detail worked into the narrative.

The Sea, the Sea, by Iris Murdoch. Viking $10.95

Soon after this reviewer had read The Sea, the Sea, it was announced that the novel had won the most prestigious and richest prize for fiction in Britain. It was richly deserved. One has never read better descriptions of the sea in a multitude of moods, nor has it ever been used as a symbol for the embroiled thinking that we humans fall into. But the novel is contemplative, and its narrator’s difficulties stem from his having cherished a boyhood love throughout his life, a love which was largely unreturned, a fact he chose to ignore. The writing is so strong that one races from word to word, while the rhythm of the book, rather like that of its namesake, moves in a ceasless ebb and flow. Miss Murdoch’s novels have proved a strong training ground, for here she has used all her talent and pared away all her weaknesses.

Chesapeake, by James A. Michener. Random House $12.95

This is a boring book, a very boring book. Michener has taken a strip of land— Maryland’s Eastern Shore—and has attempted to trace a story which runs from the first Indian settler to a participant in the Watergate affair. The result is a story as superficial as the time it covers is sweeping. The characters are born and die at such a rapid pace that they leave an impression not much more lasting than figures on highway billboards. The greatest virtue of this massive novel is the degree of soporiferousness it achieves.

Adjacent Lives, by Ellen Schwamm. Knopf $7.95

One couldn’t ask for a novel written with more tenderness, refinement, and ardent coolness than this one. The story, of a love affair between two people both married, both parents, both with careers, begins with the woman’s capacity for devotion and restraint and the man’s dramatic flair for teaching and friendship. By the end a subtle, enhancing exchange has taken place as a result of their relationship. Without avoiding any of the negative aspects of their passion, the author presents an unusually positive view of adultery. Schwamm’s characters are urban, complex, intelligent human beings; her prose is quietly compelling, catching the baffling intricacies of the family relations behind the love triangles. This is an outstanding first novel.

The Last Good Kiss, by James Crumley. Random House $8.95

It is hard to tell whether it is the style or simply the milieu this novel depicts that makes it so engaging. At first sight, however, the fashionable theme of the search for the author is an anomaly in a work whose real focus of attention seems to be that slightly incredible world of seedy motels, ghostly gas stations, and forlorn truck stops of the Far West. Crumley has a real grasp of speech rhythms and manages to capture the specific geography of the modern American West. Ultimately, as his heroes Sughrue and Traherne search for the elusive Betty Sue Flowers, the novel threatens to become a successful parody of the sophisticated fiction we at first thought beyond its reach.

Detour, by Michael Brodsky. Urizen Books $8.95

As in the cases of Beckett and Sarraute, two writers whom Brodsky often resembles, the real problem with Detour is the boredom of unraveling its complex texture. Frustrated readers will perhaps blame Brodsky’s editor; but, since the novel is very much of a piece, it is difficult to eliminate anything of its labyrinthine shroud without stripping the mummy completely. The more discriminating will conclude that this brilliant but grotesque first effort reveals a very real talent and a very real commitment to experimental writing hiding beneath the interminable subconversation of its Dostoevskian central character.

Blindness, by Henry Green. Viking $8.95

Henry Green wrote this novel in 1926 while still a student at Oxford. After the rather literary young protagonist becomes blind (a transition which is not very persuasively handled, it should be said), the novel takes on an overwhelming and rather gloomy concern with language and its quality as sound. Dialogue, although often considered Green’s strong point in his later fiction, is, more often than not, unfortunate here. Imagine Peter Pastmaster grown Malone-ish and occasionally condescended to by a Compton-Burnett mother.

Maigret’s Pipe: Seventeen Stories, by Simenon. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $8.95

Here again is the master, faithful companion of the rainy day, the journey, the sickbed, the winter evening by the fire, the summer afternoon under the shade. Georges Simenon is a world institution and in this latest, excellently translated collection we marvel at his genius once more. There is no need to sing his praises anew: his stature can neither be diminished nor added to. Inspector Maigret roams familiar territory again and shows us how little we know it. Highly recommended.

Miss Lillian Russell, by James Brough. McGraw-Hill $11.95

In this good-humored fictional autobiography we find a full-fleshed portrait of one of the great stars of our turn-of-the-century theater. Her peculiar talent was her combination of beauty and voice, though the voice was never of the operatic quality she longed for, and the beauty gradually ballooned into plumpness, if not down-right obesity. The text is amiable, as was Miss Russell, and suspenseful enough to lead the reader on.

Strange Seed, by T. M. Wright. Everest House $8.95

In Strange Seed, a couple moves to a house in the country. Evil lurks and, inexplicably, the couple does not leave. T. M. Wright has indulged the contemporary taste for mixing children and horror. One hears the sinister pattering of little feet, but the absence of psychological depth or narrative excitement leaves the reader unconvinced. The author considers his work unique in the genre. Let us hope it remains so.

The Wild Island, by Antonia Fraser. Norton $8.95

Antonia Fraser has liberated the heroine of the classic murder mystery. She drives a sports car, has affairs, and investigates fanatical nationalist groups. A fine mystery with enough adventure to keep the reader hanging on until the end. Here is a new Miss Marple for a new generation of Agatha Christie fans.

The Secret Memoirs of Lord Byron, by Christopher Nicole. Lippincott $10.95

This book claims, tongue in cheek, to be a miraculously surviving copy of Byron’s actual memoirs, burned by his executors according to history. It succeeds in creating a Byron worthy of the reputation as a notorious rake and libertine, with a passionate crescendo of sexual dalliances and discoveries, and an emphasis on homosexual attachments as well as incest. One could complain of the comparative lack of attention to the poetry—and the constant obsession with sex—but Byron’s lameness, his weight problem, his lifelong financial troubles, his travels through Europe, and his friendships with Scott and Shelley are there too. The footnotes show a good deal of research, and the energy and inventiveness which the author has devoted to this romantic figure are admirable, if his descriptions are a bit too graphic to be believable in terms of the early 19th century. A clever and entertaining book, on the whole.

The Best American Short Stories of 1978, edited by Ted Solotaroff. Houghton Mifflin $10.95

Once again this annual compilation proves the American mastery of the contemporary short story medium. Surprisingly, most of the selections come from scholarly or university publications, with the majority chosen from The American Review, of which the compiler of this volume coincidentally serves as editor. In the commercial realm, The New Yorker and Esquire are tied with four selections each. All in all, there is a sufficient choice to beguile even the most fastidious of tastes.

The Journey to the West, Volume 2, translated and edited by Anthony C. Yu. Chicago $25

This second installment of Yu’s complete translation of the late 16th-century Chinese novel Hsi-yu chi brings us up to chapter 50, the midpoint of this immense work. Yu’s translation, the first complete rendering of the novel into a Western language, is quite faithful to the original text and yet highly readable, enabling the English reader to enjoy the full breadth of one of the best loved novels of traditional China. It is to be hoped that the final two volumes of this truly monumental achievement appear without undue delay.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Safire’s Political Dictionary, by William Safire. Random House $15.95

Never has a book had quite the same cast of characters: Big Enchilada, yellow dog Democrats, parlor pinks, nattering nabobs of negativism, and little old ladies in tennis shoes—not to mention Martin, Barton, and Fish. Safire’s third edition of his political dictionary is as much fun as the first two. In about 3,500 words and phrases that make up the language of American politics, Safire concentrates on the contributions of recent presidents (with the exception of Gerald Ford, the only modern chief executive who uttered not a single memorable phrase). This book, while not the moral equivalent of war, is definitely not a MEGO (my eyes glaze over).

Parties and Elections in an Anti-Party Age, edited by Jeff Fishel. Indiana $25 hardback, $8.95 paperback

This book does not quite live up to the expectations produced by its title, since much of the material contained within it does not really address the whys and wherefores of the decline of party. But never mind: this is as good an anthology on American political parties as one can find on the market. The selections are clearly superior ones, both those from the standard works of prominent political scientists such as Ranney, Sundquist, Burnhan, Miller, and Stokes, and those from less well-circulated conference papers and journal articles. Fully 12 of 29 selections either are new or have been revised and updated for this volume. More weight is given to consideration of the party as electoral agent, but the party in government is also adequately reviewed.

Make-Believe Presidents, by Nicholas Von Hoffman. Pantheon $8.95

If one can wade through or skip a very convoluted opening chapter and ignore a title that just barely relates to the material discussed, this is a rather delightful romp through U. S. political life since 1900. Awash with brilliant phrase turns and evidence of sound research, as supplementary reading, Make-Believe Presidents could be a fine antidote to dry college primers on the same subject. Von Hoffman is witty, expansive, bitter, opinionated, and provocative, yet it all comes off as sort of a one-way conversation, a torrent of words that never gives the reader an opportunity to either reflect or reply.

The Conserver Society: A Workable Alternative for the Future, by K. Valaskakis, P. Sindell, J. Smith and I. Fitzpatrick-Martin. Harper & Row $15

Written in the spirit of Small is Beautiful and The Limits To Growth, this lively, eclectic book sketches a set of scenarios, with each scenario governed by different policies, towards consumption and conservation of resources. The discussion occasionally seems frivolous, but, nonetheless, the book is provocative and is an intelligent and readable addition to the debate on natural resource utilization.

Fall In and Cheer, by John R. Coyne, Jr. Doubleday $8.95

Despite Coyne’s tenure as a staff speechwriter for the Nixon and Ford administrations, his anecdotal discussion of the Watergate years and the present Democratic administration is curiously shallow. Moreover, the pages are filled with gratuitous swipes at liberals, a poor substitute for the keen political insights expected from a former Nixon and Ford staffer. Despite the author’s strident conservatism, one gets the feeling he is, nonetheless, a decent person, who could have written a less emotional, more politically sophisticated work, if he had taken the time to do so.

Liberal Education and the Modern University, by Charles Wegener. Chicago $10.95

From within the gray gothic quadrangles of the University of Chicago, Charles Wegener has written a book which deserves to be read by everyone concerned with higher education, and, perhaps, even with modern civilization itself. Mr. Wegener traces the development of the modern university and in the process seeks an answer for the question of the university’s role. Drawing on sources which range from Plato to William Rainey Harper (the first president of the University of Chicago), Wegener has made a solid effort to jog academicians from the drowsiness of self-satisfaction and to force them to reconsider the reasons for their existence.

The Arrogance of Humanism, by David Ehrenfeld. Oxford $10.95

Ehrenfeld’s argument against the humanist perspective is both logical and enlightening. Separating himself from the fanatical antiscientists, the author philosophically posits that the belief in the domination of man and reason over the world must inevitably fail because it has aggrandized man’s ego to the point where the limits of rationality and technological solutions are no longer recognized. The final result of the process toward a technologically interdependent globe will be self-destruction when a part of the mechanism fails. Although Ehrenfeld’s logic is compelling, weaknesses can be found in his overuse of examples and analogies from science fiction. Further, he understates the costs of reaching the “Amish” life-style which he feels is the best response to current conditions.

Steve Biko: Black Consciousness in South Africa, edited by Millard Arnold. Random House $12.95

For five days in May 1976, Steve Biko stood in the witness box in a Pretoria courtroom and expounded his views on being black in South Africa. Although otherwise banned, he was able to testify in behalf of nine colleagues charged with having “thoughts” antagonistic to those of the regime. This dramatic document, ably edited, was Biko’s last public statement. In September 1977 he died in prison, presumably after being savagely beaten by security police. Biko used the trial to explore and give voice to all of the frustrations and bitterness felt by his people and was so successful that the Johannesburg Star called these proceedings the “Trial of Black Consciousness.” This volume has a 25-page introduction, two appendixes (including a record of the inquest into Biko’s death), no index.

God, Church, and Flag: Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and the Catholic Church, 1950-1957, by Donald F. Crosby. North Carolina $16.95

This book is an outstanding contribution to our knowledge about public opinion as well as about the role of religion in American politics and culture. Crosby, an assistant professor of history and religious studies at the University of Santa Clara and a member of the Jesuit order, analyzes two critical variables: the tradition of anti-communism among American Catholics and shifting Catholic opinions about Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. Crosby makes a very convincing argument that the Catholic debate about McCarthy was essentially political rather than religious.God, Church, and Flag is well written and is a pleasure to read.

Duel of the Giants: China and Russia in Asia, by Drew Middleton. Scribner’s $10.95

Mr. Middleton, the well-known military correspondent of the New York Times, has had the bad luck that is the nightmare of every writer on contemporary developments: diplomatic relations between the United States and Communist China were established a little over a month after the publication of his book. Thus some of what Mr. Middleton has to say is now dated and even irrelevant. Nevertheless, it is as true now as it was before mutual recognition that Russia is China’s chief worry, and this is one area where Mr. Middleton has a great deal of common sense to impart. He is further very instructive on the state of readiness and fighting capacity of China’s armed forces, and all in all one can still read this badly-timed book with profit.

Elusive Victory: The Arab-Israeli Wars, 1947—1974, by Trevor N. Dupuy. Harper & Row $25

Elusive Victory is a comprehensive (669-page) history. Though it tends to record every engagement, however minor, it is saved from dull military monotony by Dupuy’s interweaving of the political and international events that went along with the fighting. It is always good and sometimes, such as in the Yom Kippur section, becomes even gripping. Moreover, it is significant for its examination of the “David and Goliath” myth and the extent of U. S. involvement in 1973.It is remarkably unbiased and shows the Arabs and Israelis at their best and worst in war.

What Is Sociology?, by Norbert Elias. Columbia $13.50

This is a translation of a 1970 German text written by a distinguished scholar, who left Germany with the rise of Hitler and spent several years at the University of Leicester in England (he turned 80 in 1977). Elias’s best-known contribution is his book The Civilising Process, which first appeared in Switzerland in 1939.For a nonsociologist one of the most refreshing and helpful things about the present book is that it is written (or translated into) clear English and avoids the mind-numbing gobbledygook of much sociological (and other scholarly) writing. A good introduction to the major questions asked by sociologists and to some of the answers they have provoked.

Hidden Terrors, by A. J. Langguth. Pantheon $10

This book is clearly an important expose of American involvement in brutality and torture in several Latin American dictatorships. Centering upon a former police chief of Richmond, Indiana, the author creates a fascinating story of how U. S.police advisors provided much of the technical expertise for the denial of human and political rights in Latin America. Parts of Hidden Terrors are awkwardly written, but the book is well worth reading.

The Budget and National Politics, by Dennis S. Ippolito. Freeman $6

This book is a solid introductory text about the roles of Congress and the president in the budget process. Its principal weaknesss is the lack of any analysis of the roles of interest groups. But Ippolito does an excellent job of relating budget decisions to policy issues and the general political environment. Two particularly interesting topics included in The Budget and National Politics are impoundment and national health insurance.

Injustice: The Social Bases of Obedience and Revolt, by Barrington Moore, Jr. Pantheon $17.50

Why is it that some men will docilely suffer the most outrageous oppression for generations, even centuries, and never rebel, while others in similar or even less terrible situations will rise up at the drop of a whip in brave rebellion? Who can explain the lack of any revolt in the history of the Indian untouchables? Why did some victims of the SS cooperate with their tormentors? These are the questions that Mr. Moore, in his usual wide-ranging fashion, attempts to answer in this important, disturbing book. He takes as his case study the Geman workers in the period 1848-1918, and he dares to tread where historians fear even to glance when he seeks to understand human nature. This is Mr. Moore’s finest work.

A World Split Apart, by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn. Harper & Row $6.95

This book is a bilingual transcript of Solzhenitsyn’s commencement address at Harvard University on June 8, 1978.It was, at that time, an extremely controversial pronouncement of disapprobation; today it seems prophetic with a vengence. Let us hope that Solzhenitsyn’s biting the hand that fed him world-wide fame may actually be salutory for the hand. Insightful.

POETRY Weathering, by Alastair Reid. Dutton $7.95

This is a peculiar collection, all in all. There are enough of the like of “Weathering” or “Black Holes” to lend adequate weight to the volume, for these are fine pieces wrought carefully from profound material to become elegant slivers much like “the watch/ my father’s wrist wore to a thin gold sandwich.” But it is puzzling why the poet should choose in this collected edition to keep somewhat lesser poems and even some works of distinctly inferior quality. In particular there are poems such as “Curiosity” in a form akin to an offhand essay based on rather tedious thoughts that do not crystallize. These lesser lights are in the minority, but their presence whatever disturbs the concentration one might well wish to devote to the birds of light and mystic excellence that are flushed suddenly and attractively elusive from many of the pages of this volume.

A Familiar Tree, by Jon Stallworthy. Oxford $7.95

This volume is both a series of short poems and a poetic saga of nine generations of Stallworthys. It begins with a birth in 1738 and continues beyond the poet himself. It follows Stallworthys from a Buckinghamshire parish to a Pacific island missionary outpost, thence to New Zealand and then back to England shortly before the First World War, and finally, in an envoi, to an imminent emigration to upstate New York. The saga does not take the form of a narrative but touches down at moments of transition and stress: births and deaths, departures and arrivals. Several of the constituent poems have been incorporated into the saga from earlier collections; and this method of compilation, in fact, suggests the aim of A Familiar Tree.It is an autobiography not of the poet but of his blood, in which each generation is a link, both product and progenitor; it is, in the end, the poet’s attempt to find himself in his fathers and his children, to redeem life from insect transience. From this impulse and from a certain Virgilian pietas, these poems draw vital strength.

The Storm and Other Poems, by Eugenio Montale. Field Translation Series $8.95 hardback, $3.95 paperback.

The 1975 Nobel laureate wrote this book during the Second World War and the years immediately following it when Europe was afflicted with chaos. The poet, like Orpheus, seeks what has been lost: a past feminine, mysterious, and fecund by its very human nature. He writes of his nostalgia for those rich limits in the midst of Europe’s storm; his work becomes an elegy spoken against the wind. In translating La Bufera e Altro, the poet Charles Wright succeeds admirably with Montale’s long, smooth lines and fluent images. Wright’s style is clear and direct; his language rich.

Superstitions: Poems 1971—1976, by Wong May. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $7.95

Though English is not her mother tongue, Wong May is probably one of the best young writers now writing in that language. The influence of traditional Chinese poetry merges amiably in her poems with the influence of William Carlos Williams and the postmodernists. Meaning and image coil, shift, and thicken in her work with the utmost skill. Her wit is the solid smile of the profoundly self-confident. Her irony, though sometimes unjust, is never self-destructive. She becomes angry but rarely depressed. Her thick-headed and numb-hearted cruelty, as so often in her generation, tends to masquerade as progressive politics.

A Circus of Needs, by Stephen Dunn. Carnegie-Mellon $3.95

Dunn’s style is direct, dramatic, and compelling; his strength lies in a glossy surface sparked by sudden perceptive insights. His subjects take in the garden variety of compulsions and obsessions, pithy fables of modern society, glimpses of city life, the anxiety of everyday experience, the struggle to assert personal values against convention. The tone shifts easily from amusement to pathos, the voice flows with chatty colloquial asides. These poems are quickly read and enjoyed but, unfortunately, not significantly distinguished from many other good verses written in this conversational/surreal vein. However, modesty is part of Dunn’s charm; he describes his writing, in the title poem, as “just these private little efforts to fulfill himself”—an attitude which adds to the attractiveness of his third collection.

Rivers and Mountains, by John Ashbery. Ecco Press $3.50

What an ear! What an evasive sensibility! Wallace Stevens mingles with Frank O’Hara and Kenneth Koch. Pop Art marries Ezra Pound. Who in America sings more sweetly or teasingly than Ashbery? In him is magnificently merged the warm low and icy high of American tradition, P.


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