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Notes on Current Books, Spring 1984

ISSUE:  Spring 1984

For anyone who has not read Faulkner and who wishes to read and understand his works, Cleanth Brooks provides an easy entrance. He lays down the plans and explains the characters and the actions in the stories and the novels in clear and simple terms. He stresses the importance of reading his commentaries closely along with the stories and novels themselves, and he is right in that. He is right, too, in the importance he lays on reading Faulkner not as a regional writer but as one whose “themes are finally universal human issues and [whose] characters have a relevance to basic humanity.” First Encounters is a good and useful guide. Follow Brooks and you won’t go wrong.

The Poetry of Thomas Hardy: A Study in Art and Ideas, by William E. Buckler. New York University $27.50

This touching survival of an earlier critical era, of the heyday of New Criticism, the heresy of paraphrase, and the inseparability of matter and manner, reads into the corpus of Hardy’s verse these, its own critical commitments, and so makes of Hardy the touchstone for what always stood just beneath the deceptively objective facade of New-Critical orthodoxy: belief in art as secular religion, reading as redemptive, poetic experience as leading the soul to an indescribable but somehow solacing accommodation with the fallen world. Buckler does have some useful things to say about Hardy’s relation to the procedures of dramatic monologue, and makes some happy remarks in his (not very close) readings of particular poems. But overwhelmingly, this book gives the sense of the Victorianist become the Victorian, seeking to allay his agnostic unease by converting form into substance, art into spirituality.

Feminist Critics Read Emily Dickinson, edited by Suzanne Juhasz. Indiana $17.50

Emily Dickinson was made to order for feminist criticism, though she has had to wait a long time for it. It was not until 1978 and 1979 that Suzanne Juhasz encountered feminist essays on Dickinson, eight of which she has collected here. “The central assumption of feminist criticism is that gender informs the nature of art, the nature of biography, and the relation between them.” The essays range in title from “The Wayward Nun beneath the Hill” to the single piece by a man, “Notes on Sleeping with Emily Dickinson.” Some of these essays are more interesting and better written than others, but the approach of all to Emily Dickinson is interesting, imaginative, and frequently leads the reader back to the poems themselves, to see them in a new and clearer light.

Exile and Change in Renaissance Literature, by A. Bartlett Giamatti. Yale $14.95

When he was a professor of English, Bart Giamatti sketched the contours of what could have been a major literary study. He planned to explore the impact of the Italian Renaissance, on the Renaissance in England. Unfortunately, Giamatti moved from the English faculty to the presidency of Yale, and left literary studies behind. Now, after 15 years, he has resurrected seven essays that reveal the direction of his aborted study. The papers deal with two ubiquitous themes in the Renaissance: the notion of change and the idea of life as an incomplete journey, where identity is discovered only by those in exile from home. Giamatti’s prose is charmingly fluid as he wanders among concepts of chivalry, illusion, and the nature of the epic. Individually, the essays are intriguing and suggestive. They make one hope that Giamatti will return to literary study to complete his interrupted task.

Milton’s Puritan Masque, by Maryann Cale McGuire. Georgia $20

While not so innovative in using social history to illuminate Comus as it claims to be, and while displaying remarkable partisanship for Caroline Puritans against their supposed Royalist oppressors, Milton’s Puritan Masque is a useful reading of Comus against the background of contemporary debate about “sports” (recreation in general). McGuire argues persuasively for Comus as educative vehicle for both characters and reader and makes clearer than heretofore its relation to the Jonsonian masque tradition. Her final chapter on “Chastity,” while not new, contains the best summary anywhere of what that term meant to Milton.

Aspects of Dramatic Form in the English and Irish Renaissance, by Muriel Bradbrook. Barnes & Noble $26. 75

One’s immediate impression upon reading through Professor Bradbrook’s collection of essays, written over half a century, is the wide range of her interests and competence as a critic of drama. This collection includes valuable essays on Shakespeare, Webster, and other 17th-century dramatists, and concludes with studies of Yeats and Beckett. Professor Bradbrook is especially perceptive when she analyzes the way English Renaissance drama absorbed and responded to the genres that nourished it—the lyric, epyllion, the chronicle—or when she reconstructs the social and theatrical circumstances of a forgotten play like Peele’s The Old Wives’ Tale. Her deep knowledge of Elizabethan literature emerges most strikingly in her essay, “Yeats and the Elizabethans,” where she analyzes the influence of Spenser, Shakespeare, and the ballad tradition on Yeats’ poetry and suggests that the development of Elizabethan love poetry from a “high Petrarchan idealism” to “a sharp and bitter poetry” is mirrored in Yeats’ own artistic development.

Shelley Revalued: Essays from the Gregynog Conference, edited by Kelvin Everest. Barnes & Noble $28.50

The ten essays in this volume are derived from two conferences on Shelley held in Great Britain in 1978 and 1980.The volume’s title is perhaps overambitious: as good as some of these essays are, they are not likely to bring about any radical change in the way we view Shelley. Several of the essays are rather conventional scholarly exercises, on such subjects as “Shelley’s Early Letters” or “Shelley and Erasmus Darwin.” Only one of the essays, “Deconstruction Criticism and Shelley’s “Adonais,”” has a genuinely radical ring to it, and even it is (mercifully) rather tame by current critical standards. Probably the best of the essays is Marilyn Butler’s “Myth and Mythmaking in the Shelley Circle,” an insightful treatment of the mythic poetry of Shelley’s friend, Thomas Love Peacock. In sum, this volume will certainly be of interest to Shelley scholars, but it does not mark any sort of turning point in Shelley criticism.

Lukács Reappraised, edited by Agnes Heller. Columbia $25 cloth, $12 paper

One would be hard-pressed to find an American philosopher today who pays much attention to the Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukács. He is much more important in European intellectual circles. This collection brings together the studies of several Hungarian scholars, who investigate Lukács’ Ontology, one of his least-understood works. There are also essays on Lukács and Ernst Bloch, Lukács and Irma Seidler, Lukács and Edmund Husserl. The very names will perplex all but the most careful of American students, but this may reflect our isolation more than our ignorance.

Style and Consciousness in Middle English Narrative, by John M. Ganim. Princeton $23

Through brief studies of various medieval narrative poems, including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Troilus and Criseyde, Lydgate’s Siege of Thebes, and Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid, Ganim offers a convincing assessment of several major features of English narrative from the 12th through 15th centuries. The author’s approach to such topics as the importance of temporality and the implication of the reader in the text should be familiar to any student of Renaissance literature; considered in the context of the English Middle Ages, the ideas prove just as stimulating.

Innovation/Renovation: New Perspectives in the Humanities, edited by Ihab Hassan and Sally Hassan. Wisconsin $27.50

This collection of essays on cultural change, artistic innovation, and the character of postmodernism is host to many eminent writers, including Herbert Blau, Wayne C. Booth, Ralph Cohen, Leslie Fiedler, Geoffrey Hartmann, and Norman Holland. As is characteristic of one of its editors, Ihab Hassan, this volume is bold, filled with new speculations, and boasts many approaches and many topics: sociological, feminist, and psychoanalytic perspectives on change; theses on literary history, performance theory, and models of change. The result is a wide range of reading that usually rewards the effort to engage displinary fields that are often unfamiliar.

The Visual Text of William Carlos Williams, by Henry M. Sayre. Illinois $12.95

Sayre sets out to correct the notion that Williams’ theory of verse values auditory arrangement, speech, and organicism over visual design, writing, and mechanical imposition of form on material. He distinguishes between graphic patterns which stanzas make on a page and visual presentations which images make to the mind’s eye. Most persuasive are chapters in which Sayre considers the influence on Williams of various ideologies of modern visual art. His discussion of stanzas and graphic patterns is useful but a bit simplistic and reductive.

T. S. Eliot and the Poetics of Literary History, by Gregory S. Jay. Louisiana $27.50

Although somewhat more ambitious in conception than in execution, this is a timely and valuable book that conscientiously endeavors to escape the usual choosing up of sides so characteristic of Eliot studies. Jay employs deconstructionist and psychoanalytic theory in order to disclose what he sees as “the silenced logic behind the manifest content of Eliot’s polemics.” His focus is therefore not on Eliot’s own pronouncements about discontinuities but on discontinuities within Eliot’s work itself. Jay’s work is noteworthy in that, while avoiding explication de texte, it nevertheless resists the usual deconstructionist conclusion that contradictions preclude meaning.

HISTORYSouthern Progressivism: The Reconciliation of Progress and Tradition, by Dewey W. Grantham. Tennessee $35

No reader of this book can ever doubt that Southern progressivism was a strong, diverse, and important force in the South of the early 20th century. Dewey Grantham provides an encyclopedic account of the various faces of the movement—from railroad regulation to prohibition, from disfranchisement to farm demonstration wagons. He has surveyed a vast amount of material and presented it in a balanced and lucid way. There is little here that will startle, but Southern history will be the richer for this accounting of the background, manifestation, and achievements of the first wave of reform in the region.

The Birth of a New Europe: State and Society in the Nineteenth Century, by Theodore S. Hamerow. North Carolina $29.95

Drawing upon a wealth of literary and statistical sources, Hamerow produces a unique and important synthetic view of European history. After a succinct analysis of the tremendous economic changes wrought by the 19th century, he explores the social, political, and diplomatic developments of the period, showing how each was profoundly influenced by the consequences of the Industrial Revolution. This remarkably wide-ranging study will be useful to students and specialists for many years to come.

The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission, by Martin Middlebrook. Scribner’s $22.50

The Spitfire escort had to turn back south and slightly west of Brussels. The P-47’s could make it farther, to just beyond Liège; and then the B-17’s were on their own. The great raid of Aug.17, 1943, saw all the Flying Fortresses available in Europe thrown into the carefully planned attack that was supposed to prove the Allies capable of striking targets deep inside Germany. The result was disaster. Colonel Curtis LeMay lost 24 of his bombers; other commanders suffered even heavier losses. The targets were hit but not destroyed. The myth of air power was tarnished. This is a splendid account of the great raids.

White Land, Black Labor: Caste and Class in Late Nineteenth-Century Georgia, by Charles L. Flynn, Jr. Louisiana $20

Charles L. Flynn has written a frustrating book, frustrating because it has very real insights obscured within poor organization and, in his phrase, “conceptual mushiness.” As the subtitle suggests, this book is an attempt to analyze the relationship between class and race in the New South. Since virtually all the most influential recent histories of the region have stressed class over race, Flynn tends to come down more heavily on the side of racial conflict as the source of Southern poverty and turmoil. He has a point, of course; but when it is not lost in awkwardly constructed chapters, it tends to obscure the important gains made by those who perceive class and race as complementary rather than mutually exclusive categories.

The Railroaders, by Stuart Leuthner. Random House $19.95

This work of oral history records the recollections of 33 railroad men who worked for many of the nation’s great lines through the middle of this century. Those interviewed include engineers, brakemen, and porters—collectively, the heroes of the golden age of railroading. The tone of this nicely illustrated book is informal, and it is obviously designed to appeal to a popular audience. Nevertheless, these vignettes contain interesting insights into American labor and social history. Had not the author crisscrossed the country in search of the last of a vanishing breed, the experiences of these railroaders would have been lost to future generations of train enthusiasts and historians.

Decade of Shocks, by Tom Shachtman. Poseidon Press $16.95

The author’s historical insights into the significance of the sixties are clouded by his personal perceptions of the decade. Shachtman confesses he is a member of the “baby boom” generation and that his understanding of current events was shaped by television news reporting. His emphasis on “shocks,” such as political assassinations, riots, and war, demonstrates the influence of media sensationalism on his analysis. While the sixties were marked by an unusual degree of disruption, they nonetheless must be placed within the larger context of American history. This the author has failed to do. Though Shachtman accurately depicts the crises of the decade and explains the dilemmas faced by the younger generation, the larger historical significance of the sixties remains unexplored.

Black Southerners, 1619—1869, by John Boles. Kentucky $24

This may well be the best brief account of the development of American slavery. John Boles presents a clear, balanced, and sensitive synthesis of the vast literature of Anglo-American and Southern history. The author has no particular ax to grind, and he takes the best from the various schools of Southern history. The greatest virtue of the book is its emphasis on change over time, a feature notably lacking in previous accounts. Although one longs for specific notes to some of the fascinating material Boles offers, he does include a useful bibliographic essay. We can only hope we will see an affordable paperback edition of this book, for it should be widely read.

The Defense of Community in Peru’s Central Highlands, by Florencia E. Mallon. Princeton, $32.50 cloth, $14.50 paper

Dr. Mallon writes with grace and a certain flourish, and her social history is consequently a joy to read. Her goal here is to tell how self-sufficient and autonomous peasant villages in Peru came under the spell of capitalism in the years from 1860 to 1940.Though it is easy to be misled by the fact that present-day villages seem to flourish in the ancient way, Dr. Mallon assures us that capitalism has deeply divided the peasantry into a rural proletariat and an agricultural bourgeoisie. This book is a little gem of Latin American social history.

The Great Frontier, by William H. McNeill. Princeton $13.95

In these essays, Professor McNeill has taken Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis” of American history and adapted it to explain the global expansionism that began in 1492 and continued into this century. He concludes that technological superiority and an advanced immunological system enabled Europeans to conquer and settle large areas in North and South America, Asia, and Australia. Unlike Turner, however, the author does not view the frontier as a proving ground for democracy, but rather he sees it as a hierarchical society that looked to slaves, serfs, and indentured servants to solve pressing labor problems. McNeill’s global application of the frontier thesis is in refreshing contrast to the more parochial approaches of other American historians. He has bolstered his conclusions by borrowing from the disciplines of the ecologist and the demographer. This short book should prove to be a seminal work in world historiography.

Economy and Foreign Policy: The Struggle of the Great Powers for Hegemony in the Danube Valley, 1919—1939, by György Ránki. Columbia $25

When the old Hapsburg Empire fell to the knife of nationalism and Wilsonism after World War I, most people simply assumed that the bureaucrats would speak new languages and the officials wear new uniforms but that everything would go on pretty much as before. It did not work out that way. Germany quickly established economic domination over the Danube Basin. France was squeezed out, Italy became a German puppet in the mid-1930s, and the new states had to make a choice: bow to Germany or be made to bow to Germany. This is an interesting account of that melancholy process.

The Virginia Militia in the Seventeenth Century, by William L. Shea. Louisiana $20

This narrative can be more aptly described as a history of skirmishes with the Indians in 17th-century Virginia. The militia as a distinct institution is simply not developed. Nor, despite claims made on the book’s jacket, are the reasons why the militia’s membership divided over Bacon’s Rebellion adequately explained. Perhaps archival material on this subject is sparse. In any case one is left with the impression that the author struggled to find enough data to justify publishing a book. Unfortunately, he was not successful.

Germany, Russia, and the Balkans: Prelude to the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, by Marilynn Giroux Hitchens. Columbia $27.50

The rivalry between Teuton and Slav to fill the Balkan power vacuum left by the recession of the Grand Turk toward Constantinople began in the time of Catherine the Great. It had not ended when the strongest German ruler since Frederick the Great, Hitler, determined to solve the problem once and for all by taking both the Balkans and Russia. Ms. Hitchens has written a splendid scholarly account of the deadly rivalry of the 1930’s.

A Social and Religious History of the Jews, by Salo Wittmayer Baron. Columbia $35

The 18th volume in this vast history of the Jews, this work focuses on the Ottoman Empire, Persia, Ethiopia, India, and China, 1200—1650.A subject little known by most western students, Baron’s gracefully narrated account contains a wealth of information about the Jews in the Orient. Unfortunately, the editors of the series have chosen to place the indices in a separate volume. Despite a very detailed table of contents, the owner/reader of a single volume is prevented from efficiently using it as the valuable reference work it could be.

Terrorists and Social Democrats: The Russian Revolutionary Movement under Alexander III, by Norman M. Naimark. Harvard $25

Until Naimark’s book we have had few studies of the reign of Alexander III, father of Nicholas II. The period 1881—1894 seemed a kind of interlude between the Great Reforms and the last reign, and scholars paid little attention to it. Using the old Tsarist archives as few researchers have, Naimark here systematically uncovers the split of the revolutionary movement into the terrorists, heirs of an ancient tradition, and the new Marxist groups, the Social Democrats. An excellent, pioneering work.

LIVES & LETTERSThe Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, by John Milton Cooper. Harvard $20

To label Cooper’s study of Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt a “comparative biography” understates its breadth and depth. True, the author has provided his reader with all the ingredients we have come to expect in successful biographies, including a crisp narrative and subtle psychological insights. But this book is also a wide-ranging history, one in which we see Wilson and Roosevelt through the eyes of a professional historian. Throughout this work, Cooper contends—and does so successfully—with the larger questions of the impact of these two contemporaries on 20th-century American foreign policy and on domestic politics. As a political biography, The Warrior and the Priest is a work of the highest quality; as a comparative biography, it is a landmark effort that others will surely try to emulate.

Vanessa Bell, by Frances Spalding. Ticknor & Fields $22.95

In 1904 Vanessa Bell wrote, apropos of a biography of her father, Leslie Stephen, that was being written: “I’m glad that I shall never be celebrated enough to have my life written.” Now it has been—and high time, too. Of the two Stephen sisters, by far the greater attention has been focused on the younger, Virginia Woolf. So the painter, the more colorful of the two, should be given a little of her just due. This biography by Frances Spalding is full, informative, sympathetic, and, over and beyond all that, exceedingly well-written, in a polished but not cold style. Spalding’s closing sentence perhaps summarizes Vanessa Bell as well as any one sentence can: “Even amid company at Charleston, when surrounded by a sensuous concord of line, form and colour, she emitted a remarkable contained and containing power; it translated an essentially tragic love into a lasting, creative union; it caused Virginia to liken Vanessa to “a bowl of golden water which brims but never overflows.”“

The Tolstoys: Twenty-Four Generations of Russian History, 1353—1983, by Nikolai Tolstoy. Morrow $22.50

It stretches credulity to claim that any family can bear close scrutiny over time. The Tolstoys (the name means “fat”) are no exception. They have had one great writer, a few middle-level bureaucrats, and very many very ordinary citizens. Perhaps this is why the current head of the family, Nikolai, tends to slide over most of his ancestors and concentrate upon those who won notoriety one way or another. If Nikolai could write the English language, this might even be modestly interesting, but he cannot. This is farce masquerading as crackpottery.

Vita, by Victoria Glendinning. Knopf $17.95

One might have thought that the story of V. Sackville-West as unfolded in Portrait of a Marriage, which her son, Nigel Nicolson, based on her 1920 autobiography and expanded to cover the whole story of her life and marriage, would have been sufficient. Victoria Glendinning proves this wrong in her long, detailed, and interpretive biography of this remarkable woman— more remarkable as woman than as writer. “The first great sorrow of her life,” writes Glendinning, “was that, by an accident of gender, Knole could never be hers; the second, the realization that she was not a “great” writer. . . . I would like her story to be read as an adventure story.” And so the story is told: an adventure in heredity, in personal relations, both conventional and unconventional, and also an adventure in the creation of gardens, first at Long Barn and afterward at Sissinghurst, this latter a creation which still survives, more vitally perhaps than any of her novels and poems.

One Christmas, by Truman Capote. Random House $12.95

There is nothing wrong with schmaltz so long as it is well written. Clearly Truman Capote is one of America’s greatest writers of tearful nostalgic memoirs. Here, for a third time, Mr. Capote uses the holiday season in-the exploration of a Southern boyhood. But this time the youngster is made to learn about drunkenness, divorce, even gigolos. This is not the stuff of schmaltz, but on the other hand the narrative never rises to the level of social realism. One Christmas, is, then, a failure of the middle ground.

Marx: An Introduction, by W. A. Suchting. New York University $30 cloth, $11.50 paper

One would think we need another biography of Marx about as much as an extra snowstorm, but it is a measure of Marx’s continuing fascination that about ten new studies appear each year. One of the better recent ones is this account by Mr. Suchting, a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Sydney. After the drivel inflicted upon us by the likes of G.D.H. Cole, George Lichtheim, and Herbert Marcuse, not to mention Franz Mehring, this study is refreshingly simple and direct. It does not have all the answers and it is often wrong; but it is, as the author acknowledges, only an introduction.

The Man You Loved to Hate, by Richard Koszarski. Oxford $13.95

Subtitled “Erich von Stroheim and Hollywood,” this study—by the author of an award-winning documentary on the same subject—is the first based on thorough archival research and in-depth interviews with von Stroheim’s family and colleagues. As such, it sheds important new light on his rags-to-riches-to-rags career, the development and nature of his art as actor, screenwriter, and director. Of particular interest to film buffs are the analyses of Stroheim’s unproduced projects, variant treatments of his completed works, and original conceptions later truncated by the studios, whose inner workings are described in chilling detail.

Dashiell Hammett, A Life, by Diane Johnson. Random House $17.95

It was a life on a roller coaster, a wildly erratic movement from an early existence as drifter, convalescent, soldier, detective to the roles of family man, artist, celebrity, alcoholic, and political prisoner. The man himself was a curious mixture of integrity, decadence, and what appears to be sheer laziness. He wrote several of the most interesting and influential romantic novels of the century in a period of four years, then ceased writing altogether, even though he advertised and exploited his reputation as a writer for the rest of his life. He remained committed, often at cost to himself, to the Left, yet lived in the style of a capitalist playboy. His achievement as an artist seems to have meant about as much to him spiritually as did his two tours of duty in the Army, and he managed to sustain a strange distance from the potential raffishness and adventure of his own experience. Maybe he just didn’t have any real depth. The revelations and explanations his admirers have long awaited do not emerge here, but that is not the fault of the author. Her narrative is full, intelligent, and sympathetic—marred only by her tendency from time to time to sound unnervingly like John Dos Passos at his coyest.

Turgenev’s Letters, selected, translated and edited by A.V. Knowles. Scribner’s $30

Ivan Turgenev was one of the great 19th-century letter writers, and this new collection shows him at his best. The art began to die out soon after his death in 1883, as the telephone began to come into ever wider use. He wrote to everyone who was anyone in the arts in Russia, the German states, and France, and he brought them the precious gift of real communication. A civilized, kind, and thoroughly decent man, Turgenev graced his time. Those who knew him were fortunate, as are we who can share with them a bit of this gentle soul.

Final Dress, by John Houseman. Simon & Schuster $19.95

This, the third volume of the actor-director’s autobiography, lacks the drama of its predecessors, but it is no less brilliantly styled or rich in fact and perception concerning this history of American theater and film. Of special interest is the account of Houseman’s acting debut in Paper Chase, which led almost inevitably to his professorial huckstering for Smith, Barney and Puritan salad oil. A fascinating, low-key diversion.

Baudelaire the Damned, by F. W. J. Hemmings. Scribner’s $17.95

Hemmings examines Baudelaire’s life from the point of view made by the poet in 1854: “I am convinced that my life has been damned from the start, and always will be.” He has produced a richly endowed study which focuses on new perspectives in Baudelaire’s personality and literary production. He makes excellent use of new source materials which have come to light in the last 15 years. When quoting from Baudelaire’s poetry, Hemmings gives us verse translations which preserve remarkably well the poet’s rhyming schemes and original meters. Highly recommended.

Pasternak: A Biography, by Ronald Hingley. Knopf $17.95

As Mr. Hingley points out in his introduction, it is not easy to write a biography of a man who deliberately made things difficult for his biographers. Pasternak destroyed most of his correspondence, kept few records of—for example—the way he made his living, and had a fairly tight-lipped circle of acquaintances. The biographer is therefore left with fragmentary information and of course the corpus of the poet’s published work. Mr. Hingley is a better and perhaps more sensitive writer than his predecessors; and while he brings little new light to the subject, he recounts a familiar story in a most agreeable manner.

The Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec-W. H. B Sands Correspondence, edited by Herbert D. Schimmel and Phillip Denise Cate. Dodd, Mead $35

The publishers have cleverly taken 55 brief letters between Lautrec and his English publisher and puffed them into a pleasing, if not exciting, book. The letters concern the production of Lautrec’s English Yvette Guilbert series and the less widely known album of actors and actresses Treize Lithographies. Both albums are illustrated here along with their sources in photoportraits. Transcriptions of the original French letters, a concordance, and selective bibliography are also included.

The Percys of Mississippi: Politics and Literature in the New South, by Lewis Baker. Louisiana $20

Walker Percy is famous today for his novels of the contemporary South, and students of Southern history have long been familiar with William Alexander Percy’s evocative memoir, Lanterns on the Levee. Both men came from an old Mississippi Delta family, with ancestors prominent in the Civil War, Reconstruction, and New South eras. All this would seem likely material for a collective biography, and Lewis Baker’s narrative has it moments. In general, though, the book is pedestrian and poorly integrated. Readers curious about the family would do better to read any of the novels by Walker Percy or his Uncle Will’s beautifully crafted autobiography.

FICTIONThe First Man on the Sun, by R. H. W. Dillard. Louisiana $19.95

Call this novel a tapestry, and still not be entirely sure that it may not rather have the textural complexity of a collage, composed as it is of humor and science, a collection of poetry within the novel, sheer reality, and fantastic imagination. What makes clear that Dillard’s latest is a tapestry and work of art is the tightly woven vision, as inseparable from the medium of language as a weaving from its threads. Dillard reveals the uncanny perceptivity of his mind and agility of expression. The novel is innovative in design and execution and delightful in wit and wisdom. The First Man on the Sun settles once and for all how much the student Annie owes to her masterful teacher.

LaBrava, by Elmore Leonard. Arbor House $14.95

If you haven’t yet discovered Elmore Leonard, try this one. The author of Stick, Swag, Unknown Man No.89, and a slew of other first-rate books here gives us Joe LaBrava, former Secret Service agent who used to while away the hours guarding Bess Truman. Semiretired and dabbling in photography in Miami, LaBrava meets an aging film seductress who has trouble distinguishing past from present and cinema from reality. A couple of sleazy characters—who speak in the lingo that Leonard has mastered as few writers ever have— seem to have designs on the actress’s fortune, which does not exist, and LaBrava goes to work. Great fun by a major writer.

More Collected Stories, by V. S. Pritchett. Random House $17.95

In 1982 V. S. Pritchett’s Collected Stories achieved phenomenal critical and popular success. There is no reason to believe that this new collection should not follow suit. Certainly it is well worth owning as a companion to the earlier collection. We can only assume that Pritchett omitted these stories the first time around because he did not consider them his absolute finest. Indeed, there are no pieces in this newer volume to compare with a masterpiece such as “When My Girl Comes Home.” Still, Pritchett’s second-best is far superior to the very best of almost anyone else.

Fools of Fortune, by William Trevor. Viking $13.95

Trevor’s finest novel to date is the story of Willie Quinton, who survives the horrifying destruction of his Irish family and home. It is the story of his English cousin, Marianne, whose love for Willie feeds from the ruins when she lives amidst them during his long absence. Finally it is the story of Imelda, Willie and Marianne’s illegitimate daughter, who represents the love that, together with time’s passing, becomes an agent of redemption for everyone from a host of miseries. But Fools of Fortune is far more than any tale of love or domestic tragedy and triumph. Bearing the weight of Ireland’s turbulent history, the novel’s violence—Willie’s violence—merges with mystery and myth to become, finally, a legend in its own right.

Mysteries of Motion, by Hortense Calisher. Doubleday $17.95

This science-fiction fable is alternately intriguing, terrifying, confusing. On one level it portrays an environmental nightmare: an earth so toxified with pollution that nothing can live long or well. Another level tells us of a journey into the barely known—a space shuttle voyage for one hundred travelers who would escape the dying planet. On yet a third level, it is a wandering through the psychological labyrinth of seven intersecting personalities. These seven are sometimes difficult to track because of the complex web of relationships Calisher reveals to us, and because two of them share the same unlikely name. They are, however, the glue that holds this wide-ranging and haunting tale together.

The Hungry Angel, by Roger Vadim. Atheneum $14.95

The reader will have to decide whether he or she is, in the first place, interested in a novel by the man who discovered Brigitte Bardot and Jane Fonda. If that be a hurdle, and if it is overcome, there is another: the first 30 or so pages read like something out of Miss So-and-So’s 10th-grade creative writing class. But then a treasure unfolds in the form of the saga of a young man coming of age in Paris in 1943—46.It is a fascinating study in virtually undisguised autobiography. This is life in the Paris of the triumphant GI, the Left Bank artist and intellectual, the apache. Forget the actresses and the shaky start: this is a pretty good novel.

The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde, by Peter Ackroyd. Harper & Row $12.95

This novel purports to give the thoughts and feelings of Oscar Wilde during the last four months of his life, August through November 1900.The author has absorbed as best he could the cadence and mood of Wilde’s style and has concocted in Wilde’s name a diary which speaks of his present and veers back frequently into his past. The book is as well done as it might be, given the need to do it at all.

The Franchise, by Peter Gent. Villard $16.95

Ex-professional athlete Peter Gent has reached into his own bag of experience to put together another novel about pro football. Like his first success, North Dallas Forty, The Franchise drops the reader squarely within the inner sanctums of sport. We see the pain-ridden, drug-tainted giants of Monday Night Football at close range, and hear the crass and venal moneymongers who orchestrate the weekly rituals of violence. The picture is not pretty but probably accurate. The message, if there is one, is simple: Moma don’t let your sons grow up to play football.

The Philosopher’s Pupil, by Iris Murdoch. Viking $17.75

The imaginative fiction of Iris Murdoch possesses an enigmatic quality that is both pleasant and disturbing. At first the story and characters seem boring and banal, yet, almost unnoticed, a tremendous fascination develops. This fascination is difficult to explain, but compelling nonetheless. Ms. Murdoch’s insistence on picturing every event from each character’s viewpoint impresses the reader with the almost unending complexity of human behavior. This complexity creates a disturbing necessity to reflect often on what occurs. The book is deceptive at first glance and deserves a careful reading.

The Stories of William Trevor, by William Trevor. Penguin Books $8.95

With the publication of this grand volume of stories—five complete collections, two of which are appearing in print for the first time in this country—Trevor, a native Irishman now living in England, ought finally to receive here the attention disgracefully overdue him. These stories prove Trevor to be one of the most distinguished and prolific prose writers currently writing in English. An awareness of the past permeates his work, particularly his later stories. That his characters’ struggles often reflect Ireland’s troubled history never distracts from but rather deepens those characters and their ordeals. Nearly 800 pages of important short fiction, this volume is a rare prize.

China Gate, by William Arnold. Random House $15.95

In this first novel, the author would have us believe that a 16-year-old American, son of a former Taipan of Shanghai, successfully used old-fashioned capitalistic knowhow to control the entire Taiwanese black market as a prelude to organizing the largest drug-smuggling operation in history, becoming the most powerful person in all Asia. No way. The publisher would then have us believe that the author is as satisfactory a storyteller as his professional contemporaries such as James Clavell and Herbert Wouk. Not so.

McGarr and the P. M. of Belgrave Square, by Bartholomew Gill. Viking $13.95

With each new McGarr novel, Gill hones his craft and gains a wider audience. This, the fifth in what promises to be a long and successful series, begins with an untidy corpse and leads to a satisfactory conclusion through the warrens of IRA politics, the French art world, and as always, Dublin. Inspector McGarr is his usual quietly competent self, a bit frayed around the edges maybe but all the keener on the scent of the murderer for that. Splendid fare.

The Collected Stories of Colette, edited by Robert Phelps. Farrar, Straus & Girous $19.95

This collection of short stories by Colette includes 31 never before available in English. Many are vintage Colette, illustrating her ability to capture in her prose a wide range of human emotions. Colette’s life spanned an era of cultural and sexual upheaval in France, a transformation that is reflected in her stories. She is at her best when describing the alienation and despondency of characters reacting to changes in their lives. This volume is a welcome addition to the present English-language editions of Colette’s novels, short stories, and autobiographical works.

The Children’s Game, by David Wise. St. Martin’s $14.95

An acknowledged authority on the American-intelligence and national-security apparatus brings an aura of authenticity to this spy thriller about a former agent who is recalled to duty to unearth a mole in the C.I.A., in the course of which the old boy network is more troublesome than the KGB. Tight dialogue, poetic prose, a plausible plot and a spine-chilling climax make this the espionage novel of the year.

Rates of Exchange, by Malcolm Bradbury. Knopf $13.95

The author of the well-received Eating People Is Wrong and The History Man now gives us a kind of Braver New World. Professor Angus Petworth, who a bit too cutely becomes Pitwit, Pervert, or Petwurt to his hosts in Slaka, is a bumbling sort who really ought to have stayed home with a nice cup of tea. By going behind the Iron Curtain he has to learn a new language, when all he really meant to do was to talk about his own. Anthony Burgess got away with this sort of thing, but Mr. Bradbury does not bring it off. His linguistic pyrotechnics all too soon weary the reader. A disappointment.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRSAmerica’s Unwritten Constitution: Science, Religion, and Political Responsibility, by Don K. Price Louisiana $19.95

The British parliamentary system has recurrently fascinated American constitutional thinkers as a likely alternative to Madison’s government of “opposite and rival interests.” But in this essay about the religious, scientific, and political bases of authority in America, Don K. Price shows the folly of attempting to transplant the British model to America by constitutional reform. Price finds that America’s “unwritten constitution,” far more than its “written constitution,” is the root cause for incoherence in policy and the major obstacle to responsible, effective, and disciplined government. He persuasively connects the ideas of religious dissenters and scientists in colonial America to more recent prejudices against the kind of delegation of executive authority that is needed for party discipline and administrative coordination. His call, therefore, is for “constitutional” reform of a kind few previous writers have anticipated.

Dixie Dateline: A Journalistic Portrait of the Contemporary South, edited by John B. Boles. Rice $12.95

For the last 25 years or so sociologists, historians, and journalists have kept themselves busy monitoring the faltering- life signs of the South. No sooner had the Civil Rights Movement wound down and a measure of prosperity come to the South in the 1970’s than pundits declared “the South” dead and “the Sunbelt” born. It all depends, of course, on where you look, and most of the journalists in this collection look at the Miracle Miles, the oil fields, and the museums, where “the South” is indeed hard to see. Their analysis, in general, is shallow, their perceptions commonplace. Journalism may simply be inadequate to the task of unraveling the complexity of long-term change in the South; a society 350 years in the making does not disappear overnight.

Japan’s High Schools, by Thomas P. Rohlen. California $10.95

This is a very timely sociological-anthropological study of the Japanese high school system and why it is so successful in turning out young technocrats. Rohlen provides a running comparison of the Japanese and American systems, and finds, not surprisingly, that each is designed to reinforce its country’s social, political, and cultural values. Rohlen concludes that the basic factor which shapes, structures, and directs the Japanese high school experience is the college entrance examination; teaching is oriented toward the kind of rote memorization of facts which will serve Japanese students best on this test. An excellent narrative description of all aspects of Japanese high-school life is presented, yet the weakest part of the study may be the datedness of some of its data. Many of Rohlen’s findings stem from observations of five Kobe-area high schools (including Nada, Japan’s finest private high school) made in 1974—75.It is unfortunate that such a topical study would have to rely on nine-year-old data.

The Making of the New Deal: The Insiders Speak, by Katie Louchheim. Harvard $20

Mrs. Louchheim moved to Washington in 1934 with her husband, who had been hired by the new Securities and Exchange Commission; she had a front-row seat on the New Deal. As such, this edited collection of oral histories and interviews provides a wide-ranging, unstructured but entertaining glimpse at some of the issues and personalities surrounding the New Deal era. The contributors include many familiar names: James Rowe, Paul Freund, Thomas Corcoran, Alger Hiss, Claude Pepper, Abe Fortas, Richard Boiling, Lady Bird Johnson, Richard Strout. The subjects and issues addressed are just as diverse, ranging from the campaign of 1932 to Eleanor Roosevelt to the Tennessee Valley Authority. This book will appeal most to those who enjoy reminiscing about the Roosevelt years.

The Future of Industrial Societies: Convergence or Continuing Diversity?, by Clark Kerr. Harvard $16.50

A higher GNP per capita does not automatically improve the physical quality of life of a people, and indeed it can be shown that a little less material wealth can actually foster beneficial economies and more rational allocation of resources. The most respected American student of industrialism shows in this remarkable book that we may have to use some new indices to determine how much industrialization benefits a nation and that we ought to recognize that no major nonideological issue separates one industrialized nation from another. Very highly recommended.

The Bomb and European Security, by Guido Vigeveno. Indiana $12.95

A staunch defender of the modernization and strengthening of NATO’s nuclear capabilities, Vigeveno gives an account of the issues and recent history of U.S.-Soviet arms reduction talks. Supporting his text with clear and understandable charts and tables, the author provides more of a primer on the arms race than a polemic presenting his views of it. This work should interest both advocates and opponents of the current missile deployment in Europe.

On Reagan: The Man and His Presidency, by Ronnie Dugger. McGraw-Hill $19.95

If you want help in making up your mind on the election of 1984, this is a comprehensive assessment of the Reagan record, written with punch and style, with important new insight and information that can help you decide. The book is concerned not with Reagan’s personality but with his policies. It is not a personal biography but a policy biography, an analysis and discussion of what Reagan is doing as president, against the background of his career and his ideas. After a biographical sketch and a discussion of Reagan’s people in Washington, each chapter in this book is given to one issue or a group of related controversies, with a closing chapter of commentaries and an appendix drawn from Reagan’s radio broadcasts. However, the subject of the penultimate chapter, Reagan’s fateful acceleration of the nuclear arms race, is immeasurably more important than all the other issues combined.

The Land of Israel, by Amos Oz. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $12.95

Israel’s foremost novelist probes in this powerful book the painful questions facing a divided people. Oz shows how the pluralism of political life in his country has enlarged the gulfs separating the Sephardim and Ashkenazim, the secular and religious Jews, the doves and the hawks, and the nationalists from the humanists. Much of the prose captures actual accounts of individuals Oz interviewed in 1982, whose frightening perceptions illustrate why peace between Israelis and Palestinians has not been reached. This controversial book is a must on the reading list of any serious student of Middle Eastern Affairs.

Nuclear War in the 1980’s?, compiled by Christopher Chant and Ian Hogg. Harper $19.95 cloth, $9.95 paper

In a work that claims to present the facts and theories evenhandedly, the Soviets emerge as the villains—the only villains. Western saber-rattling is defense, Eastern threats are threats, and the West is right to counter them. So much for the lack of bias. The rest of the book is useful. The color-coded charts, the diagrams of space-age confrontations, and the statistics help make the arms madness more comprehensible. As a companion to the earlier War Atlas (Simon & Schuster), this volume is indispensable to those who would study and ponder what fate may or may not have in store.

The Alliance, by Richard J. Barnet. Simon & Schuster $19.95

Everyone knows that the United States does not share many Japanese values except that of making money, and it is no secret that Western Europe takes a view of the Communist bloc different from that of Washington. How then has the American-Japanese-West European alliance endured for nearly 40 years? Richard J. Barnet indicates in this comprehensive study that the longevity of the union indicates not that America has provided strong leadership but rather that the bloc held together in the absence of clear-cut leadership. Barnet attacks all U.S. leaders after Kennedy and is especially rough on Nixon, Kissinger, and Reagan. A crisp, sparkingly leftish account.

The Aftermath: The Human and Ecological Consequences of Nuclear War, edited by Jeannie Peterson. Pantheon $7.95

This book was originally a special issue of Ambio, an international journal published by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Initially a detailed scenario of a hypothetical nuclear war is presented. Then specialists from a variety of countries present a series of articles estimating the various consequences: initial destruction, fallout patterns, radiation sickness, diseases, environmental impacts, and the effects on agriculture, water supplies, economic activity, and mental illness. While the essays are not highly technical, because of their extensive use of scientific terminology and symbols, the book will be most useful to those who have university training in the physical sciences. A useful primer about a subject that is as frightening as it is crucial.

Staffing for Foreign Affairs; Personnel Systems for the 1980’s and 1990’s, by William I. Bacchus. Princeton $25

Congressional passage of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 represented an important victory for those like the author who see the necessity of making changes in the composition, recruitment, training, and management of the Foreign Service and the State Department. This book is not, however, an account describing the bureaucratic and legislative politics of achieving that victory; rather it is a presentation of the case for reform of which the Foreign Service Act is only a part. The legislation does not in itself mean a solution; much depends on responsible officials having the good sense to use properly the new instruments available to them.

Global Economics and Religion, edited by James Finn. Transaction Books $15.95

Two tenets are central to this book; first, that economic development, to be successful, cannot ignore the moral bases of society, and second, that religion is still a “primary shaper and transmitter of these moral norms.” The book gathers together case studies of India, Iran, Mexico, Japan, and Nigeria to test these theses in particular regions. What elevates the volume above most such collections are the broader concerns of its various authors. Specialists all, they nonetheless include in their analyses critiques of prevailing theories regarding religion and economics, as well as analysis and application of present concepts. What emerges, then, is both a precise analysis of specific regional problems and a good introduction to broader questions of theory.

POETRYOpening the Hand, by W. S. Merwin. Atheneum $13.95 cloth, $6.95 paper

Like most of the poets of his generation, Merwin abandoned form for free verse at mid-career. Recently he has been writing what is truly—to use James Dickey’s disparaging label—a “poetry of interchangeable parts.” Conseque


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