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Notes on Current Books, Spring 1990

ISSUE:  Spring 1990

Lynch is the general editor of a 12-volume History of Spain. This volume recounts the political, economic, military, and religious history of the first Bourbon monarchs, from the advent of Philip V in 1700 to the abdication in 1808 of Charles IV. The Spanish 18th century brought about the loss of the economic monopoly of the American colonies, which hastened the decline and complete collapse of the empire in the 19th century. Lynch traces that decline with style and full documentation. There is not much cultural, literary or social history here, but the tales of court intrigue, naval concerns, internal and external policy failures, and administrative chaos make valuable reading. Lynch concludes: “Few Spaniards regretted the passing of the 18th century and few emerged from it without pain.”

The Governance of Late Medieval England: 1272—1461, by A.L. Brown. Stanford $32.50

This is the third and final volume in the new administrative history of medieval England, begun by Henry Loyn for the Anglo-Saxon period and continued by W.L. Warren for the Normans and Angevins. The wealth of research on governmental function and change done over the last 30 years is now brought together for the first time. The series goes well beyond the older, but still useful, study by S.B. Chrimes on the executive power of king and household. Professor Brown’s book deals not only with the growth of the royal offices in an age of increasingly professional administration, but also with the mechanism of royal finance and taxation, the organization of the royal army, and, in what amounts to a third of the book, with the membership and development of parliament. The only drawback is that instead of organizing his book on a chronological basis, like the preceding volumes of Loyn and Warren, Brown has decided to depart from that scheme in favor of a topical arrangement, which makes it very difficult to follow the process of change in the institutional structure as a whole.

The Defeat of Imperial Germany 1917— 1918, by Rod Paschall. Algonquin $22.95

Since the 1930’s, the generals of the Allied armies in the First World War have received almost continuous condemnation for the unimaginative and bloody tactics they pursued during the last two years of the war. This book is, in part, a refutation of these criticisms. Paschall gives a lively account of the last two years of the war and in the process argues convincingly that the generals of the First World War were every bit as imaginative as their successors in the Second World War. The difference between the two was that the commanders in the first war faced a strategic situation in which attrition was the only solution.

Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, by John D’Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman. Harper & Row $24.95

This first, full-length history of American sexuality is an engaging synthesis remarkable for its breadth and depth. The authors trace the meaning of sexuality from its “primary association with reproduction within families” in 17th-century America to its current status as primarily a vehicle for “emotional intimacy and physical pleasure for individuals.” They examine the way American society determined what was sexually appropriate, what was sexually deviant, and how that changed over time. Intertwined with that question is one of sexual politics—if, roughly, church authorities proclaimed the boundaries of proper sexual behavior in the 17th and 18th centuries, the medical profession in the 19th century, and the state in the 20th century, how did sexuality become intensely politicized as it has in our time? Solidly argued and gracefully written, the narrative is chock-full of pertinent anecdotal evidence. Certainly, this is a must for anyone interested in how the Supreme Court became enmeshed in our most “Intimate Matters.”

In Sickness and in Health, by Roy Porter and Dorothy Porter. Basil Blackwell $29.95

Roy and Dorothy Porter have become widely recognized as two of the finest contemporary historians of Western medical practice. In this latest volume, the pair once again offer their readers a fine study of British lay and professional medicine between 1650 and 1850. Particularly striking in this work is the extent to which the authors allow their subjects’ voices to enter into the text, for by assembling published medical works, as well as diary entries concerning individual experience of health and illness, this volume stands as a clear, almost ethnographic account of medical thought during this period in British history. This is certainly one of the Porters’ most significant studies to date.

Foreign Intelligence: Research and Analysis in the Office of Strategic Services, 1942—1945, by Barry M. Katz. Harvard $27.50

We have no objective proof that historians and economists hastened the end of the Second World War, but in this stimulating account of a key branch of the OSS Mr. Katz presents some pretty convincing evidence that they at least did not impede the war effort. Astonishingly enough, the teams put together by William L. Langer actually worked together well and produced some brilliant position papers and analytical studies. H. Stuart Hughes, Felix Gilbert, G.T. Robinson, Karl Kaysen, Carl Schorske, and others emerge from this fascinating account with honor.

Sacred Charity: Confraternities and Social Welfare in Spain, 1400—1700, by Maureen Flynn. Cornell $32.50

The hero of this study of popular piety through the poor relief of confraternities in Zamora is the faceless third estate “creating pious practices and formulating beliefs,” and resisting the institutionalizing and centralizing pressures of the Catholic Reformation. Inferring a “thick” cultural and social history from thin administrative records requires bold extrapolation but not necessarily the absence of real priests that one finds here. The author’s extensive reading in the history of poor relief in Europe and recent scholarship on the religious effects of the two Reformations leads to a stimulating if partial interpretation of “the communal lives of the common people.”

Dream of Commonwealth, 1921—42, by Max Beloff. Sheridan House $39.50

The period between 1921 and 1942 was a crucial one for the British empire. From Irish independence to the dark days of the Second World War, the ideals and idea of empire were constantly challenged, not only from within, in the shape of independence movements of varying maturities, but also from without, in the form of financial pressures in an age of economic instability. In this book Professor Beloff expertly guides his audience through the complex realities of international and intraimperial politics, as he explains how the imperial vision developed, as much by force of circumstance as by the desires of its participants, toward the post-colonial structures of the Commonwealth.

The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854—1861, by Robert E. May. Georgia $15.95

As events in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama demand attention, May’s book is a timely reminder that Caribbean concerns about Yankee imperialism are not of recent vintage, although, ironically, many of those 19th-century Yankees were Southerners who would don gray uniforms in 1861. This blueprint of empire for Southern liberty would be established upon a foundation of black slavery, lending credence to Northern complaints about the rapacious “Slave Power” conspiracy. As Manifest Destiny became Southern expansion, Republicans successfully moved to block attempts at annexation, intensifying sectional animosity. Today’s readers may recognize in John Quitman and William Walker some of the forefathers of recent architects of the “freedom-fighting” policy of Oliver North and Ronald Reagan. An informative, intriguing study about an underexplored corner of American history.

Hitler and Spain: The Nazi Role in the Spanish Civil War, by Robert H. Whealey. Kentucky $24

This brief work’s value lies less in its innovative interpretation than in its explication of Nazi Germany’s efforts in the Spanish conflict between 1936 and 1939. Hitler never allowed his interest in Franco’s success to distract him from his primary goal of aggression in Eastern Europe. By tracing the development of Hitler’s political, military, ideological, and economic campaign, Whealey demonstrates how the Fuhrer’s manipulation of the war in Spain assisted his Eastern efforts. The war helped bind Rome to Berlin, increase Moscow’s isolation, and divert Paris’s attention from Central Europe. This carefully documented study augments, rather than redefines, our understanding of this contributory cause of the Second World War.

Bloody Roads South: From the Wilderness to Spotsylvania, by Noah Andre Trudeau. Little, Brown $19.95

The final campaign of the Civil War has never received the attention the more “glorious” (but no more important) earlier battles of the war have. This book tells the story of the first month of this oft neglected campaign in which the last of the war’s glory was destroyed. The reader of this book should not expect a dramatic “Catton-esque” narrative. However, by the end of the book I found that the personal accounts (which the book relies solely on) had me engrossed in the details of a story, the broad outlines of which I had heard many times before.

Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900—1700, by Eve Levin. Cornell $29. 95

This book could not have appeared 20 years ago because the repressed men who then dominated the field of Slavic studies in the West would not have sanctioned its publication. In today’s freer, healthier climate, it is a milestone. Professor Levin has thoroughly researched her intriguing subject in the USSR and Yugoslavia, thought through her scholarly methods and principles, and produced an outstanding work of humanistic scholarship. One of the best books in the field in a very long time.

The Jews in America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter, by Arthur Hertzberg. Simon & Schuster $22.95

To imagine the future of Jews in America, Hertzberg observes, it is necessary to write their history. And this he has done in this succinct, well-written survey that ranges from the life of Jews in the colonies through the arrival of German and Russian Jews in the 19th century to the recent assimilation of Jews in American life. What is at stake for Hertzberg is the question of whether Judaism can survive in this country without reestablishing links to its intellectual and spiritual roots. He cannot agree, for example, with Charles Silber man, who sees no threat to Judaism in the United States, and thus Silberman’s book, A Certain People (1985), has no place and is uncited in Hertzberg’s account.

LITERARY STUDIES Shakespeare: Hamlet, by Paul A. Cantor. Cambridge $19.95

A lucid and insightful book on Hamlet is almost as rare an achievement as the play itself. Paul Cantor’s Hamlet volume, part of the Cambridge Landmarks of World Literature series, provides a compelling interpretation that does not, as so many other readings, simply repeat the critical conundrums of the play and its prince. Cantor confronts the play’s problems directly, defining them within the contexts of literary and cultural history. Adopting the Hegelian approach to tragedy, Cantor shows how Hamlet represents the Renaissance conflict between the competing values of classical heroism and a more cosmopolitan world view informed by Christian morality. In addition, Cantor provides a fascinating account of the diverse heritage of Hamlet, detailing examples from contemporary allusions to stage burlesques to modern novels, plays, and poetry. The book is intended primarily as a general introduction, but more experienced readers will find much to learn from Cantor’s incisive formulations about Hamlet, its period, and dramatic tragedy.

The Hero’s Tale: Narrators in the Early Modern World, by David H. Lynn. St. Martin’s $29.95

This book explores “the spiritual as well as structural kinship” among Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, The Good Soldier, The Great Gatsby, and The Sun Also Rises. In these novels from the “first generation” of modernism, the narrators develop an ironic perspective which undercuts the basis of moral realism. Although they, like their 19th-century predecessors, tell of the exploits of a romantic “hero,” their skepticism questions any romantic attempt to create “transcendent significance” even while their storytelling “affirms the struggle” toward significance. Increasingly, the narrators must define themselves in opposition to, rather than within, a community. In its best moments, this book goes beyond explication de texte to meditate on the sources of human value in the modern world. The price of this slim (123 pp.) volume, however, led me to meditate on the value of libraries.

Nietzsche Contra Nietzsche: Creativity and the Anti-Romantic, by Adrian Del Caro. Louisiana $37.50

This book focuses on a central problem in understanding Nietzsche: in much of his writing he criticizes European Romanticism as one of the primary symptoms of decadence in the modern world, but he himself often seems Romantic in his ideas and his literary style. Del Caro correctly centers his discussion on the issue of creativity, which allows him to define Nietzsche’s position vis-à-vis his Romantic predecessors and contemporaries. As the single greatest personal influence on Nietzsche’s life and thought, Richard Wagner looms large in Del Caro’s account, but he uses a wide range of figures, including Rousseau, Goethe, Novalis, Kleist, and the Schlegels, to give a sense of the historical context in which Nietzsche worked. As a result, this book makes a significant contribution, not just to Nietzsche studies, but to German intellectual and cultural history as well. And, unlike many contemporary treatments of Nietzsche, the book is clearly written and well documented.

The Victorian Self: Autobiography and Biblical Narrative, by Heather Henderson. Cornell $24.95

Building on an already vast scholarship concerned with Biblical typology in Victorian literature, the author makes a significant contribution to the field. Three main chapters deal with Newman’s Apologia, Ruskin’s Praeterita, and Gosse’s Father and Son and their Biblical framework. Newman’s tribulations are identified with Job’s, his conversion with St. Paul’s, and Ruskin’s visions of Italian cities are rooted in the “heavenly city” of Revelation. An excellent epilogue persuasively explores the story of David in two autobiographical novels, David Copperfield and Jane Eyre.

Rhetoric, by Renato Barilli. Minnesota $29.95, $13.95 paper

The history of rhetoric, from Plato to McLuhan, is such a lengthy, twisting, turning road that when it is traveled at high speed, as it is in this volume of 130 pages, translated from the Italian edition of 1979, the landscape is reduced to a general blur, the periods of historical study remain indistinct, and the reader is left with only a few monuments to remember. In the section on the Middle Ages, as a case in point, we hear chiefly of Augustine, Boethius, and Dante, but the complexity of the views which shaped the subject in the period and which have led to widely different modern interpretations is never sufficiently investigated. The work of the Second Sophistic lacks a critical analysis, the discussion of the parallel development of Ciceronian and Christian rhetoric amounts largely to a recitation of names of authors, and the bibliography omits key works by J. Murphy, H. Caplan, L. Arbusow, E. Faral, K. Halm, and J. Manly. Other centuries are reviewed equally rapidly so that in the end the chief virtue of this brief guide is that it may lead the student to more substantial treatment of the subject elsewhere.

Collecting Himself: James Thurber on Writing and Writers, Humor and Himself, edited by Michael J. Rosen. Harper & Row $19.95

The two greatest prose writers of the English language in the 20th century were both named James. One came from Dublin, the other from Columbus, Ohio. We find in this collection that the latter James could write like the former: “To corsetale is to alibi is to meetinlovenkillenlove.” He could also draw things that Picasso never dreamed of. This gathering of previously unanthologized drawings and writings by Thurber is not to be missed by his countless admirers. It is a characteristic blend of humor, wisdom, and superb prose. We have our Russell Bakers and Garrison Keillors. But they can’t match “the master.”

Nabokov: The Mystery of Literary Structures, by Leona Toker. Cornell $27.50

The first wave of reception of Nabokov’s novels emphasized the Barthesian jouissance of his writing and the putatively “post-modern” character of his plotting. A second wave, of which Toker’s book is part, emphasizes the ethical content of his stories. Toker gives extended analyses of the major works (though omitting Pale Fire and Ada), and has useful things to say about them. Her book does not put Nabokov in a fresh light, but it is sensible and helpful.

Literature in America: An Illustrated History, by Peter Conn. Cambridge $29.95

It is difficult to imagine anyone taking on, singlehandedly, the task of summarizing the history of American literature in one volume, but Peter Conn has accomplished it with style, compressing the broad sweep of four centuries of American writers into 587 pages, including the index. This fast-forward gallop, with 200 illustrations, two chronological tables, and a bibliography, printed in readable type, is a stunning book. But for whom it is intended is a question: certainly not for the serious student. If there is such a species as the general reader, he/she might enjoy browsing through, ferreting out such tidbits as how many novels and short stories Henry James wrote, that Hemingway had an “inclination toward androgyny,” or that Herman Melville never finished high school. Professor Conn, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, has had to slight some writers in order to give the limited space to major figures, and he has treated others superficially, or not at all, simply naming them. But the book is written with style and considerable self-confidence, as though Conn enjoyed his monumental task. Besides, it’s fun to look as the pictures.

Pastoral in Antebellum Southern Romance, by Jan Bakker. Louisiana $20

Bakker’s contention here is that antebellum Southern writers, no less than their counterparts in the North, were fascinated by America’s promise, and failure, to become a second Eden. This thesis she demonstrates by closely reading novels by a number of rather obscure Southern writers, triumphantly discovering, with tireless regularity, the trace of irony lurking within even their most celebratory descriptions of the Southern pastoral realm. The general theme of the book is a familiar one, but Bakker reads skillfully enough to get a fair amount of mileage out of it. She begins with an admirable determination to treat her antebellum Southerners not as historical artifacts but as literary artists; and she ends, often surprisingly, by showing that they were just that. Students of the American 19th century should read Bakker’s book, after which they should take up with fresh interest the works of Simms, Kennedy, and others, which she illuminates here so well.

Nature into Art: Cultural Transformations in Nineteenth-Century Britain, by Carl Woodring. Harvard $30

This is a remarkably rich synthesis by a leading scholar in the field. Pursuing his subject of “nature into art,” the author ranges from Wordsworth to Wilde. He concludes that modernism emerged out of the ashes of aestheticism. Uncommonly wide-ranging, Woodring’s study also deals with American, German, and French literature and reflects broad reading in art history and other subjects. Woodring balances his historical account with references to the most recent scholarship. His footnotes, sometimes quite witty, will be a treasure-trove for students of the 19th century.

The Critical Temper: A Survey of Modern Criticism on English and American Literature from the Beginnings to the Twentieth Century, Volume V: Second Supplement, General Editor, Martin Tucker. Continuum $75

This series seeks to provide an overview of contemporary criticism by offering short passages (typically 500 to a thousand words) drawn from critical essays and books written about the standard, canonical texts. The present volume “covers” criticism published between 1975 and 1989. While no two editors would pick precisely the same set of “representative” critical passages, the editors here have done a creditable job of selection. The more troubling question is the nature of the project itself: neither as comprehensive as an annotated bibliography, nor as satisfying as a collection of essays. Libraries that have already invested in the first four volumes might reasonably desire to acquire the fifth; but this volume and the series cannot otherwise be recommended.

Elegiac Fictions: The Motif of the Unlived Life, by Edward Engelberg. Pennsylvania State $29.95

In this wide-ranging and thoughtful survey of an important literary motif, Engelberg analyzes self-mourning in classic prose texts of the last 200 years, from the Romantics to Beckett. To understand why so many fictional characters lament the lives they might have lived, Engelberg draws on the inevitable theorists of mourning, melancholia, death, and narcissism: Nietzsche, Freud, and Heidegger. With its clear style and erudite humanism, this book deepens our understanding of the elegiac, showing it to be the fundamental mode of post-Enlightenment literature.

Prospecting: From Reader Response to Literary Anthropology, by Wolfgang Iser. Johns Hopkins $29.95

This important collection of essays by one of the most original and influential theorists of reader-response criticism includes writings spanning nearly two decades. It thus shows the development of Iser’s thought, from his early work in reader-response analysis to his current forays into what he calls “literary anthropology,” that is, the study of what literary texts reveal about human nature. Along the way there are fine discussions of individual works. While this is by no means an easy book to peruse, any serious student of literary theory will want to give it careful study.

LIVES & LETTERS Lucky Victim: An Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times, 1933—1946, by Hans A. Schmitt. Louisiana $24.95

Should everyone publish their memoirs? Certainly not, but we benefit from Schmitt having done so. Born of a Jewish mother 11 years before Hitler came to power, the young Schmitt left Germany in 1933, and, after stays in Holland and England, arrived in the United States in 1938. He returned to Germany as an American army officer at the end of World War II. The value of this well-written retrospective lies in its isolation of the individual from the general history of this critical time (a subject the author knows well after four decades of university teaching). Generalizations about fleeing Germany in 1933, for example, just don’t apply. Schmitt simply “went to the Frankfurt station, bought a ticket, and took a train.”

Honorable Justice: The Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes, by Sheldon M. Novick. Little, Brown $24.95

Novick, scholar in residence at the Vermont Law School, assumed the task of writing Holmes’ biography after the abortive efforts of three official biographers. The result is the first full-scale life of Holmes who was born in 1841, when John Quincy Adams was still alive, and died in 1935, during F.D.R.’s first term. He describes Holmes’ childhood as the son of the famous physician and author, and, in one of the most absorbing parts of the book, Novick details Holmes’ three years of service during the Civil War; he was seriously wounded three times, and his letters to friends and family reveal his physical suffering and emotional anguish. In 1881, after Holmes published The Common Law, a classic in legal philosophy, he became professor at Harvard Law School. Then, after serving on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, he became a U.S. Supreme Court justice and is still considered one of the greatest in the court’s history. Although his opinions on free speech are held up as banners of fairness and clarity, he also revealed surprising bigotry. However detached and deliberate Holmes was in his professional life, his personal life is a puzzle. A devoted, affectionate husband to his semi-invalid wife, he continued to have flirtations and affairs. The biographer is clearly uncomfortable with this aspect of his subject’s life, recording Holmes’ adolescent passions with delicacy, but frequently leaving the reader mystified. This readable book about one of the great legal minds in our country, covers 94 years of history with scholarly precision and footnotes as interesting as the text. There are photos and a good bibliography.

Unreasonable Truths: The Life of Robert Maynard Hutchins, by Harry S. Ashmore. Little, Brown $27.50

Robert Hutchins’ name was well known in his lifetime. A firm liberal who insisted on preferring Aristotle to Dewey, a university president who disliked consensus and was continually at odds with his faculty and his trustees, a compulsive wisecracker who almost became Roosevelt’s running-mate in 1940, Hutchins was a man who well deserved a good biography. Ashmore has given him one, writing as a friend and ally of his subject, but nevertheless thoughtfully and reflectively.

The Papers of John Adams, Volumes 7 and 8, edited by Gregg L. Lint et al. Harvard $85

These volumes cover the 18 months of John Adams’ life between September 1778 and February 1780. They contain a wealth of information about the diplomacy of the American Revolution, particularly the development of Franco-American relations in the first year of the alliance established in 1778. Equally interesting is the material on the commercial diplomacy of the period, while the volumes also provide evidence for a reassessment of the complicated relationships between Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Arthur Lee. Adams, it would seem, was less immediately hostile to Lee than is usually supposed, and his dealings with Franklin were often amicable and respectful. Returning to Boston for four months in August 1779, Adams made one of his most important contributions with the drafting of the Massachusetts constitution of 1780. Legal and constitutional scholars will find the text printed in volume 8 of the earliest surviving version of Adams’ draft to be of considerable value. This text, however, is merely one example of the painstaking professional skill of the editors in presenting these important historical records in intelligent and easily accessible ways. The index, too, is a most valuable resource; and Harvard University Press has provided a lavishly handsome publication format.

The Life and Times of William Shakespeare, by Peter Levi. Henry Holt $29.95

Anthony Burgess has justly said that if you want a life of Shakespeare, “this is the one you must buy.” This is the single book that should be put in the hands of students who want to learn about Shakespeare’s life and the world in which he lived. It is exceptionally well written, vivid, and animated. It propels the reader through Shakespeare’s career. The description of the poet’s London is almost unsurpassed. Reading it, one can see and smell the city. The author is unabashedly passionate about his subject, but he also demonstrates common sense. Speaking of the sonnets, he says that the simple reader can enter into their feeling at once. The trouble starts when the scholar tries to “unload” or “deconstruct” them.

The Hustons, by Lawrence Grobel. Scribners $24.95

Notorious for his flamboyant life style, John Huston went to his grave a couple of years ago confident of receiving decent treatment from his hand-picked biographer, Lawrence Grobel of Playboy. Alas, the trust was misplaced. Neither John, nor Anjelica, nor any other Huston emerges unscathed from this horrendously inept book designed for those who like to ogle centerfolds. Grobel has simply thrown everything John and the others told him into a bag, then dumped the mess onto the pages. Grobel likes the stupid sportswriter’s phrase, “coming off” and uses it repeatedly, coming off badly himself in the process.

Marc Bloch: A Life in History, by Carole Fink. Cambridge $19.95

Marc Bloch’s considerable reputation as historian and co-founder of the landmark Annales has been overshadowed by his participation in the Resistance and his martyr’s death in 1944. This marvelous biography, based upon Bloch’s private papers and his extensive unpublished writings is also the story of one man’s journey from an intellectual’s dispassionate interest in political developments to active engagement. Although parts of the book are almost painful to read, one comes away from it feeling that sometimes individual actions can make a difference.

Henry Adams, by Ernest Samuels. Harvard $25

In this masterful condensation of his three-volume biography of Henry Adams, Ernest Samuels provides a vivid backdrop of 60 years of American social and intellectual history, from pre-Civil War days to the First World War. It reads as though Samuels has omitted nothing from his prize-winning longer work, completed in 1964, but has simply compacted it into a smaller space, so that the effect is of an overloaded fruit cake. Adams, (1838—1918) historian-biographer, novelist, and journalist, was lively and learned, a quick-witted social charmer, who married a charming and witty woman, Marion “Clover” Hooper, whom Henry James described as a “Voltaire in petticoats.” Together they traveled, entertained, and were the center of Washington society. Except for the books he wrote, Adams, a man of privilege and talent, descended from an extraordinary family, contributed little to his country but spent most of his energies trying to please himself. The leap of technological progress left Adams breathless, feeling himself a failure. He is a fascinating if not an admirable subject. Even making allowances for the era in which he lived, Adams’ snobbishness and intense anti-Semitism are difficult to swallow.

Daniel Defoe: His Life, by Paula R. Backscheider. Johns Hopkins $29.95

Defoe needed a new biography to take into account the considerable new scholarship since the last full biography in 1958. Backscheider moves into the gap with a book that is highly admirable in most respects. Packed with information (a great deal of it new), her work explains much about Defoe and his work. Backscheider seems scrupulously fair in showing Defoe’s unattractive aspects, as well as his good qualities (not as many, apparently, as his bad ones). Two weaknesses do crop up, however: Defoe’s personality never really becomes clear, probably as a result of Backscheider’s desire not to speculate, and she includes so much information from so many different aspects of Defoe’s life that the chronology of events becomes at times obscure. These caveats, though, do not at all overwhelm this book’s many excellent qualities.

Mozart: The Golden Years, by H. C. Robbins Landon. Schirmer $29.95

This is a wonderful book. It not only evokes the sumptuous strains of Mozart’s music, but also the cultural ceremony of 18th-century Vienna. Albeit splendidly produced and elegantly illustrated, this is no mere picture book. Robbins Landon, one of the premier musicologists of our age, brings his interpretive skills of both music and man to bear in a fascinating psychological analysis of Mozart. Here is Mozart portrayed from both dark and light sides—from the fearfulness of Don Giovanni and the “anguished neuroticism” of the Symphony No. 40 to the “autumnal” beauty of Symphony No. 39 and the “exquisite” Adagio and Rondo (K. 617). Mozart emerges as a reassuringly complex figure—far from the simple-minded man-child of Schaffer’s Amadeus—and his music a full reflection of a troubled genius.

William Cowper: Selected Letters, edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp. Oxford $49.95

Cowper was one the most engaging correspondents of the 18th century, and his letters shine with the lucid, simple, and precise style that characterizes the best of his poetry. Cowper’s epistolary voice is equally authentic whether its specific tone is amiably chatty or desperately forlorn. This selection, drawn from the same editors’ five-volume edition of Cowper’s prose writings, admirably evinces the quality of the poet’s letters; though being a selection (including less than a tenth of the Cowper’s known correspondence), it makes regrettable omissions. For example, one wishes for more of Cowper’s literary criticism, such as his remarks on Homer to Lady Hesketh. The chronology, biographical register, and index are all well done, but the introduction is overbrief and the absence of a bibliography to guide further reading a serious lack. The volume is beautifully edited and printed, and, although it is too expensive for most personal libraries, it can serve as a useful supplement in public libraries to the complete prose writings; for this selection is more likely to whet than satiate an appetite for Cowper’s correspondence.

Golden Inches: The China Memoir of Grace Service, edited by John S. Service. California $19.95

In 1905, two young American idealists left the University of California and went to China to serve their God through the YMCA. Bob and Grace Service were a kind of two-person Peace Corps in Szechuan, and briefly in Shanghai, bringing the message of peace to the Chinese. Grace recorded their adventures in this elegant, moving memoir, which their son has lovingly edited. It is one of the best books on China in many long years, and it stands as yet another vindication of that son, falsely accused and vilified as “the man who lost China” during the awful McCarthy years.

More Than I Dreamed: A Lifetime of Collecting, by Malcolm Forbes. Simon & Schuster $29.95

This is essentially a family portrait album with a difference. The spotlight is not on people but things . . .thousands of them . . .cars, boats, homes, balloons, planes, motorcycles, paintings, toys, and so on. Oh, the faces are there, too. Sons, grandchildren, kings and queens without countries, faded movie stars, and grumpy industrial moguls and their trying-to-look-young wives. Are they collectibles, too? This Mr. Forbes never explains. This book is, of course, a massive ego trip, but what saves it from pomposity is the author’s sense of humor and willingness to poke fun at himself now and then. Missing, however, is any explanation of the demise of Mrs. Forbes. She is there in the opening pages, blond and lovely, but then disappears. Also, such a book, beautiful as it is, brings up another inevitable question: when is there going to be a garage sale?

FICTION The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. Knopf $18.95

Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel depicts his adopted England with the same precision of language which painted his native Japan in An Artist of the Floating World. This is 1950’s England as seen through the eyes of Stevens, one of the last remaining true butlers, who lives only to do his duty, to serve his master and humanity in the hope of preserving justice throughout the world. But as Stevens undertakes a journey to the West Country that ultimately becomes a journey into his past we realize, as does he himself, that his view of the world is strangely double-edged, blurred by a shiny veneer of self-deception. Slowly a sterile, duty-bound life of missed opportunities and stifled emotions arises as Stevens prepares to face his old age. And, as the bastion of the English nobility, when his vision begins to waver, a whole strata of society starts to crumble and a different story emerges. Beautifully written and hauntingly poignant.

August 1914, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $50 cloth, $19.95 paper

To paraphrase Samuel Johnson on Paradise Lost, no one ever wished a Russian novel longer than it is. And yet we must welcome this new, expanded, and definitive edition of Solzhenitsyn’s August 1914. With some 300 pages of additional material, this version of the novel is nearly twice the length of the one published in English translation in 1972. Ironically it was only after being expelled from his homeland that Solzhenitsyn was able to have access to the historical information needed to fill out his portrait of Russia’s involvement in World War I. Working in the Hoover Institution archives at Stanford, he was able to reconstruct additional events, including the 1914 assassination of the last potentially effective reformer within the Czarist regime, the prime minister Pyotr Stolypin. August 1914 is the first of a four-volume epic Solzhenitsyn is writing, called The Red Wheel. By concentrating on key moments in Russian history, these volumes will tell the story of how the Russian Revolution came to be and why it took the form it did. Given the stature of the author and the monumental importance of the subject, this is clearly one of the great writing—and publishing—projects of our day.

Of Memory and Desire, by Gladys Swan. Louisiana $16.95

In a matter of a few carefully chosen words, Gladys Swan conjures up real people taking stock of their lives, trying to find a pattern amongst the disorder which confronts them. Her characters look back to the children they once were, nursing hopes and aspirations, then look forward to a future outlined only by vague desires in an effort to find out what went wrong, when exactly they lost control. The dreams are still there, but less clearly defined and less certain of realization. In their place arises an instinct for survival, an awareness that life is to be lived in the present; for, while they reminisce or yearn, time, moving boldly on, will cut them down.

Things We Lose, by Roland Sodowsky. Missouri $9.95

With this collection of carefully crafted short stories, Roland Sodowsky won the 1988 AWP Short Fiction award. His stories portray the lives of contemporary Westerners, but with a difference. For Sodowsky’s Americans and Europeans are expatriates, living in tiny white communities in West Africa, looking to earn money and maybe a feeling of power. As they learn to survive in an alien environment, to cope with a new way of life, their emotions run strong, and Sodowsky observes and takes note. His rich narrative clearly evokes the friction felt constantly between two cultures existing side by side, a friction which occasionally erupts into conflict, making one aware of the danger of life in the bush and of the superficiality of a Western culture imported and erected on African soil.

Journey, by James A. Michener. Random House $16.95

It is 1897 and gold has been found in the Yukon Territory. This draws people from all over the world—Lord Evelyn Luton, amateur explorer and a proud Englishman; Philip Henslow, his nephew; Irina Kozlok, a North Dakota farmer’s widow, and the rest of the crew. They all set out on the long journey that begins with high hopes and ends in hard-won wisdom. James A. Michener makes the setting for a great historical event a landscape of awesome beauty. This intimate novel will take you on an unforgettable adventure into gold country.

My House is on Fire, by Ariel Dorfman. Viking $17.95

These 11 short stories by the author of The Last Song of Manuel Sendero, Mascara, and other novels move through planes of censorship, fear, political divisiveness, and terror. Lurking in the background, if many times unstated, is the repressive regime of Pinochet’s Chile, from which Dorfman is an exile. While lacking the heat and originality of other of his works, particularly of the poems in Last Waltz in Santiago, they nonetheless create tension and mystery as the characters struggle to live through or suppress the harsh reality that colors their every action and thought.

Sudden Fiction International, edited by Robert Shephard and James Thomas. Norton $22.95

The sequel to the earlier collection of American “short-short” stories gathers together an impressive group of well-known and not-so-well-known authors native to countries from Colombia (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) to Cyprus (Panos Ioannides), as well as a number of writers from the United States. The stories are well selected and pack a wallop far beyond the confines of their few pages. The sense of taste and economy make this essential reading for all those interested in the craft of fiction.

Pious Deception, by Susan Dunlap. Villard $16.95

Susan Dunlap, a member of Sisters in Crime, has created a new female detective to join the likes of Kinsey Milhorn and Kate Fanssler. When Kiernan O’Shaughnessy, former forensic pathologist and hedonist, agrees to investigate the death of a Roman Catholic priest, she begins an investigation not only of a murder, but of her own unexamined past as well. The book is a “good read,” although anyone familiar with Sue Grafton’s work in the same genre will guess the identity of the murderer before all the clues have accumulated, Dunlap’s forte is her understanding and presentation of the detail-work of detection; unfortunately, this makes her lack of understanding of church hierarchy more noticeable.

A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, by Julian Barnes. Knopf $18.95

The author of the acclaimed Flaubert’s Parrot is an essayist disguised as a novelist—that is, a postmodernist. As a novel, Flaubert’s Parrot was weak; as an essay on Flaubert, on the limits and ironies of historical reconstruction, it was witty, provocative, and highly amusing. In this series of essays and skits, Mr. Barnes spreads himself too thin. Although we follow the peregrinations of woodworms through history from Noah’s ark to Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa, these essay-fictions do not cohere. There is some amusing satire—as of heaven as golf, shopping, and making love to famous people—but the bite of the author’s satire is dissipated by his decision to work on too broad a canvas. The essay on Gericault is exceptionally good, however, and approaches the cunning of the Flaubert “novel.”

Frigor Mortis, by Ralph McInerny. Atheneum $18.95

In this lively and complex whodunit, Mr. McInerny introduces us to a novel way of dealing with an unwanted spouse, a new meaning for the phrase cold, hard cash, and a (legitimate) ending that took this reviewer entirely by surprise.

Good King Sauerkraut, by Barbara Paul. Scribner’s $16.95

Never was klutziness so lethal. King Sarcowitz is a brilliant robot designer whose inward vision is profound but whose social skills barely rise above those of Java man. A large gawky creature, King meanders through life heedless of the bumps and scrapes he deals out to those who surround him. As his business partner Dennis says, “You’re careless of people, King.” Little does Dennis know just how clumsy King can be. Only when the designer stumbles into a great deal of trouble and tries to flounder out of it does he begin to take notice of the world around him. And by that time it is too late. Paul has constructed a mystery à la George Simenon in which the criminal is known to the reader from the start and interest in the story is maintained by a hunt in reverse. While Paul cannot match Simenon as a stylist, she more than compensates with her particular brand of wry humor. This is the kind of quirky and offbeat tale we have come to expect from the author, and she doesn’t disappoint.

Say Cheese!, by Vassily Aksyonov. Random House $19.95

Maybe it’s the water. Or the angle of the sun’s rays. More likely it has something to do with the language. In any event, no Russian novelist has ever succeeded—in either the popular or the artistic sense— outside his own country, and Mr. Aksyonov is no exception. An extremely talented writer, Aksyonov sways and bends and gropes in the West, looking for roots that vanished the moment he left Soviet soil. Say Cheese! is ostensibly the story of a gang of gonzo photographers who delight in tweaking Kremlin noses and uttering obscenities. In reality it is the desperate cry of a man who has lost his muse. Aksyonov has produced yet another brilliant failure, like The Burn.

The Heart of the Continent, by Nancy Cato. St. Martin’s $19.95

This Bildungsroman tells the story of two generations of nurses who worked in the outback of Australia from the turn of the century through World War II. Unfortunately, though Cato’s idea is good, the dialogue reads like a Nancy Drew mystery; and furthermore, one could easily mistake the plot for that of a made-for-television movie. Although the story does go quickly, it is full of details unimportant to the plot or any subplots; and despite what the advertising says, this novel is not “riveting.”

This Way Out, by Sheila Radley. Scribner’s $16.95

Sheila Radley is one of a handful of British crime writers who have developed a truly individual presence in the genre. Her books are remarkable for their chilling portrayal of ordinary mortals in conflict, with others and very often with themselves. This is a fine addition to her list. It is a variation on a theme of Patricia Highsmith, namely Strangers on a Train. But Radley adds her own special flavor of emotional complexity and psychological entanglement to the telling of a familiar story. The story ultimately reveals the unmasking of a sympathetic character when assaulted by jealousy and guilt, and the unraveling of a “perfect” family when its brittle equilibrium is rudely upset by circumstance.

A Careless Widow and Other Stories, by V.S. Pritchett. Random House $16.95

A surprise encounter at the seaside between a hairdresser and a customer; the change in the life of a child after a game of hide-and-seek; the responses of a sitter to having his photo taken by a fashionable photographer—these are but a few of the events and situations recounted by a master storyteller in these flawlessly crafted tales. Full of the subtle ironies of life, Pritchett’s stories have a wry tone, and they are all told with a remarkable restraint and evocativeness. Their mood and the picture they convey of contemporary England intersect the vision of Barbara Pym and Philip Larkin.

A Haiku for Hanae, by James Melville. Scribner’s $16.95

Melville has been largely successful in his efforts to marry the Western murder mystery to a reluctant Eastern bride. For more than 15 years and ten novels, the author has given free rein to superintendent Tetsuo Otani in his detective work, while at the same time exploring bit by bit the modern Japanese landscape. In this book, Otani goes to the rural island of Awaji to investigate the murder of an American missionary. The case carries overtones of the supernatural that make the down-to-earth Otani uneasy. Away from home and the familiar city streets of Kobe, Otani has to feel his way through a heavy mist of perplexing circumstances. Well-written and refreshingly free of gratuitous violence, Melville has written, once more, a nice bit of literate entertainment.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Heart Failure, by Thomas J. Moore. Random House $19.95

Alleging a conspiracy between government health agencies, pharmaceutical houses, and research cardiologists, this book makes a series of well-argued, heavily documented contentions: that below 240, serum cholesterol is not demonstrably dangerous; that at the low levels advocated by the Establishment, there appears to be a correlation with higher rates of cancer; and that the principal medications currently prescribed to lower blood lipids are not only ineffective but have disqualifying side effects—ranging from hair loss and cataracts to liver failure. If the book’s immediate importance to heart patients cannot be discounted, neither can its implications for the crisis of American health care, which owes its existence, at least in part, to politics, bad science, and greed.

Barbarian Sentiments: How the American Century Ends, by William Pfaff. Hill & Wang $19.95

Pfaff begins his book with a polemical chapter against American “liberal idealism,” and one is led to expect an account of why this idealism is misguided. But the remainder of the book is a rather rambling discussion of the uncertainties of the next few decades. Uncertainty, rather than pessimism or an argument for Realpolitik, seems to be all that Pfaff has to offer us. The book is filled with insightful remarks about history and about contemporary problems, but they do not add up to a clear message.

Out of the Cold: New Thinking for American Foreign and Defense Policy in the 21st century, by Robert S. McNamara. Simon & Schuster $18.95

No former senior statesmen have acknowledged that new knowledge compelled them to reassess cherished political views. McNamara, who served as defense secretary and president of the World Bank, stands alone in espousing a visionary outlook for American foreign policy. In analyzing the Cold War era, change in the USSR, as well as the increasingly influential developing world, McNamara identifies opportunities and calls for seizing complex challenges. He concludes that a new system, based on collective security founded on the rule of law, should govern relations among states in the next century. Sobering reading.

American Defense Policy and Liberal Democracy, edited by Fred E. Bauman and Kenneth M. Jensen. Virginia $10.95 paper

This wide-ranging and stimulating inquiry into the underlying philosophy of United States military policy and its implementation over 200 years is the published result of six papers prepared for a gathering at the Kenyon Public Affairs Center in 1984, plus two republished articles. The individual essays are by Marcus Raskin, Seymour Weiss, Carnes Lord, Wendell Coates, Nathan Tarcov, Geoffrey Smith, Steven Canby, and Samuel Huntington. Except for Canby’s essay, a quantitative treatment of armaments, the perspective of the writers is fairly distributed over the spectrum of liberal to conservative points of view. But the question persists: how are military policies formulated and implemented in a liberal democracy?

House and Senate, by Ross K. Baker. Norton $19.95

The thesis of House and Senate is well stated. Baker sees the chambers as representing two strands of democracy. The House represents elements of an adversary democracy “characterized by an emphasis on representing faithfully . . .the various interests in one’s constituency.” The Senate represents a unitary form that “emphasizes the overall good and the national welfare.” Size differences permit the Senate to be a collegial body which tends to be a place of concurrent majorities where all major segments of opinion need to concur. The House is more majoritarian where all views are heard but where the majority works its will. His fondness for the Senate, however, causes him to miss the darker side of the upper chamber, where a minority may be unrepresentative of any segment of the public and may frustrate Congress’ ability to pass bills. The result is government by big bills that logroll important issues and frustrate meaningful choice. The best part of the book is his observation that the Senate, because of the competitiveness of its elections, has become more responsive to public opinion than the House. His book, while illuminating in parts, would improve with a more balanced approach supplemented with interviews with current House members.

The Four Little Dragons: Inside Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore at the Dawn of the Pacific Century, by Brian Kelly and Mark London. Simon & Schuster $21.95

How has it happened that these people we used to dismiss as coolies have moved into the vanguard of dynamic capitalism? It would appear that we are paying the price of racism in this area, too, for beyond those “foreign” exteriors lie brains and character of the kind that used to be considered the quintessence of Yankeedom. As Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong continue to outstrip us in productivity, and in research and development in several key high-tech fields, we can thank our lucky stars that at least the East is not Red.

The Costa Rica Reader, edited by Mark Edelman and Joanne Kenen. Grove $16.95 paper

There seems to be a not too rare perception among North Americans that there has been a Central American neighbor which, for the past two score years, has managed to attain a level of stability perhaps unique in the entire Southern Hemisphere and isthmus. In this book we are shown how a nation of two and a half million people has discarded its army and achieved levels of life expectancy and infant mortality about the same as those in the United States, and a literacy rate higher than our own. The two qualified editors have


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