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Notes on Current Books, Spring 1996

ISSUE:  Spring 1996

This book constitutes a powerful riposte to the ideas of historians like J. C. D. Clark and is an important contribution to the field. Tilly’s extensive, quantitative sociological analysis of “contentious gatherings” in Great Britain from Wilkes to the Reform Act suggests a significant metamorphosis in popular methods of challenging the status quo. Eighteenth century gatherings, locally organized and directed and often violent, had declined substantially in importance by the turn of the century. From the 1790’s, however, organized national movements emerged to challenge and secure concessions from Parliament, which had itself gained in importance and stature. This new style of contention indicated the broader integration of common people into the nation as citizens, even though most of them had not yet secured the vote. Tilly’s idiosyncratic and often dense style makes this book difficult to read. It is first and foremost a work of historical sociology, with all of the concomitant merits and deficiencies of that approach. Popular Contention in Great Britain, 1758—1834 is nevertheless a notable work of scholarship.

War at Sea: A Naval History of World War II, by Nathan Miller. Scribner $32.50

This brisk, readable survey by a non-academic presents little that is new, but its comprehensiveness allows Miller to explain the significance of many naval battles now largely forgotten, such as the Battle of the Barents Sea and the Battle of Cape Matepan, and to illuminate the connections between such events. Although Miller has written many books, naval history is his specialty, and he is a master of the secondary literature in that field. Some readers may be bothered by the absence of conventional annotation or by the proliferation of typos, but this is still a solid and useful overview, as good as any single-volume work on such a broad subject is likely to be. One quibble: like most naval historians, Miller emphasizes the emergence of aircraft carriers and the end of the battleship era, but readers cannot help but notice that many Second World War naval engagements were still conventional surface battles fought by battleships and cruisers, and that battleships remained indispensable for shore bombardment.

The Korean War: An International History, by William Stueck. Princeton $35

American leaders, in need of convincing evidence that they were willing to pay the price demanded to contain communism, almost embroiled the world in conflict over the Korean peninsula, opines the author. Stueck shows how American allies under the auspices of the United Nations offered a countervailing influence that limited American “adventurism” until U. S. leaders came to grips with the intractable and fundamentally different nature of the war for Korea. Communist leaders also find themselves severely criticized for their propensity to find in escalation of the conflict the solution that eluded them as well.

Chronicles of the Frigate Macedonian, 1809-1922, by James Tertius de Kay. Norton $25

An episodic history of the greatest prize of war ever seized by the American Navy, this is a delightful and delightfully readable volume. In a sense, it is the history of warfare, slave-trading, political coercion, international politics, and social prejudice during the 19th century as viewed from the deck of one of the most magnificent sailing vessels of the time; the tale of its various commands is sufficiently compelling to commend the book, but there is much else besides.

The Origins of the American High School, by William J. Reese. Yale $35

As all sides lament a decline in education and sling blame with abandon, William Reese’s new book on the history of the American high school takes a long view of public education in the 19th century and tempers our current debates with needed perspective and entertaining detail. Free public high schools, he argues, have been the focus of political debates from their start in 1821 when advocates and critics questioned the propriety of establishing high schools. It may surprise some to read early criticisms bashing high schools as bastions of aristocratic privilege committed to educating a few college-bound sons of the better classes. School advocates countered by promoting the high school as a republican institution, characteristically American, where low-born and high succeeded by individual merit and not by wealth. Reese’s wide reading in 19th-century diaries, letters, and educators’ journals allows him to peer through schoolroom windows and spy on English and arithmatic lessons to recapture 19th-century pedagogy and student culture.

Gastonia 1929: The Story of the Loray Mill Strike, by John A. Salmond. North Carolina $24.95

One would be hard pressed to find a more peaceful town than Gastonia, North Carolina, but in 1929 that out-of-the-way corner witnessed labor violence of the land associated with Detroit or New Orleans. The police chief lay murdered, a number of union organizers and “outside agitators” were shot, feelings ran sky-high, and a nation just beginning to debate the direction of American capitalism was polarized. Salmond, an Australian historian, has written a first-rate account of this deadly chapter in American labor history.

The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945—1949, by Norman M. Naimark. Harvard $35

That the Soviet forces in Germany behaved badly goes without saying, and in this new study. Naimark of Stanford University documents many of their misdeeds. Not since the Germans occupied Russia had an invader behaved quite so badly. Come to think of it, the Germans got off pretty lightly. Naimark eschews what he calls the “pseudoscience of comparative victimology,” however, and draws up quite a detailed indictment.

Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History, by William H. McNeill. Harvard $22

The author calls this short, but wide-ranging and thought-provoking book, which makes very large claims for the importance of rhythmic movements by communities in the development of human civilization, a “reconnaissance.” That it is—a mind-stretching exploration of the thesis that “keeping together in time”—army drill, village dances, and the like—consolidates group solidarity by making us feel good about ourselves and the group and thus was critical for social cohesion and group survival in the past. McNeill points to dance as a precursor to religion and as an element in the development of ever more complex societies. And he leaves us with the thought that our modern retreat to the privacy of the TV room and away from collective rhythmic movement has led to an impoverishment of community and the denial of a basic human need.

Last of the Empires: A History of the Soviet Union, 1945—1991, by John Keep. Oxford $19.95

In this work the distinguished historian John Keep, who taught Russian history at the University of Toronto and elsewhere for many years, presents what is by a wide margin the best survey so far of the second half of the Soviet period. Emerging from the Second World War with superpower status, the USSR achieved military equality—or more—with the United States two decades later, then imploded in the 1980s. These developments have no parallel in the last 2,000 or so years of recorded history and making sense of them is no easy task. With his mastery of sources and subtle, penetrating intelligence, Professor Keep provides a steady, reassuring hand as we grope our way forward.

Jerusalem: An Archaeological Biography, by Hershel Shanks. Random House $45

This lavishly illustrated, beautifully produced book is a fine introduction to the Holy City on the 3,000th anniversary of its foundation by King David as the capital of Israel. Moving briskly from the Davidic city to the times of Moslem and Crusader Jerusalem, the author gives a comprehensive, up-to-date archaeological report that will be of considerable interest to scholars and non-specialists alike. Rich in anecdote and incident, this is a lively and absorbing book. The chapter on King Solomon and the Lord’s House is especially fascinating.

Millennium, by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. Scribner’s $35

This book is a blockbuster. An Oxford professor sets an impossible challenge for himself and then conquers it successfully in Herculean fashion with an illustrated and readable text of less than 1,000 pages. With the rise and decline of major civilizations in the past millennium, how did the history of the world develop from every point of view? Will the domination of Western civilization come to an end in the next 10 centuries in the Revenge of the East with the supremacy of the Japanese and Chinese? This masterful volume may well be one of the most stimulating experiences of your life as you read and reread it to understand the past and prepare for the future.

Court, Cloister, & City: The Art and Culture of Central Europe, 1450—1800, by Thomas DaCosta Kaufman. Chicago $45

Kaufman, a professor of art history at Princeton University, has written a magisterial study of the art history of Central Europe between 1450 and 1800. Under his definition Central Europe includes Germany, Hungary, Austria, and Poland, with occasional dips into Russia. He emphasizes the interconnections among the arts in these various realms instead of writing a series of histories of national schools. He also spends considerable time explaining the complex relationship between the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods and artistic developments in Central Europe. Kaufman discusses a number of media, including prints, paintings, sculpture, and architecture. His extensive treatment of patronage of the arts by merchants, the church, and various monarchs allows

him to link changes in the arts to broader political and social movements. The book is illustrated with numerous black and white photographs, which work well for the architecture Kaufman discusses but are less helpful when paintings are the subject. But this is a small quibble with a wonderful book which does justice both to a formal analysis of the art and to an explanation of broader political and economic forces at work.

Steinway & Sons, by Richard B. Lieberman. Yale $35

Based on the Steinway archives, this fascinating book explores the social history of one of the great manufacturers of musical instruments. Far more than a chapter in the history of the evolution of a musical instrument, this book is a rich mix of labor, business, and immigrant history. It is a compelling reminder of the fact that the history of art (in this case, music) is indeed complex, based on a wide variety of social and material causes. Rich in detail, this learned book makes an important contribution to the technological history of music.

A Concise History of the Russian Revolution, by Richard Pipes. Knopf $30

One of the deans of American historians of Russia, Richard Pipes savors the pleasant taste of vindication. The opening of the Soviet archives has proved him right on almost every major issue including the central one, the criminality of the Bolshevik regime. Only a couple of dozen American historians, with not only their careers but also their very reasons for being at stake, continue to oppose him, calling his views “totalitarian” and their own something wholesome which cannot, they declare, be reduced to labels. In this Concise History, Pipes presents a summary of the views he expressed in The Russian Revolution and The Bolshevik Regime. If he remains a bit strident at times, and so hostile to leftist intellectuals—Russian and Western—that one begins to feel just a wee bit of sympathy for them, he has the best of all arguments on his side: history as it was, and is.

Frontsoldaten: The German Soldier in World War II, by Stephen G. Fritz. Kentucky $29.95

Fritz’s examination of the “everyday life” of the average German soldier of the Second World War is so readable as to be difficult to put down. Part of the interest of this book lies in the author’s willingness to let the soldiers speak for themselves. Fritz quotes liberally from his sources, allowing the reader to acquire a sense of the soldiers’ attitudes unfiltered by the historian. Only in the final two chapters does the author present his own conclusions in detail. Expanding on Omer Bartov’s argument that the average Wehrmacht soldier was an ideologically committed Nazi, Fritz demonstrates that even in defeat soldiers clung to the Hitler mystique with surprising persistence. Most soldiers, indeed, continued to cling for decades after 1945 to the myth of “the good fight” against Bolshevik Russia. Fritz’s arguments in this respect have a particular significance for German culture after 1945 and should prove enlightening to students of German as well as military history.

America’s Secret War Against Bolshevism: U. S. Intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1917-1920, by David S. Fogelson. North Carolina $45

After some initial confusion in governmental and journalistic circles about the Bolsheviks, the United States turned firmly against Lenin’s gang of crooks masquerading as democratic saviors of the downtrodden Russian masses. As Professor Fogelson shows in this new book, based on extensive and judicious reading in American and Russian archives, and on the voluminous secondary literature, the United States attempted by various means fair and foul to bring the Bolsheviks down. The goal was a noble one, and the world paid a heavy price for its failure. One lesson that emerges from this excellent book is that it would have been better to go about the job openly, to the extent that public opinion would have permitted. That would have been contrary to the styles of both Woodrow Wilson and David Lloyd George; but those styles, however attractive down to the end of the First World War, proved utterly inappropriate in Russia after the Bolshevik takeover.

LITERARY STUDIESThe Faun in the Garden: Michelangelo and the Poetic Origins of Italian Renaissance Art, by Paul Barolsky. Penn State $28.95

Paul Barolsky here continues the pathbreaking project of his Vasari trilogy, relating the poetic and the visual imaginations in the Renaissance. Bearing in mind what we commonly mean by the term Renaissance man, Barolsky refuses to compartmentalize his study of artistic genius in the Italian Renaissance. Despite their wide range of talent and achievement, too often a Leonardo or a Michelangelo is discussed solely by art historians and solely in the context of art history, thus isolating them from broader cultural currents in the Renaissance world. With a wide knowledge of and acute sensitivity to literature, Barolsky does not make this error. Sometimes the juxtapositions he brings about are truly startling, such as his comparison of Botticelli’s Primavera with a passage in Fielding’s Tom Jones. But Barolsky knows what he is doing and time and again he deepens our understanding of Michelangelo and Renaissance art, with subtle readings of individual paintings and statues that draw out their iconological meaning by reference to poetic texts. Barolsky is particularly effective in demonstrating the influence of Ovid’s concept of metamorphosis on Renaissance art, especially on the way Michelangelo’s unevenly finished statues seem to metamorphose before our eyes from stone into works of art.

Literature against Philosophy, Plato to Derrida: A Defense of Poetry, by Mark Edmundson. Cambridge $59.95 doth, $17.95 paper

Mark Edmundson’s new book examines the age-old struggle between poets and philosophers, revisiting its familiar Platonic origins and demonstrating how this privileging of the knowing, anti-poetic stance has been taken up and intensified by philosopher-critics within the university structure during the past 25 years. Turning his interrogative gaze on both his profession and himself, Edmundson seeks to show the real limitations of recent critical trends which seek to either shore up academic authority or merely describe literary works, without fully responding to the renovating power of poetry (what he calls “revitalizing cultural activity”). Sketching out a potentially new role for literary critics, he invites us to put aside rigid preconceived formulations and the simple response to a literary work of “What is it?” in favor of the more interesting question “What can one do with it?”

Cultural Authority in Golden Age Spain, edited by Marina S. Brownlee and Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht. Johns Hopkins $42.50 cloth, $16.95 paper

This collection brings together 14 lucid and erudite essays on the canonical authors of Spanish Renaissance and Baroque literature— Garcilaso de la Vega, Lope de Vega, Cervantes, and Góngora, among others. Although the theoretical approaches are wide-ranging, the emphasis is on the political and social contexts of literary production and reception. The Golden Age is conceptualized as a period that simultaneously celebrates and subverts the cultural authority of its traditions and institutions. Of immediate interest to Hispanists, this book also has much to offer Renaissance scholars who work in other national literatures.

Writing and Being, by Nadine Gordimer. Harvard $18.95

In these Norton lectures, the distinguished South African author reflects on the meaning of fiction and on its relations to “real life.” In addition to meditations on the work of Naguib Mahfouz, Chinua Achebe, and Amos Oz, she writes about her own goals as an author. In the end, what interests us here is in fact the author’s own sensibility, her own craft, her own inspirations as a writer who, deeply committed to her country, has aspired with passion and clarity to transcend a waning colonialism.

A Primer on German Enlightenment: With a Translation of Karl Leonhard Reinhold’s The Fundamental Concepts and Principles of Ethics, by Sabine Roehr. Missouri $39.95

This short book (275 pages) more than amply fulfills the promise of its title and introduction. Part II, the translation of Reinhold’s 1798 Verhandlungen . . . is remarkably readable, while retaining both the sense and an echo of the cadences, the logical construction of the original. Beautifully presented, it should stand as a model for future treatments of German 18th-century philosophical writings. The book’s enormous value, however, lies principally in Part I, Roehr’s admirably concise and comprehensible review of Enlightenment thought. Roehr places Reinhold in the context of 18th-century thought on the role of personal development, education and critical philosophy in politics, faith and individual moral improvement. She examines both Reinhold’s interaction with other Enlightenment philosophers, particularly Kant, and his position relative to late 18th-century controversies and movements, from “pantheism,” democratic revolution, moral reform of Freemasonry, to counter-Enlightenment movements and Romanticism. The glossaries and bibliography round out this important and useful book.

The Castle of Indolence: On Poetry, Poets, and Poetasters, by Thomas M. Disch. Picador $21

Disch, a poet and novelist, has collected here a number of striking essays on the state of contemporary poetry. Perhaps the best word to describe this book is “lively.” Disch is both opinionated and refreshingly, delightfully funny. This last is a rare and singular virtue in a literary critic, one which leads Disch to make some pleasantly goofy nonstatements (comparing works by Galway Kinnell and James Tate: “If Kinnell’s amiability is a late-night snack of milk and cookies, James Tate’s . . . is a whole box of Little Debbie Snack Cakes”) and which, more importantly, keeps his essays alive and cheerfully free from the detritus of dreary seriousness that poetry criticism can so quickly accumulate. Disch has an even-handed, light-hearted disregard for the poetry academy, acknowledging some value to poetry workshops and graduate programs as self-help programs for people hoping to develop their gifts of self-expression, but finding them of “little assistance” to anyone actually wanting to learn to write poetry. His essays on individual poets and texts are perhaps the most valuable part of this collection: he tends to write about poets and poetry which he truly likes, and his enthusiasm is contagious.

Kenneth Burke and Contemporary European Thought: Rhetoric in Transition, edited by Bernard L. Brock. Alabama $43.95

This book appears in the series “Studies in Rhetoric and Communication” and consists of the writings of six contemporary rhetoricians/ communication theorists (four men and two women) who liken, contrast, and compare Kenneth Burke’s work on language as symbolic action to the work of four contemporary European philosophers: Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Ernesto Grassi, and Jürgen Habermas. The contributors are noteworthy: Bernard Brock provides an introductory account of Kenneth Burke’s philosophy of language; Thomas Farrell compares Burke and Habermas’ account of the drama of human relations; Mark McPhail confronts Burke with Ernesto Grassi; Carole Blair sees both convergent and divergent views of Burke and Foucault on the topics of symbolic action and discourse; James Chesebro contrasts Burke’s dramatism with Derridean deconstruction; and finally, Celeste Michelle Condit provides a summary and evaluation of Kenneth Burke and linguistic reflexivity entitled “Reflections on the Scene of the Philosophy of Communication in the Twentieth Century.” The authors are convinced that rhetoric will play an increasingly dominant role in the 21st century and that a renewed focus on language and symbolic action will be of great utility for the interpretation and shaping of paradigm shifts in rhetoric, philosophy, and communication theories over five or ten years into the next century.

Captured By Texts: Puritan to Post-Modern Images of Indian Captivity, by Gary L. Ebersole. Virginia $18.50

To research Captured By Texts, literary critic and historian of religion Gary Ebersole read more than 350 Indian captivity narratives, including the entire Garland reprint series of 311 titles in 111 volumes, and his perceptive and thought-provoking readings in this book reflect the thoroughness of his preparation. In a partly chronological, partly topical survey, Ebersole examines a wide range of issues related to the captivity narrative, including the significance of the first such narrative, written by Mary Rowlandson; the influence of Rowlandson’s text on those narratives published in the two generations following its appearance; the transformation of the genre during the height of the sentimental novel’s popularity; the various types of injured and gendered bodies present in these texts; the significance of white captives’ “going native”; and the many issues of authenticity raised by the genre’s incarnations in such 20th-century versions as Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves. That Ebersole consistently misspells Costner’s name (Kostner) should perhaps be taken as a sign not of this book’s somewhat cursory review of the genre’s appearance in modern film but rather of Ebersole’s complete immersion in the historical context of these remarkable narratives, which he accurately describes as “stories of human beings in extremis.”

Culture and Society in the Stuart Restoration, edited by Gerald Maclean. Cambridge $59.95 cloth, $19.95 paper

This fine collection of 13 new essays, ranging in subject from civic pageantry and imaginative literature to Quaker women and the anti-slavery movement, attempts to distinguish the essence of what has come to be termed “Restoration” culture and society and investigates how certain men and women accommodated themselves to the renewed “order” after 1660. The predominant chord struck here, though, is the entanglement of history and politics with literature and drama, i. e. , how the events and ideas of the 1640’s and 50’s continued to influence and shape literary culture and English identity after the restoration of Charles II.

Romanticism and the Heritage of Rousseau, by Thomas McFarland. Oxford $55

This is an interesting and provocative book, though somewhat uneven, and unfortunately its title is misleading. Anyone expecting a systematic and comprehensive account of Rousseau’s impact on Romanticism will be disappointed. Rousseau comes up only intermittently in the book, and, although McFarland tries to justify his procedure, the fact that he virtually ignores all previous studies of Rousseau and Romanticism weakens his argument, which is not always as original as he assumes. Nevertheless, the book has many good points, including some excellent chapters on one of McFarland’s favorite subjects, Coleridge (who looms far larger as a presence in the book than Rousseau does). McFarland’s polemics directed against the critics who currently dominate the study of Romanticism, such as Jerome McGann, Marilyn Butler, and (posthumously) Paul de Man, are generally on target, and provide a useful counterweight to current trends in literary criticism. If McFarland’s book helps to reopen the debate about the nature of Romanticism, it will have served its purpose.

Beyond the Great Story: History as Text and Discourse, by Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr. Harvard $39.95

A welcome and useful book to all serious students of history, Beyond the Great Story addresses the tensions between modernist and postmodernist and between textualist and contextualist and suggests a positive approach to utilizing and blending the often problematical and conflicting theories and methodologies confronting the modern historian. Exactly how should history be presented, if indeed, in the face of poststructuralist and postmodernist theories, it can be written at all? Berkhofer seeks an answer by constructing “a dialogue among changing intellectual influences” and in so doing has produced a work of great importance and instruction.

Music and the Origins of Language: Theories from the French Enlightenment, by Downing Thomas. Cambridge $49.95

Rich in detail, Thomas’ study examines the very important contributions musical theory— in particular the idea that music is a kind of language which originates in, naturally signifies, and arouses passions—made to the science of man in the French Enlightenment. These contributions can be found in epistemology, aesthetics, politics, and medicine, as well as in discussions of the origin of culture and of the origin of non-musical language and representation. Thomas gives an extended discussion of the influence of the musical theory of Jean-Philippe Rameau on Condillac’s Essai sur l’origine des connaissances humaines and Rousseau’s Essai sur l’origine des langues. This study is a strong addition to the New Perspectives in Music History and Criticism series.

The Reception of Myth in English Romanticism, by Anthony John Harding. Missouri $39.95

This book treats a subject important for the understanding of Romanticism, but one that has hitherto not received as much attention as it deserves. Harding analyzes the changing attitude toward myth in several Romantic poets, as well as the way myth functions in their poetry. He grounds his discussion historically, trying to relate Romantic myth-making to contemporaneous ideas about myth, largely derived from France and Germany. The book is principally devoted to Coleridge and Wordsworth, though the best chapters are the two on Percy Shelley. On the whole, Harding’s discussions are insightful and thought-provoking, though one misses a sense of any larger architecture in his argument. He does not make it clear why he discusses precisely the works he does and no others, and, though he offers some explanation, his omission of Blake from a book on this topic remains puzzling. Still, this book helps to fill in our picture of one of the vital sources of Romantic creativity in England.

LIVES & LETTERSAn Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, by Kay Redfield Jamison. Knopf $22

What makes this account of the author’s life-long struggle with manic depressive illness so gripping—and so important—is that she is both victim and healer. As a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and Johns Hopkins, Kay Jamison treated manic depression in her patients, studied its causes and effects, and wrote award-winning papers and textbooks on the topic. But until this memoir, she never spoke publicly about her own experience of the disease. From her late teenage years, Jamison found herself alternating between exhilarating highs and terrible black depressions. In her mildly manic states she found herself vastly productive and creative, enjoying higher energy, greater concentration, and magnified self-confidence. In her depression she became suicidal. While lithium helped restrain her mood swings, for years Jamison was loathe to live mundanely, until psychotherapy convinced her that without the drug she would soon be dead or hopelessly insane. Neither preachy nor aggrieved, this book is tough-minded but gently written.

The Perfect English Spy, by Tom Bower. St. Martin’s $26.95

To believe the dust jacket, this biography celebrates the achievements of Sir Dick White, a top espionage and counterespionage administrator from the late ’30s to the Spycatcher affair. In fact Bower debunks White and most of his colleagues as a pack of naive, ill-trained (indeed unteachable), incompetents reduced to inaction by social taboos and office politics. The real heros of the book are James Jesus Angleton and Peter Wright, whose notorious folie a deux about moles in the CIA/MI5 woodwork comes across as sanity itself. Rich with fresh anecdotes and surprising connections, The Perfect English Spy sets the stage for the late John Cairncross’s memoirs which Rupert Allason (“Nigel West”) is editing and annotating for spring publication by Little Brown.

Bad Housekeeping, by Julie Edelson. Baskerville $21

The reader is swept along, sometimes struggling to keep up with the erratic currents of Cee’s mind as it leaps, hovers, ricochets, and glides between her children, her love life, her renovations business, her aging parents, and her own memories of growing up, hover occasionally in a vivid trance as Cee’s inner vision paints exquisitely offbeat visual responses to the chaos swirling about her. The first half of this postmodern surrealist comedy of manners is excruciatingly funny and satisfying; it comes as a jolt when the death of Gee’s father and finally daughter Ariel’s alcoholic near-suicide plunge the narrative perilously close to melodrama. The characters remain obstinately idiosyncratic, however, and the upbeat resolution is emotionally, if not entirely aesthetically, satisfying. A tumultuous and breathtaking read.

In Confidence, by Anatoly Dobrynin. Times Books $30

Several movers and shakers from the six administrations preceding Clinton’s are howling in anguish over their good buddy Anatoly Dobrynin’s revelations in this memoir, or rather, chapter in Mr. Dobrynin’s continuing joke on America. They deserve no sympathy. Dobrynin never claimed to be anything other than a good Communist, so good, in fact, that he avoids discussing the KGB, no mean feat when surveying the Soviet years. He is comfortable in his retirement. His American publisher will make him even more so and the truth be damned.

The Papers of John Marshall: Volume 8, 1814-1819, edited by Charles Hobson, et al. North Carolina $50

Very little of John Marshall’s personal correspondence has survived, so this volume, like its predecessors, offers little insight into the private life of the chief justice. It nonetheless offers insights into the evolution of traditions that have given the Supreme Court its uniquely authoritative, non-partisan character. Although the justices came from different backgrounds, and all but Marshall and Bushrod Washington (both Federalists) had been appointed by Republican presidents, the documents presented in this volume make it clear that Marshall deliberately cultivated a judicial collegiality that transcended politics. The unity of the court and the judicial detachment of its members were essential to give weight to the three great constitutional decisions handed down in 1819—Dartmouth College v. Woodward, Sturgis v. Crowninshield and McCulloch v. Maryland. The latter decision, asserting that Congress had the right to pass any law it deemed “necessary and proper” for executing its enumerated powers, brought down a storm of criticism on the court from advocates of states’ rights. Understanding the long-term importance of the decision, Marshall took the extraordinary step of defending it in a series of anonymous newspapers essays. The text of Marshall’s decision in McCulloch, the newspaper essays, and related correspondence are all here, making this the most interesting—and timely— volume yet published in this series.

A Monk’s Confession, translated by Paul J. Archambault. Penn State $14.95 paper

This new translation of Guibert of Nogent’s memoirs, which span a period of more than 70 years, is an enthralling historical document from the Middle Ages. It is a vivid instance of the self-consciousness that emerged during the so-called “Renaissance of the 12th Century.” The author speaks of his parents’ unconsummated marriage, of his salvation by Scripture after he was tempted by poetry, and of much, much more. This book will be of interest to medievalists, literary scholars, and students of religion. It is also recommended to all those who enjoy a lively biography.

Paolo Giovio, by T. C. Price Zimmerman. Princeton $39.50

Eclipsed by Machiavelli, Guicciardini, and Vasari, Paolo Giovio was a major Italian historian of the 16th century, best known for his Histories of Our Own Times. This astringent “biography” is less a vivid account of the subjects’s life than a close reading of his works in their cultural context. A dense, learned monograph, based on fastidious scholarship, which will be useful to students of the Italian Renaissance, it will enable those interested in the period of Pope Leo X to form a more detailed picture of the age.

I, Fellini, by Charlotte Chandler. Random House $26.50

This is a strange, remarkable, and wholly engrossing book. Ms. Chandler, a close and intimate friend of the great director and of his wife Giulietta Masina, here presents the essence of 14 years of conversations she had with il maestro. It is almost exclusively, then, in Fellini’s own words and so arranged as to cover his life and art—the 33 films he helped write for others, the 27 films of all lands he directed. The result is an essential addition to modern film study and appreciation. It is a pleasure to hear Fellini’s own voice, funny and sad and wholly dedicated. And it is a treasure trove of Fellini aphorisms. Two representative examples: “Life is a combination of magic and pasta, of fantasy and reality.” “I know now that I am in mourning for all those films I might have done which I never made, which never had their existence.”

Lewis Carroll: A Biography, by Morion N. Cohen. Knopf $35

Based on a lifetime of scholarship on Lewis Carroll, Cohen’s book is the definitive biography. Documenting Carroll’s life as an Oxford don, photographer, and mathematician, the author places Carroll’s imaginative work in its proper Victorian setting. As the story unfolds, however, the reader is left with the impression that there is something more to Carroll that escapes a narrative of his life. He or she is persuaded, filially, that Carroll’s “real life” lies in his writings and that that “life” still needs to be told, in a speculative biography, which can never be “definitive.”

Dark Voices: W. E. B. DuBois and American Thought, 1888—1903, by Shamoon Zamir. Chicago $49.95 cloth, $15.95 paper

This intriguing inquiry examines the development of a facile mind under unique circumstances, that of a young black man who would have profound influence upon 20th-century America. Raised in rural Massachusetts, shipped

south to Tennessee, where he studied at Fisk University and taught summers in primitive black schools, and then on to the heady world of Harvard, by the time Du Bois completed his studies at Cambridge, he had an unusual fund of experience in black-white relations. Interestingly, at first he seems to have been searching for a great figure, a leader to solve the Jim Crow dilemmas faced daily by his race. In a commencement speech at Fisk, for example, he eulogized Bismarck and, during a similar Harvard ceremony, spoke on “Jeiferson Davis as Representative of Civilization,” although— having learned much from study with William James and George Santayana—the approach was quite different. Dark Voices, which includes a satirical, previously unpublished short story written by Du Bois while at Harvard, works best when the man himself is center stage. Exploring the thoughts of philosophical giants he never met, while perhaps necessary, takes the reader into a murky, intellectual swamp.

Edward Hopper, by Gail Levin. Knopf $35

Suggestively called an intimate biography, this book focuses on the complexities of Hopper’s marriage and what this difficult relationship tells us about the painter’s solitary, taciturn, and sometimes violent character. Although Hopper would have us believe he was interested merely in effects of light, Levin, in a measured and balanced psychological approach to the painter’s subjects, gives us insight into their darker meaning. After reading this informative and absorbing work, the reader will see Hopper’s painting in a new way and better understand something of their haunting bleakness.

Women on the Margins, by Natalie Zemon Davis. Harvard $24.95

The renowned and influential author of The Return of Martin Guerre, using memoirs and other sources, gives us the lives of three women, living “on the margins” in the 17th century: Glikl as Judali Leib, Marie de 1’Incarnation, and Maria Sibylla Merian, a Jewish merchant of Hamburg, has French Catholic mystic, and a German Protestant painter and naturalist. By “margins” the author means that these women were removed from the centers of political power. With her characteristically deft skills as a storyteller, Ms. Davis brings her subjects alive in vivid stories that will surely be much discussed by historians.

First Ladies, by Margaret Truman. Random House $25

Harry Truman once remarked that someday someone should evaluate the true role played by the wife of a president in the burdens she had to bear and the contributions she made as the First Lady in the nation. That wish has now been fulfilled in admirable fashion by his First Daughter who is the author of bestselling separate biographies on her parents as well as a series of mystery novels dealing with Capital Crimes. Margaret fortunately knew a dozen First Ladies personally and engaged in historical research on the others. The net result is a fascinating book that well might become the highlight of her distinguished literary career.

The Road to West 43rd Street, by Nash K. Burger with Pearl A. McHaney. Mississippi $25

A native Mississippian defects to seek his fortune up North. En route he picks up on an M. A. in literature from the University of Virginia with whom he later retains a special relationship. In the land of the Big Apple he achieves great success in a 30-year career on the editorial staff of The New York Times Book Review. In this appealing and lively memoir he shows a superb skill as a natural racounteur.

Modern American Memoirs, edited by Annie Dillard and Cort Conley. HarperCollins $27.50

This collection includes selections from the memoirs of 35 prominent American writers, ranging from Wallace Stegner to Malcolm X, Margaret Mead to Maxine Hong Kingston. These haunting and vivid pieces convey a myriad of perspectives on life in 20th-century America. They each offer insight on how we are shaped by our personal history, whether it is Harry Middleton’s account of how he learned to fly-fish in the Ozarks, Kate Simon’s childhood memory of brief

abandonment in the Bronx or Russell Baker’s sketch of his mother’s courtship in Depressionera Baltimore. Each selection is perfect in its scope, long enough to relate an important episode or describe a person in telling detail, yet short enough to be read in a brief sitting. The editors have thoughtfully provided a listing of other memoirs—American and foreign—in the afterword.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRSThe Dustbin of History, by Greil Marcus. Harvard $22.95

Greil Marcus is one of the most accomplished commentators on popular culture writing today. Though a freelance writer, he has all the virtues of a good academic: he cares passionately for getting his facts right, is alert to the larger meaning of seemingly minor events, and can read any text—be it novel, rock song, or movie—with an eye for grand patterns and minutely significant detail. But he manages to steer clear of the typical faults of academics: his prose is free of all affectation, pretentions, and jargon. Above all, he writes clearly and knows how to shape an essay so that it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This collection of pieces written over the past two decades for such journals as Rolling Stone and The Village Voice can serve as an excellent introduction to Marcus’ distinctive role as a critic, uncovering the byways of culture that often escape the eyes of academics. Whether he is pricking the balloon of Susan Sontag’s reputation, or thoughtfully analyzing a seemingly forgettable (and forgotten) television movie about pop singers Jan and Dean, or giving a surprisingly sympathetic appreciation of the acting ability of John Wayne, Marcus has one outstanding quality as a critic: he is unpredictable. And in today’s world of pre-packaged intellectuality, that is an increasingly rare and hence treasurable quality.

Isolationism Reconfigured: American Foreign Policy for a New Century, by Eric A. Nordlinger. Princeton $30

The end of the Cold War also meant the sudden disappearance of the lodestar of U. S. foreign policy since the Second World War: the containment of the Soviet Union. Not surprisingly, the last several years have witnessed a vocal debate over America’s interests in the wider world and how best to pursue them. In this book, completed only shortly before his untimely death, Eric Nordlinger makes an important contribution to that debate by offering an engaging, yet nuanced argument for a return to America’s isolationist roots. Nordlinger is unlikely to convince the many policy makers and scholars who believe that the United States should maintain a more internationalist posture. But they would be well advised to consider his critique, if only to sharpen the arguments they may increasingly have to employ in support of their favored policy prescriptions as America inevitably becomes more self-absorbed.

Dream Reaper: The Story of an Old-Fashioned Inventor in the High-Tech, High-Stakes World of Modern Agriculture, by Craig Canine. Knopf $25

Canine sets out to tell two stories in Dream Reaper: the somewhat quixotic effort on the part of two men to develop and to bring to market a new reaper, and an informal history of modern agriculture. The book follows Mark Underwood, a small-town Kansas farmer who has built a new kind of reaper, and his cousin Ralph Lagergren, who quit a steady job as a marketer to help Underwood capitalize on his invention. Canine weaves their story with chapters on several aspects of agricultural history, including the development of the reaper itself, the rise of international grain markets and of futures markets, the development of stronger strains of corn and wheat, and a chapter on the development of modern herbicides. Canine never quite manages to fuse the two halves of his narrative, but the book makes for an interesting read.

The End of Affluence: The Causes and Consequences of America’s Economic Decline, by Jeffrey Madrick. Random House $22

Rarely does an author state his thesis as succinctly as Madrick does: “Americans have generally underestimated how unusual our economic advantaged once were, how they have shaped us individually, and how they have influenced the way we solve our problems.” He argues that America’s economic prosperity from its founding until about 1970 was due far more to its enormous size and abundant natural resources than to the virtues of the American people, however commendable they are. America will never again have such compelling advantages, he argues, and must simply learn to make do with less. Madrick sets out his argument tersely and impressively; the book’s slim size belies the considerable thought which went into it. Nevertheless, his argument veers into economic determinism; if clarity is one of its strengths, nuance is not, Despite its many insightful nuggets of information, this book lacks the depth to be truly profound.

Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling Of American Holidays, by Leigh Eric Schmidt. Princeton $24.95

Schmidt, a professor of religion at Princeton, sets out to explore the consumer rites with which Americans celebrate so many of their holidays in a book published just in time for the Christmas season. Analyzing a number of holidays, including Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Day, Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day, Schmidt recognizes that overindulgence is a part of festivity. He also discusses extensively the preeminent role women have taken in organizing holiday celebrations. Schmidt could veer into the banal, but he does not. He clearly enjoys studying popular culture, as the book’s numerous illustrations amply attest. His discussion of St. Valentine’s Day, which was converted in the 19th century from an obscure religious feast day into an opportunity for consumption and gift-giving as well as a centerpiece of American courtship. This is an entertaining and informative look at the development of a uniquely American set of rituals.

The Poverty of Welfare Reform, by Joel F. Handler. Yale $25

Yale’s Fastback series seeks to provide relevant material to current issues of national importance, and this study, by a recognized authority on welfare matters, speaks directly to this concern. It is the author’s contention that, despite a spate of efforts over the centuries to address the needs of the poor, there has been no fundamental change in approach since the English 1349 Statute of Labourers during the reign of Edward III. The thesis here is that virtually every piece of legislation, national and state, intended to address the problem of poverty, victimizes that segment of society that falls below a minimum income standard, whereas what is really needed is a realistic minimum wage, a rational health care system, and the creation of more jobs.

The Russian Question, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Farrar, Straus ir Giroux $15

As the great if anachronistic Russian prophet, Nobel Prize-winning author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, sees it, the problem with Russia is that it has strayed from its roots, from its principles. Sound familiar? Russia is the quintessential Christian nation, the incarnation, in many respects, of the political teachings or at least implications of the New Testament. Solzhenitsyn wants to return to those teachings, which do not always—in fact they rarely—coincide with modern concepts of democracy. In the conditions prevailing in Russia today he may get his wish, or at least the anti-democratic portion of it, and he may regret that he did.

Nationalism and Nationalities in the New Europe, edited by Charles A. Kupchan. Cornell $39.95 cloth, $14.95 paper

The collapse of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe fostered hopes that a new European order characterized by pancontinental peace, prosperity, cooperation rather than the tensions and military excesses of the Cold War might emerge. While noteworthy progress toward this goal has taken place, the way forward has been made difficult, if not impassable, by the reemergence of divisive nationalism as a potent political force. Not only has vicious ethnic conflict occurred in the former Yugoslavia, but even the ambitious project of European Union increasingly seems jeopardized by parochial nationalistic concerns. This book provides a useful and, for an edited volume, unusually coherent introduction to the complicated and multi-faceted subject of nationalism in Europe after the Cold War. Particularly helpful are the editor’s introductory and concluding chapters, which provide both a framework of analysis and a thoughtful synthesis of the volume’s main themes.

Chernobyl: The Forbidden Truth, by Alia Yaroshinskaya. Nebraska $10 paper

It was as if 15 or 20 million people suddenly received, on the same day and at the same hour, the news that they had cancer. That was Chernobyl, the worst peacetime disaster even our accursed century can offer. A journalist who lived not far from the site, Alia Yaroshinskaya sought the truth from the beginning and from the beginning met the land of stonewalling we associate with the worst bureaucratic coverups— squared. Here she tells the full story, and we must all know it.

Getting the Boot: Italy’s Unfinished Revolution, by Matt Frei. Times Books $23

Italians may have invented modern political theory, but they certainly haven’t perfected it, as Matt Frei shows in a book that is by turns hilarious and deeply depressing. He describes the political upheaval in Italy over the last five years: the lushly corrupt government of Bettino Craxi, the corruption scandals in which every Italian politician of any consequence seemed to become enmeshed, the increasingly desperate struggle between the Mafia and the Sicilian people for control of Sicily, and the rise to power of Silvio Berlusconi, a media magnate turned Prime Minister. Frei also discusses the disfunctional political culture in which Italians are forced to circumvent Italian law and bureaucracy because of its inefficiency and corruption. Frei traces the recent chaos in Italian politics to the fall of the Soviet Union and its pervasive effects on European politics and to a worsening economy which made the graft which was the mother’s milk of Italian politics too expensive for businesses to continue paying. Frei’s description of events is at times better than his analysis, but this is a book well worth reading.

The Legacies of Communism in Eastern Europe, edited by Zoltan Barany and Ivan Volgyes. Johns Hopkins $15.95

Considering the examples of the Huns, Goths, Mongols, and others, Eastern Europe may in the long run consider itself fortunate that the Communists proved as shortlived as they did. Half a century of unmitigated catastrophe is in a sense easier to bear than centuries, but that does not make it easier for any given generation. In this excellent, balanced tour of the debris left behind by the Soviets and their puppets, the editors do not spare us the bitter medicine, but they temper it with an optimistic prognosis.

In the Soviet House of Culture: A Century of Perestovikas, by Bruce Grant. Princeton $49.50 cloth, $15.95 paper

This is an ethnographic and historical account of a small population of Siberian fisherman, Nivkhi of Sakhalin Island, and their 20th-century interactions with the forces of Russian and Soviet domination. Modern imperialisms make a space for “native” peoples such as the Nivkhi within two opposing historical narratives: either they are consigned to a changeless world of tradition or their entrance into the modern world is celebrated as progress. Grant shows how Nivkhi culture, history, and society were ceaselessly rearranged nd reinterpreted by successive Russian and Soviet administrations. He also shows us the poignant situation among the Nivkhi today, amidst the anarchy of post-Soviet society: “in contrast to the six political generations before them, there is no call [for people today] to negate the past by superimposing the future. The past is now an open field, albeit one in ruins.”

How the Irish Became White, by Noel Ignatiev. Routledge $25

This study breaks new ground in the effort by social historians to explain how it was that Irish immigrants succeeded in overcoming their second-class citizenship standing in their native land, and which followed them to the United States once they reached these shores. Adducing most of the argument from detail of the growth of the labor movement and race relations in Pennsylvania, Ignatiev’s thesis is that the Irish achieved political standing by allying themselves with the substantial anti-abolitionist elements in the population. There is the flat assertion that the history of the American labor movement is at the same time the history of the Irish immigrant.

Virtually Normal, by Andrew Sullivan. Knopf $22

Sullivan, the thirty-something editor of The New Republic, has written a lucid, engaging, and—at times—impassioned account of the political vicissitudes of homosexuality in Britain and the US. Iterating the debate in four distinct voices—those of the Prohibitionist, the Liberationist, the Conservative, and the Liberal—he carefully weighs the merits of each before revealing their inadequacies in effecting a gay-tolerant society. For Sullivan, a public that truly accepts homosexuals is not one devoted to any specific ideology, but one that “reconciles the best of the arguments of liberals and conservatives.” Such a society would place a high premium on personal liberty, while recognizing at the same time that private lives are shaped in part by public mores. Sullivan’s work is an important contribution to political and gay studies for its logic, its in


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