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Notes on Current Books, Summer 1975

ISSUE:  Summer 1975

Nate Shaw was born in Alabama of former slaves. As a sharecropper he struggled successfully both with the land and against absolute domination by the white man. Eventually he was jailed but he was never broken, and he returned to the land to begin again. His autobiography, presented in his own words, reveals a slice of Southern history as well as the personal courage, perception, and skill of one man. The illiterate Shaw was a fine storyteller with a sharp memory for detail. What good luck for all of us that Rosengarten, then a Harvard graduate history student studying the long defunct Alabama Sharecroppers Union, found Shaw in 1969 and was able to record his story in a series of long interviews. The result is a unique contribution to both American literature and history which will long be enjoyed.

Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volumes 5 and 6, edited by Marc Friedlaender and L. H. Butterfield. Harvard $40

These volumes of Adams’s “Diary” cover his life between his twenty-fifth and twenty-eighth years (1833—1836), a time when he attended to raising a family, business interests, private study, and politics. The last mentioned was gradually becoming an absorbing interest, one both spurred and retarded by Adams’s consciousness of his unique family. In 1833 the Antimasonic party in Massachusetts nominated his father, John Quincy Adams, as its candidate for Governor; two years later a legislative coalition sought to effect the election of his father to the U. S. Senate. Neither effort succeeded, but both drew Charles Francis Adams more deeply into regional and national issues. In these pages we see his hostility to Daniel Webster, his muted acknowledgment of differences with both his father and his father-in-law (Peter Chardon Brooks), and his early success as a political columnist. There is much more here than the astute comments of an informed political observer and the refined editorial standards that we have come to associate with the Adams Papers. Adams belonged to a generation of American leaders which was extraordinarily conscious of the rôle of the public man in shaping the course of history, and convinced of the utility of extensive private reading in history and classical literature as a preparation for public life. The reader can follow Adams’s exercises in selfcultivation through a portrait gallery of formative influences. Ultimately, Adams’s “Diary” yields insights not only into the history of politics but into that of education.

Jonathan Sewall, by Carol Berkin. Columbia $10.95

While focusing on Jonathan Sewall, an aristocratic Boston Loyalist, Ms. Berkin also tells the story of a society caught in a revolution. She does a good job of placing Sewall in the context of Massachusetts politics, but the revolutionary actions taking place in the other colonies are hardly touched. The real weakness of the study, however, lies in the failure to relate Sewall and his actions to the other Loyalists. The question of whether or not his was a special case or typical is never broached, let alone answered. Overall, however, this volume is a useful edition to the growing corpus of work being done on the American Loyalists.

The Letters of Bernard DeVoto, edited by Wallace Stegner. Doubleday $10

The literary and philosophical genius of writer and conservationist, historian and editor, is richly manifested in this large collection of previously unpublished letters. Stegner has managed his job well; this volume is indispensable as a companion piece to Stegner’s excellent biography of DeVoto, “The Uneasy Chair.” DeVoto was a generous correspondent. Many of the letters contained in this volume were sent to people unknown personally to this great “man of causes”—but they are nonetheless lengthy and thoughtful expositions of principle, analyses of problems, criticisms of injustice, or debates on the principles of democracy. One is filled with admiration for this intricate man, both fierce and gentle.

Pitt the Younger, by Derek Jarrett. Scribner’s $10

Mr. Jarrett has written a judicious and eminently readable account of one of Britain’s most important first ministers. Jarrett demonstrates that whatever the often considerable flaws of Pitt as a war minister and protector of British liberties, he must be seen as a founder of the modern structure of British government and, more importantly for his time, the leading symbol of British resistance to Napoleon. Pitt converted the French Revolutionary-Napoleonic wars from a commercial struggle to a political mission which tied the Kingdom’s fate to the continental Europeans. At the same time, he perceived a more fruitful link with the American colonists. Few Prime Ministers have better grasped the critical link between Britain and the Europeans and North Atlantic.

The Letters of Caroline Norton to Lord Melbourne, edited by James Hoge and Clarke Olney. Ohio State $10,75

These unpublished letters, bearing on one of the most celebrated scandals of the nineteenth century, the Norton divorce suit, are surprising indeed. It is a talented and remarkable woman, the granddaughter of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and pre-eminently a passionate yet intellectual individual, that one grows to respect in these very private letters. A leading figure in the very early struggles for women’s rights, for a removal of archaic legal disabilities, and a literary artist of some fame, she deserves the attention that these letters focus on her private character. The glare of light that these sensitive editors direct into these private recesses reveals a fine human soul.

John Cleland: Images of a Life, by William H. Epstein. Columbia $9.95

John Cleland was a minor figure in the London literary scene of the second half of the eighteenth century. He is remembered today, when remembered at all, as the author of the “Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure.” The modern reader is apt to know the “Memoirs” under its more popular name—”Fanny Hill.” Whatever the title, the book’s notoriety and power remain undiminished, even in these days of easily accessible pornography. Cleland himself, however, has not survived the years as well as his heroine. Biographer Epstein has done an exhaustive amount of meticulous research in uncovering every existing reference to Cleland. He likens his subject’s life to a motion picture which inexplicably and frustratingly goes in and out of focus, leaving the viewer with a set of disconnected images. Cleland is seen as a student at West-minster School, in Bombay with the East India Company, in debtors’ prison in London, and as a professional writer with diverse interests and few literally successes. In attempting to give meaning to these images, Epstein must often speculate about the motivating forces in Cleland’s life, especially the motivation behind the creation of Fanny Hill and her “Memoirs.” And these speculations are the closest we are likely to get to the truth about the man whom Boswell called “a fine sly malcontent.”

Jane Austen, by Douglas Bush. Macmillan $6.95

Douglas Bush has begun the Jane Austen bicentennial year with a new critical biography for the “Masters of World Literature” series. As Bush himself admits, his book “is only a general account, a sort of “companion” to Jane Austen, on a modest scale, addressed to general readers.” It is a “reader’s guide” that should prove helpful to the beginning student of Austen or to the teacher who desires a fresh perception of Austen’s novels. Bush admires Jane Austen as a comic satirist, a classicist, and a serious moral writer. Her fiction embodies the “principles of traditional wisdom, stability, and order” characteristic of the eighteenth-century Age of Reason.

The Letters of Sean O’Casey: Volume One, 1910—1941, edited by David Krause. Macmtllan $35

O’Casey is considered to be one of the great dramatists of the twentieth century, so it was perhaps inevitable that his letters be published. At hand is the first book of a projected three volume set, which raises several important questions. Are these letters of any possible interest to other than a small number of scholars? Do they illuminate the man to a degree that would make it worthwhile to plunge into the nearly nine hundred pages of this volume alone? Sadly, the answer in both cases is no. The letters of the present volume will be of little interest to the inmate, and reveal nothing of consequence that is not already known. What ever meaning and value Krause intended for this set, other than encyclopedic, is sure to be lost in its sheer bulk.

Diderot: The Virtue of a Philosopher, by Carol Blum. Viking $8.95

This is an ingeniously conceived and attractively written essay on Diderot the man and the social philosopher. Carol Blum blends biographical considerations with an insightful commentary on the philosophe’s essays, novels, dramas and impressive contributions to the “Encyclopédie.” For Diderot, the idea of virtue represented the very principle of existence. Professor Blum succeeds admirably in underscoring the author’s sustained struggle to emerge as a philosopher whose ambition was to lead his fellow man to the practice of virtue. This carefully wrought study constitutes a vivid evocation of the kind of persistent dialogue which Diderot kept with himself on the central subject of the theoretical aspects and the practical applications of virtue and its translation in social behavior.

Emile Zola, by Jean-Albert Bédé. Columbia $1

The very great virtue of this new Columbia Essay on Modern Writers (No. 69) is that, despite the serious limits imposed by the series’s format, such an impressive overview of Zola’s life and accomplishment is achieved. Professor Bédé has managed to compress in 48 pages the best critical synthesis of Zola to be found anywhere today. This veritable tour de force could only have been attempted and realized by one of this country’s foremost teachers and scholars. His essay on Zola appraises with unusual insight and precision the author’s total production from the early “Confession de Claude” to the partially finished “Quatre Evangiles.” What is truly amazing in this brilliant presentation is that it remains eminently accessible to the general reader as it proves thought-provoking to the Zola specialist. This is a truly splendid essay which will be read with pleasure for many years to come.

Freud and His Followers, by Paul Roazen. Knopf $15

A brilliantly compelling and articulate biography of Freud, based on extensive documentary research and interviews with Freud’s family, friends, and colleagues. The detailed chronicling of the intense intellectual and personal relationships that were so crucial to the origins and development of the entire psychoanalytic movement, and the insightful delineation of the intricate human milieu in which Freud and his associates lived, make this one of the most critically important books ever on the history of psychoanalysis.

LITERARY STUDIES A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers, by Hugh Kenner. Knopf $8.95

For Hugh Kenner, America in the age of technology has been for its best native writers a promised land, free of all sense of the past, where engineers of language may handle things as they are or words as they are without the constraint of traditional values. Sometimes it is the vision of the writer that he interprets thus, showing how Scott Fitzgerald could make the list of Gatsby’s guests, jotted in the blanks of an out-of-date railroad timetable, a symbol of the national culture. More basically, he uses his thesis to get at the very premises of writers. He sees the same desire to get directly to the object as motivating Williams, who believed that words stripped of cultural accretions could virtually become one with things, and Stevens, whose sense of the arbitrariness of words and the unknow-ability of things in themselves led him ever more urgently to seek an imaginative hold on the world. He writes most originally of Marianne Moore, focusing on her compelling concern for things as they are for the eye (apart from literary convention) and her resistance to traditional cadences. It hardly seems to matter that he ignores her proclivity for direct statement or her subtle music, neither of which fits his argument. When he gets to Louis Zukofsky the Objectivist and other lesser exemplars of his thesis, however, poets who seem to dispense with ideas and meters all too successfully, his approach is less rewarding. But he has interesting ideas and entertaining lore about lots of writers. His argument that readers must stop seeing Faulkner as an allegorist is a fine fresh departure, starting from insight into the novelist’s earliest literary intentions, and it is characteristic of the many nutritive suggestions in this rich and lively book.

Comedy: The Irrational Vision, by Morton Gurewitch. Cornell $10

This book performs a much-needed service in its first chapter by lucidly summing up and putting into perspective most of the important theories of comedy. Professor Gurewitch refuses to commit himself to any one theory or definition, preferring to think of comedy as a “miscellaneous genre activated by a plurality of impulses: farce, humor, satire, irony.” He discusses each of these impulses in a separate chapter, drawing on an impressive knowledge of the world’s comic literature for his illustrations. The four impulses, one often feels, should be more precisely defined; but the author’s dedication to puncturing inflated generalizations about comedy, and the zest with which he proceeds, make this one of the most rewarding and entertaining books on the comic in recent years.

Fable’s End: Completeness & Closure in Rhetorical Fiction, by David H. Richter. Chicago $12.95

Although, as he himself is quick to acknowledge, Mr. Richter’s book leaves one with “the impression that many more questions have been raised than have been answered,” “Fable’s End” nevertheless offers useful insights into one of literature’s major dilemmas. Aristotle’s dictum that a work of art must be “whole, complete, and of sufficient magnitude,” is taken to be a still vital issue, and becomes the basis of Mr. Richter’s wide-ranging analysis of the problems of “completeness and closure.” The distinction drawn between these two concepts is a nice one, lending a subtle and elegant cast to the subsequent discussion of particular works. These works, according to Mr. Richter, all fall into the category of “rhetorical fiction,” the novels which make up this generic group being distinguished from novels of “represented action” by their being seen to have “as their formal end . . . the inculcation of some doctrine or sentiment concerning the world external to the fiction.” The potential openness of form in the rhetorical novel becomes the focal point of Mr. Richter’s analysis, and works from the eighteenth and twentieth centuries are used as examples in his demonstration of the various means by which both completeness and closure are achieved. Following the lead of writers such as Frank Kermode and Wayne Booth, Mr. Richter has succeeded in constructing a fascinating thesis, of particular importance to readers seeking to “place” the contemporary novel in some historical formal context.

The Landscape of Absence: Emily Dickinson’s Poetry, by Inder Nath Kher. Yale $15

“The Landscape of Absence” is an important contribution to the study of Dickinson’s poetry, for through a careful explication of the canon Kher produces a richly suggestive theory of Dickinson’s poetic vision. Using methods of intrinsic analysis, tempered by an awareness of the historical existence of poetry, Kher argues cogently that Dickinson was an existential-romanticist and that her poetry is a landscape of absence: that part of the terrain which cannot be perceived is apprehensible by insight. Kher’s centrifugal critical approach reveals that dense, personal symbols form thematic structures in which the primary concern is with the existential being. And this perception allows us to place Dickinson’s poetry in a context of literary tradition not limited by the confines of American history. Kher has in no sense exhausted the possibilities for understanding the poetry, but he has provided a model for discussion of mode of perception and inherent aesthetic in nineteenth-century poetic procedure. .

Emerson as Poet, by Hyatt H. Waggoner. Princeton $11.50

It is reassuring when a contemporary critic finds value in Emerson’s poems, for too many in our time have dismissed not only the poems but the essays too as suitable perhaps for adolescents but unworthy of the notice of mature and intelligent readers. The book is admirably concise, having an introductory review of previous criticism, three chapters on the poems, one on the poetry of the prose, and a brief concluding chapter. He names a dozen or more poems that deserve to be called great, others good but not great, and many not even good. He seems at first to disagree with those who have said Emerson’s prose is more poetic than his verse, but in the end he tends to agree with them. He justifies the irregularities of the verse and suggests how it has influenced later poets. One small caveat may be proposed against the author’s judgment that Emerson is not entitled to be a philosopher because most of his ideas are derived and because his logic is not presented in the rational style of contemporary academic philosophers.

Heinrich Heine: Poetry and Politics, by Nigel Reeves. Oxford $21

Consistent with previous Oxford Modern Languages monographs, this new study is a fine, one is tempted to say definitive, brief study. The rootlessness and desperate over-reflectiveness of Heine has provoked much discussion. His art is filled with the contrast of beauty and banality, the poetic and the real, as these compose our lives. In search for a voice, Heine sought to elegize the past, to satirize the present, and to idyllize the future. His attempt is marked with contradiction and halting despair with reality. Animating comparisons with the poetic and political approaches of contemporary Romantics and wholesale reference to Heine’s political prose-writings serve to illuminate Reeves’ beautifully written volume.

The Poet as Analyst: Essays on Paul Valéry, by James R. Lawler. California $15

In the ten essays, several of which appeared earlier in various journals, which comprise this attractive volume, James Lawler illustrates convincingly the intimate alliance between poetry and analysis which informed Valéry’s total literary production. “The Poet as Analyst” makes excellent use of the enormous mass of the poet’s personal notes, his assorted Cahiers, in order to give the fullest account yet of this distinguished “thinker poet.” The individual chapters neatly lead up to the main thesis, and it is much to Lawler’s credit that we are able to follow Valéry’s quest for precision and his compelling need to refine the language of poetry and thought. All in all, this is indeed an impressively presented exploration of the methods and sensibility of Valéry. Lawler is a perceptive reader of Valéry, and his explications should prove provocative and informative to those interested in the development of twentieth-century French poetry.

The Rhetoric of Renaissance Poetry, edited by Thomas O. Sloan and Raymond B. Waddington. California $10

Critics have long recognized the influence of rhetoric on poetry during the Renaissance, but too often they have limited the study of the relationship between these two language arts to the classification of figures and tropes. The ten essays collected in this volume greatly expand the methodology of rhetorical criticism. Although some of the essays do consider matters of definition and labeling, most are concerned with rhetoric in its most comprehensive sense: the relationship between the poet and his audience established through the work of art. “The Rhetoric of Renaissance Poetry” is of value not only for the interpretations of particular poems but also as a demonstration of a new critical mode.

Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, volume VIII, edited by Geoffrey Bullough. Columbia $25

When Professor Bullough began in 1957 the publication of the sources and analogues of Shakespeare’s plays, it was anticipated that the proposed five-volume series would be completed in five years. Now the eighth volume, dealing with the final romances, has just appeared. It has been a splendidly executed undertaking, accurate and comprehensive. The aim, as the editor freely admits, was not to discover new sources but to make those already known easily accessible. But in his introductory essays he has commented wisely and well upon the “imaginative process” informing Shakespeare’s structure. What he has done so well in this series will not have to be done again for a long time. We anticipate with pleasure his promise to supplement his concluding essay of this volume by a history of Shakespeare source-study.

Tragic Alphabet: Shakespeare’s Drama of Language, by Lawrence Danson. Yale $11

This book brings together and sums up the current views on what and how language reveals in Shakespearean tragedy. Language is defined broadly to include gestures and dramatic conventions. Each tragic character must search, in vain, for a true and comprehensible manner of expression, Dansom is particularly good, if not novel, on “Hamlet” and “Lear.” He is also perceptive about the misuse of language in “Troilus and Cressida,” but his argument is slightly spoiled by his attempt to define the play as a parody. The book is solid and well written. It would be of particular value for the non-Shakespearean who occasionally teaches or reads Shakespeare’s tragedies.

The Temper of Shakespeare’s Thought, by W. Gordon Zeeveld. Yale $11.95

This convincing and coherent study brings into sharp focus the relations between Shakespeare’s dramaturgy and the daily concerns of his London public. Zeeveld forgoes the dubiety of an Elizabethan world picture to examine in close detail Shakespeare’s transformation of sixteenth-century concepts of ceremony, commonwealth, equity, and civility into a drama of immediate concern. The pattern of ceremony so strongly woven into the notion of history becomes in the English history plays an effective reaffirmation of the value of ceremony in acts of daily life. On the other hand, Zeeveld concludes that the current political implications of commonwealth, state, and empire are subtly distanced in the Roman histories. The complicated legal concept of equity was made vivid and understandable for the audience in “The Merchant of Venice” and “Measure for Measure.” Zeeveld argues that in the later plays Shakespeare sought a dramatic resolution of the civility-barbarity paradox which permeated current thought. Zeeveld envisions the world of Shakespeare’s stage as one acutely aware of ideological issues as a basis for successful drama. His scholarly reconstruction of the historical and intellectual milieu of Shakespeare’s dramaturgy and lively commentary on the temper of Shakespeare’s thought give us surer grounds for comprehending the possible relation Shakespeare’s verbal and conceptual values to our own.

The Medieval English Stage: Corpus Christi Pageants and Plays, by Alan H. Nelson. Chicago $12.50

Professor Nelson sets for himself a large task: “My primary aim is to discover how, when, where, and for whom the Corpus Christi plays were performed. My secondary aim is to discover something about their origins.” By an analysis of a great many unpublished—or inadequately interpreted for him—records, he can conjecture an antecedent procession of the pageant carts followed by the performance of the plays at one central place for gathering of the city’s authorities and citizens. Certainly a series of performances at stations throughout the city would take, for his argument, an inordinate amount of time, given the length of the cycle, but at least one recent writer has shown that it was possible. This book is filled with an encyclopedic amount of information; it will challenge even closer examination of those ambiguous medieval documents that may not fully tell us how, when, where, and for whom.

The Stag of Love: The Chase in Medieval Literature, by Marcelle Thiébaux. Cornell $ 13.50

The subject is the hunt and its poetic uses in three national literatures over a period of three centuries. Professor Thiébaux attempts both to characterize the literature of the chase and to illustrate its iconic significance in major medieval narratives including “Nibelungenlied,” “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” Gottfried von Strassburg’s “Tristan,” and Chaucer’s “Book of the Duchess.” There are notable successes in both objectives, especially in the former. Students of medieval English, French, and German literature will find much here that is intelligent and informative in the discussion of the chase motif in poetry.

Seven Novelists in the American Naturalist Tradition, edited by Charles C. Walcutt. Minnesota $10.50

The eighth volume in the Minnesota Library on American Writers, this book consists of brief monographs on Crane, Norris, Dreiser, London, Anderson, Steinbeck, and Farrell; selected bibliographies of each author are included. One might begin study of naturalism in American fiction with this handy source, for Walcutt’s introduction is a searching analysis of how naturalism is to be identified and of how variants are governed by the writer’s explicit intention.

The Way of the New World: The Black Novel in America, by Addison Gayle, Jr. Anchor $10

This book may be one of the most important critical studies of the black novel to appear within the last twenty years, for it goes beyond the work of Carl M. Hughes, Robert Bone, and Edward Margolies to propose a theory of the nationalist basis of black fiction. An astute critic of black literature, Gayle attempts to examine the black novel within the broad framework of literary criticism, aesthetics, the novelist’s function in society, and the inevitable impact of, social change on the concept of nationalism that informs individual novels. In discussing the black novel from William Wells Brown to William Melvin Kelley, Gayle brings to his task a profound understanding of the political dimensions of American literature. Of special value in this study is Gayle’s recognition of the interplay between black and non-black fiction and of the complex problems of fictional representation of racial image. While it must be noted that Gayle’s ideological perspective leads him to commit errors of judgment and omission, his conceptual design yields valuable insights about the sociology of black fiction in the United States.

Season of Youth, by Jerome H. Buckley. Harvard $12

“Season of Youth” is an incisive, scholarly study of the Bildungsroman as an evolving genre in British fiction. In an introductory essay, Mr. Buckley traces the Romantic origins of the form and defines the principal characteristics of the “novel of youth or apprenticeship.” He then examines the evolution of the English Bildungsroman in the autobiographical novels of Charles Dickens, George Meredith, George Eliot, Samuel Butler, Walter Pater, Thomas Hardy, H. G. Wells, D. H. Lawrence, and James Joyce. The novel of youth provides a pliable medium for a young artist eager to fictionalize the fascinating emanations of his own ego.

Gogol from the Twentieth Century: Eleven Essays, edited and translated by Robert Maguire. Princeton $17.50

That Gogol has not fared so well at the hands of non-Russian critics and readers is curious. His greatness is universally pegged with that of Tolstoi and Dostoevsky among Russian critics. Robert Maguire has provided, in this well-edited volume, an invaluable introduction to Russian Gogol scholarship—and in turn to the work of Gogol himself. Moreover, the intrinsic interest of the essays he has translated (in addition to copious introductory notes) is great: they provide a rare glance at modern Russian literary criticism. Translations are literal, even at the expense of “smoothness;” but there is, throughout, genuineness in this collection. Editorial revision of some essays has aimed at condensing the rewards of this cornucopia.

Yesterday’s Woman, by Vineta Colby. Princeton $12.50

According to Vineta Colby, the English novel of the early nineteenth century became increasingly “bourgeois and feminine,” “anti-romantic, unaristocratic, home-and-family-centered.” ’ The author gives us an informative study of the evolution of “domestic realism” in the “fashionable novel” of Mrs. Gore; the sentimental fiction of Maria Edgeworth; and the evangelical novel, from Hannah More and Charlotte Elizabeth to Elizabeth Sewell and Charlotte Yonge. Colby concludes that this early genre prepared the way for the “flowering decade of the eighteen forties,” when Victorian fiction yielded to a larger canvas of political and social complexity.

The Divine Comedy: Paradiso, by Dante Alighieri; translated with a commentary by Charles S. Singleton. Princeton 2 vols. $30

Commentary, as the editor points out in a final note, must be less than what is commented upon, mere prose. But the completion of this truly monumental undertaking brings to English-speaking readers a great deal that one needs to know to begin to read the greatest poem of the European Middle Ages. This translation and commentary is the capstone of a lifetime’s devotion to the elucidation of Dante’s poetry. It will not soon be replaced.

The Bell and the Drum, by C. H. Wang. California $10

This is an important introduction to the study of the songs of that ancient Chinese classic, the Shih Ching, as examples of formulaic poetry in a basically oral tradition. Though this is a book for the specialist, even students with an elementary knowledge of the Chinese text can benefit from a reading of the introductory portions. The printing is excellent, but the outstandingly bad physical characteristic of the book is the poor quality of the binding which causes the pages to bulge and wrinkle.

The Eskimo Storyteller, by Edwin S. Hall. Tennessee $18.50

Folklorists have only recently become aware of the entire ethnography of speaking as a critical factor in the collecting, contextualization, and interpretation of a corpus of tales. This scholarly collection of tales from contemporary northwest Alaska is one of the most completely and sensitively contextualized monographs in the history of folklore studies; even though the only textual analysis is motivic, an unsatisfyingly encyclopedic approach to the interpretation of myths and stories, the accompanying ethnographic details should enable other scholars to do reliable analyses of their own.

POETRY The House on Marshland, by Louise Glück. Ecco $6.95

This house of poems has windows only on the moon and the garden, not on freeways or history, but the windows are purer than most glass, and any reader with eyes in his mind will cherish the apparitions of seasons and the ghosts of beings nearly human as they themselves watch, wait, and listen. These are small poems—fifteen of the thirty-five sonnet-length or shorter— that choose to admit impressions rather than feelings, to frame remarkable pictures rather than muck around in the marsh of human struggles. Even the “raw flesh” of “Nativity Poem” is lost among linen, gold harps, and “silken chickens,” while the poem starting with “sodden ditch” and dead twig soon yields to the breeze and daffodils. Nature herself has as much animation as the other beings, and the trees—willow, spruce, pine, beech, elm, apple, plum, pear—are especially vigorous as they blossom and leaf. There are several perfect poems in these thirty-six pages (such as “The School Children,” the coldness of ritual among the great glory of nature and color), and the perfection is of a kind, the exquisite construction of a small silent object, one of the things a poet may choose to do.

Hazard, the Painter, by William Meredith. Knopf $5

Sixteen new poems by William Meredith comprise this volume which depicts the life of an artist named Hazard. Much as an episodic short story, the poems probe deeply into family relations, politics, friendships, and aging. Firmly grounded in reality, there is nonetheless a mythic quality to the portrayal of Hazard: a calming quietude of pedestrian events made fleetingly notable. As if Hazard had briefly put down his brush to speak, he, in the final poem, begins once again to paint as the first flakes of winter snow begin to fall. An affecting collection.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Comedy for Christmas, translated by Theodore Silverstein with illustrations by Virgil Burnett. Chicago $10

Virgil Burnett’s pen-and-ink illustrations and the handsomely printed text make a lovely book indeed, while Theodore Silverstein’s racing and often witty translation is in many places far superior to any other modern version of this extraordinary poem. Unavoidably, translation is a form of commentary upon the original, and Professor Silverstein’s reading is a trivialization of the poem. He sees it as an entertainment, and that view leads him to ignore the central truths of the fable, even to deleting the crucial lines in which the poet forsakes tropes to explain bluntly the symbolism of Gawain’s shield. The problem, though, is largely one of interpreting tone, and Silverstein tends to render the graceful flippant, ignoring, as the poet did not, the moral implications of the Christmas fiction and its earnest as well as its game.

Love Songs of the New Kingdom, translated by John L. Foster. Scribner’s $10

Although these poems are rather late (1300—1100 B. C. ) in Egypt’s long history, they bring a lively voice into the ancient literature which, in the official texts at least, seems to be mostly incantations and prayers. The poems are full of what the French call tendresse and are quick with life, disproving the supposed universal attitude of dour monumentalism supported by the ruins. We are told that this collection is practically all that remains to us of the ancient lyric poetry, but it is of such quality that we become greedy for more.

The Glass Adonis, by C. A. Trypanis. Chilmark $5.95

This slender volume contains but a few poems; they are the work of a poet of quiet, sweet images on the edge of tempest and loss. A steady Greek voice clothed in controlled English, this lovely book evokes thoughtful wonder. It does not return to one upon thought with greater understandings or knowledge of self—its reward is less grand, but it is very good.

A Book of English Pastoral Verse, edited by John Barrell and John Bull. Oxford $13.95

The foremost question regarding an anthology such as this is how best to define the term “pastoral” and thereby delineate what should and should not be included. Fortuitously, the editors are given to a wide interpretation—the relation of man and society to a nonesuch country life—thus subsuming pastoral drama, country-house poems, architecture, and a selection of satirical anti-pastoral verse, as well as the formal eclogues. Lively, readable introductions preface each of the book’s eight sections.

FICTION A Month of Sundays, by John Updike. Knopf $6.95

John Updike’s “A Month of Sundays” concerns the involuntary retreat of the Reverend Tom Marshfield to a desert place to recuperate from his “distraction,” although he prefers to diagnose his malady as “the human condition.” It will be no surprise to find Updike’s characteristically dense imagery conveying the essential ambiguity of that condition nor to find the relationship between man and woman an inexhaustible emblem. The names of his characters, drawn from “The Scarlet Letter,” show them to be the true children of their puritan ancestors, adept literalizers bent upon destroying paradise anew. Like Hawthorne, Updike in earlier novels has used nature as the source of his most ambiguous images; but in this novel the images from the natural world are sparser, less luxuriant, while the images associated with the human body are more extravagant, and language itself provides a ground of wildness unsurpassed by Hawthorne’s darkest forest.

The Conservationist, by Nadine Gordimer. Viking $7.95

Nadine Gordimer has written a masterpiece in “The Conservationist,” a brilliant study of a wealthy, white industrialist in South Africa, a dealer in base metals, whose self-definition depends upon random and unsuitable sexual encounters, unlimited meditations upon death, and alienation from his family while his so-called primitive neighbors play out their lives among their kin in labor, custom, and ceremony.

Native Intelligence, by Raymond Sokolov. Harper & Row $7.95

This ironic parable of a pilgrim’s progress, from the deserts of Flint and Cambridge to a Peace Corp’s green hell that becomes the lugubrious Arcadia of the protagonist’s baneful dreams, is one of that breed of fabulistic novels that try to be cosmically satirical but which all too often are merely self-consciously smug. However, Sokolov’s writing is so elegantly smooth, ingratiatingly clever, and flamboyantly imaginative that it is easy to forgive his occasional lapses into gratuitous and heavy-handed social relevance. The end result is a rich comic tale whose quiet, sensitive tone is, like a still, small voice, both captivating and affecting.

Celebration, by Harvey Swados. Simon & Schuster $8.95

A portrait of Sam Lumen, aging liberal educator cum political activist, outwardly the confident elder statesman, inwardly conflicted by self-doubts, bad dreams, and a dilemma involving a projected national children’s center, named in his honor and paid for by the government, and a radical student group anxious that he take just one more political stand. The first-person writing style, developed through the use of diary entries, is both the novel’s most interesting device and its major limitation. Swados is on firmest ground when writing descriptively. His dialogue is often embarrassingly clichéd, as are many of the book’s characters, who appear as mere shadows of late nineteen-sixties chic. An oddly dated piece of writing which never firmly achieves a central thrust.

Kin,by Stephen Goodwin. Harper & Row $8.95

Clichés and fashion do not necessarily make a novel. “Kin” is concerned with integration but does not add much to the solution to the problems of the moment or enlarge the fashionable attitudes toward it. No matter how sympathetic one may be about integration, a novelistic setting which could have been taken from the newspapers does not increase one’s interest in or convictions about this terrible dilemma of our times.

A Spiritual Divorce and Other Stories, by Heather Ross Miller. Blair $6.95

These stories have extraordinary power, catching a strange, recognizable, but seldom used image and building to strong climaxes with its help. None are very long, but the author captures a mood, a location, an action, or a character so swiftly that length would be a handicap. Although Ms. Miller is still young, her ability to read odd quirks of the soul matches that of many older authors. She must be watched.

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, by Heinrich Böll. McGraw-Hill $7.95

Few writers can convey as well as Böll the compelling dialectic necessity behind a banal and pedestrian life, the quiet, inexorable confluences of time and motion that comprise empty experience. Unfortunately, this vapid, amoebic, and self-indulgent panegyric about the destruction of the dignity of private illusions by the hegemony of public truths substitutes extraneous detail and novelistic vagary for the subtle insight and understanding that characterizes Böll’s better work

The Petersburg-Cannes Express, by Hans Koning. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $6.95

A skillfully devised entertainment in which several youthful turn-of-the-century Russian patriots kidnap a rather unimportant police official as a means of gaining the release of a jailed comrade. Amusing complications result. The pace is fast, the characterizations are neatly devised, the tone is one of cleverness.

Mothersill and the Foxes, by John A. Williams. Doubleday $7.95

Mothersill, the man, and “Mothersill,” the novel, are both raunchy in an amusingly innocent way. It is, as are so many novels today, about the search for oneself, but here Mothersill is so forceful a man that his lovemaking is a natural answer to a natural need and his resolution of his problems seems natural also. A good, sound novel.

The Forests of Norbio, by Giuseppe Dessi; translated by Frances Frenaye. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $7.95

A bucolic novel set in nineteenth-century Sicily which depicts a life-long struggle of one man to save his village’s chief esthetic asset, its forests. Dessi’s portrait of Angelo Uras, who attains his position of influence by luck and good fortune, is never stylized: Uras profits handsomely from the work he performs effecting a balance between inevitable change and the village’s need for a sense of immutability.

HISTORY The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770—1823, by David Brion Davis. Cornell $11.50

In his earlier award-winning study, “The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture,” David Brion Davis searched Western history from antiquity to the eve of the American Revolution for the origins of anti-slavery thought. In this sequel, he describes the challenges to the institution of slavery during the following half century, “the Age of Revolution.” Although he emphasizes the significance of a “profound transformation in moral perception” which brought Western men an awareness of an evil to which they had been blind for centuries, his book is not a morality tale. The question of abolishing slavery, he says, was ultimately a question of power. Neither liberal principles nor benevolent sentiments ever convinced any group of planters to give up their slaves. Davis shows that reform only came when planters were too weak to prevent it or when it was actually in their interest, as in the case of the abolition of the foreign slave trade to the United States. Opponents of slavery were generally part of the emerging capitalist industrial order and were risking no personal sacrifices. In fact, Davis believes that at the same time they sought to end slavery they were imposing new sanctions for human exploitation. This is a difficult book to read, but certainly it would not be easy to make it otherwise. Davis presents a story that is complex and detailed, combining intellectual analysis with political narrative. German philosophers and the black leader of a Haitian slave revolt meet on the same page. The book is truly a monumental feat of scholarship.

British Politics and the Stamp Act Crisis, 1763—1767, by P. D. G. Thomas. Oxford $25.7;

It is Thomas’ contention that from the first imposition of the Stamp Act Grenville recognized that the issue was not just the tax itself, but the right to tax at all; the overwhelming majority of English politicians, whether Rockinghamites, Pitt followers, or independent Tories, supported the supremacy of Parliament over the colonies; there was little inherent difference between the basic proposals of the prevailing ministries; and the rôle of colonial agents and British merchants in bringing about the compromises has been overstated. Finally, he suggests that it is vain to contend that had not the vagaries of English politics brought forward the intransigent North ministry in the 70’s instead of one of the more tractable ministries of the 6o’s an American accommodation might have been found. To the contrary, after 1767 no British faction offered a viable solution: Pitt, who opposed taxation, favored economic coercion; the merchants, stung by the failure of the American market to rebound after the Stamp Act embargoes, were not willing to risk public wrath again by defending the colonists; and the colonial agents ceased to play any meaningful rôle. If Thomas is correct, and there is no serious flaw in his argument except a tendency to underestimate the importance of small differences in an era of political factionalism, the Revolution awaited with a kind of inevitability after the Townshend Act. Unfortunately the inflationary price of this intelligently argued book may limit its readership.

Fat Mutton and Liberty of Conscience: Society in Rhode Island, 1636—90, by Carl Bridenbaugh. Brown $8

Seventeenth-century Rhode Island, variously called “the isle of Error” and the “sewer of New England,” has been so bedeviled by its reputation as a haven for heretics that its economic rôle in colonial America has been ignored. In fact, it has been assumed that just as the Antinomians were driven from Massachusetts to the Narragansett Bay, so they were driven to the sea by the barrenness of the land. Not so, says Professor Bridenbaugh in a spritely, somewhat chauvinistic, yet convincing defense of his adopted state. Rather it was the agricultural success of the first settlers which caused them to seek outlets for their farm surpluses. Indeed, the Massachusetts heretics, many of them Boston merchants, choose Rhode Island because of its real potential for developing a livestock trade. Utilizing the many islands as fence-free pastures requiring few shepherds, they flourished. Then in 1657 there arrived the second wave of heretics, the Barbadian Quakers, who combined their missionary zeal with mercantile experience to find profitable West Indian outlets for meat, grain, and livestock produced by their farming neighbors. By 1690 Rhode Island was a profitable collection of independent towns. Heretical they might have been, but economically naive they were not. This small, imaginative book is also handsomely printed.

The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606—1689, edited by Warren M. Billings. North Carolina $12.95

This little collection of actual documentary records from widely deposited archives of seventeenth-century materials does a considerable service to both the general historian and the specialist. It is in the best traditions of institutional history in its emphasis on the reconstruction of life and colonial attitudes as they actually existed. Over half of these several hundred documents are previously unpublished; divided into convenient subjects, they are preceded in this volume by interpretative essays that are most helpful recollections of general information. Much of this material concerns the evolution of government and of such institutions as slavery, but some marvelous information on houses, households, and leisure is included.

The Mind of America, 1820—1860, by Rush Welter. Columbia $14.95;

So much has been written about ideas and events in the United States during the forty years covered in this study that it might seem hopeless to try to add anything new. Yet here is another version, broadly based and thoroughly documented, which tells the story in a way that to the lay reader, if not to professional historians, will be interesting and new because it will appear to be closer to his conception and experience of American life than, most previous histories. As the author shows, conservative and liberal views of political democracy, which were in strong contrast at the beginning of the period, gradually drew together in the latter part of it and might have merged if progress had not been disrupted by irreconcilable views on slavery during the last decade. The author also provides insights into the popular belief that the American style of democracy was “destined” to spread peacefully and eventually throughout the world, and suggests some reasons why it would not succeed. Even so, the typical American character and the pattern of our developing democratic society were largely determined during this period.

The New Urban History: Quantitative Explorations by American Historians, edited by Leo F. Schnore. Princeton $17.50

From Jamestown to Los Angeles, the problem of American cities has involved the accommodation of the needs and aspirations of ordinary, unexceptional people. Growth, change, and the character of urban life have proved elusive quantities. The lack of sources and appropriate tools for urban studies have reinforced a tendency on the part of historians to eschew sociological questions and concentrate on politics and notable men. This very intriguing volume, rich in its variety and confidence, is of great moment; its explorations provide an excellent demonstration of new analytic tools, a new orientation towards research, even a new periodization of American history. A challenge (ex fide fortis) to believers and agnostics alike.

Heresy, Crusade, and Inquisition in Southern France, 1100—1250, by Walter L. Wakefield. California $14,50

Another volume of the Cathars, the Albigensian Crusade and the early Inquisition might seem altogether supererogatory but for two things: the current interest in medieval religious dissent and anti-establishment radicalism; the partisan, semi-fictitious, or plain deceitful character of much of the commonly available literature. In consequence, this cool, balanced, consistently lucid account is highly welcome. The author’s scholarship is sound; and he describes ably the authentic roots and doctrines of heresy in Languedoc; the bitterly divisive miscalled crusade which pitted orthodoxy and northern French feudal avarice so bloodily against the nobles and townsmen of the south who were often of anti-clerical rather than anti-credal outlook; and the origins and methods of the religious court system of the Inquisition. Northerners and Inquisition did much to put down the challenge with force and terror, but more effective than either was the compulsory reform of the region’s unworthy Church, so long the seedbed of heresy. Professor Wakeneld’s informed use of the medieval sources, his valuable bibliographical commentary, even his six appendices, contribute to make this an intelligent guide to a still hotly controversial subject.

The Short Victorious War: the Russo-Japanese Conflict 1904—5, by David Walder. Harper & Row $10

The Russo-Japanese War has recently been the subject of renewed scholarly interest and numerous books and articles. Mr. Walder’s distinctive contribution is less to the political antecedents and consequences of the War than to the conduct of the campaigns. In dramatic narrative he recounts the battles on land and sea, giving this long-forgotten war an immediacy for the contemporary reader. Moreover, he notes how the performance of the new weapons and the conflicting strategies were monitored by the major European powers, providing insights, perspectives, and mistaken lessons which would govern the much greater clash of arms a decade later.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Political Undercurrents in Soviet Economic Debates: From Bukharin to the Modern Reformers, by Moshe Lewin. Princeton $16.50

For those readers unaware that economics is closely related to politics, especially in Marxist countries, this study by Lewin will no doubt be welcomed as a significant contribution. For everyone else it is more likely to leave more questions unanswered than not. The study deals competently with the formal outlines of Soviet economic policy since the last days of the NEP to the present. It contains an interesting discussion of Bukharin’s economic point of view. But in spite of the claim to link politics with the economic problems, Lewin falls short for a number of reasons. Since Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago” it should no longer be reasonable to look at Soviet economic-political events with the same benign eye that has characterized so much American and Western scholarship. Missing is the impact of mass terror in a totalitarian regime that forms the core of politics during the period covered by this study. This is a tediously researched but nevertheless curiously irrelevant study of the relationship of economics to politics in the Soviet Union. It has its uses as a technical reference to the formalities of economic policy, but falls short of its title.

Letters to the Future: An Approach to Sinyavsky-Tertz, by Richard Lourie. Cornell $8.95

It has become increasingly obvious to even the most casual observer that a potentially profound intellectual ferment is underway in the Soviet Union. Exactly what the movement may be and in what direction it may be heading is difficult to say. Helping to answer these and other equally vexing questions about the possible spiritual rebirth of Russia is this thoughtful study of Andrei Sinyavsky, one of the most widely read of the Soviet dissident authors, Sinyavsky’s best known works, “The Trial Begins” and “On Socialist Realism” have become minor classics in postwar literature. Lourie’s insightful interpretation of Sinyavsky-Tertz is without doubt the best study on this most interesting writer to appear to date. For those familiar with Sinyavsky’s writing, Lourie’s work will add depth to their knowledge; for those who may be unfamiliar with it, this is an excellent introduction and overview of his major and minor works. Summed up in Sinyavsky’s own words, his work is aimed at a rediscovery of God; “Enough affirming man. Time to think of God a while.” This is


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