Skip to main content

Notes on Current Books, Summer 1977

ISSUE:  Summer 1977

In such earlier works as Modern Literature and the Religious Frontier and The Broken Center, Professor Scott scanned the theological horizons of modern literature, focusing on the loss of belief which characterizes major forms of 20th-century imagination. His most recent book is a study of exceptions, of the positive belief in polis, communitas, the City (world of human coexistence) that informs the work of Eliot, Malraux, and Auden.

The Poetry of Civic Virtue is a provocative, brilliant exposition; insights about levels of ultimate meaning are combined with clear, graceful reasoning about the importance of reflecting on the social and political implications of civic virtue, or its absence, in our daily lives. Scott reaffirms the need to embrace the world external to the self, to use literature of the highest order as an instrument of mediation. For students of modern poetry, Scott’s cogent and timely application of hermeneutics should be required reading.

Matters of Fact and of Fiction (Essays 1973—76), by Gore Vidal. Random House $10

Vidal is not the best essayist in the world, but he may be the bitchiest. Objects of his contempt are legion: Jewish novelists, “rabbinical lore,” heterosexuals, America, bad diction, and American novelists younger than he is. His politics are a mixture of aristocratic snobbery and socialism; and it is hard to tell whether his principles are those of Senator Gore or Karl Marx. Reading these pieces, one feels one’s wit drowning under a ponderous flood of chic platitudes. Thought can’t survive here. Vidal is no Voltaire.

The Genesis of Ezra Pound’s Cantos, by Ronald Bush. Princeton $16.50

Pound’s cantos continue to be illuminated from many angles—linguistic, economic, political, aesthetic—but Bush’s is the first study to weave all these into a convincing account of what Pound was thinking 1915—25. He wisely pooh-poohs Pound’s so-called “ideogrammatics,” his analogies to music, and his other self-professed critical poses, showing instead in a masterful opening chapter that later critics of Pound’s poetry have, by taking too seriously Pound’s own criticism, distorted both his poetry and his biography.

With splendid attention to source material of the most diverse kinds, Bush recreates a convincing intellectual biography from which an equally convincing reading of the early Cantos easily flows. Nor are these two enterprises separate; young Pound emerges naturally from a discussion of the young poet’s relation to Browning and other predecessors. Bush’s study is valuable, then, not only to Pound studies but also as a model of how two seemingly disparate critical genres can be harmoniously and usefully fused.

Spiritus Mundi, by Northrop Frye. Indiana $11.50

Frye has now reached a position of such eminence that he is tempted on occasion to write as much about himself and his own works as about those of others. However, in this collection of recent “Essays on Literature, Myth, and Society” he is as stimulating as ever, demonstrating his customary range of reference. Perhaps he does have a tendency to drag everything into what he calls the “mythological universe,” but he manages to present his case without appearing dogmatic. Furthermore, he does offer the student of literature a way out of the narrowly formalistic cul de sac, arguing for a methodology which takes account of literature’s central role in the formation of ideas and human society.

Autobiographical Acts, by Elizabeth W. Bruss. Johns Hopkins $10

This subtle phenomenological study of change and continuity in autobiographical writing makes a substantial contribution to our thinking about the history of the genre. After giving close attention to theoretical problems situated in the institutional nature of literature, Bruss examines the autobiographies of Bunyan and Bos well, De Quincey and Nabokov as representative examples of developments since the 17th century. Her penetrating analysis of the positioning features of language, contextual choice, and literary options revitalizes the idea of truth and design in autobiography.

Prejudice and Literature, by J. Mitchell Morse. Temple $8.95

If we take metaphors too literally, Morse claims, they will become ghosts and haunt us. In this urbane book of essays on the misuse of language, he conceives his task to be exorcism, the casting out of prejudices that blind us to what is cheap, vulgar, racist, or tyrannical in everyday speech and in works of art. Armed with erudition and much disdain for man’s culpability, Morse persuades the reader that precise thinking is necessary for the existence of human freedom.

Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, by Larry D. Benson. Harvard $13

Larry Benson’s study of Sir Thomas Malory’s retelling of the story of King Arthur is a welcome change from the recent spate of gloomy assessments of those “joyous and pleasant histories.” He finds not existential tragedy but a fairly typical 15th-century chivalric romance, addressed largely to an aristocratic audience of knights whose lives, he argues interestingly, were sometimes modeled upon chivalric heroes. He demonstrates that comparison of Malory’s achievement with the verse romances of the 12th and 13th centuries has been confusing and instead places the story squarely in its own ethos. If the account of the total structure is less than convincing, the book is worth the reading for the wealth of historical anecdote which constitutes its central third.

The Prelude, 1798—1799, by William Wordsworth, edited by Stephen Parrish. Cornell $19.50

This second volume in The Cornell Wordsworth presents Wordsworth’s two-part Prelude, 1798—99, tracing its development from the earliest drafts. This version, which preceded the better known 1805 Prelude, has its own poetic power. The volume is designed for a scholarly audience and provides the documentation necessary to understand Wordsworth’s revisionist procedures.

The Novels of Anthony Powell by James Tucker. Columbia $12

Mr. Tucker, a Welsh journalist and novelist, has drawn up a complete Who’s Who of the characters in Powell’s novels and provided a brief essay on each work. He also discusses Powell’s themes and technique. Although this is clearly a labor of love, Tucker faces up to Powell’s limitations: his clumsy handling of material, his limited range of experience and interest. Sometimes he is disingenuous. To say that not very much can be learned from putting Powell’s novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time alongside Proust is to beg the question altogether. In every way, from originality to command of language, Proust towers over Powell and to pretend otherwise is absurd.

LIVES & LETTERS Lyndon Johnson if the American Dream, by Doris Kearns. Harper & Row $12.50

The two most interesting things about this best-seller are, first, how a doctoral dissertation in political science became a best-seller—combine her bedside (her bed) interviews with Johnson, which she reveals, with excellent advance public relations work, which she does not—and, second, the texts of her interviews with Johnson, some of which are fascinating and will some day be put to better use by a good biographer. As historical biography, this book leaves much to be desired. Its author was overwhelmed by her subject and disinclined to check his memories against actuality. She makes some plausible observations about ‘Johnson’s personality, but either carries them too far or becomes strangely silent when his words belie them. Finally, Johnson is too seldom heard from; the preponderance of this book is comprised of the author’s dull prose and unexciting recounting of events.

The Marquis de Sade, by Donald Thomas. New York Graphic Society $12.95

This interestingly written biography discusses the life and works of the Marquis de Sade, placing both within the social and political violence of the French Revolution. This volume does not aim at sensationalism, but the mere narration of Sade’s activities and the summary of his books makes him a contemporary of the modern destroyers of man and his environment. According to Donald Thomas, “Sade unveiled a universe dominated by evil and destruction, where the only consolation was a brutal, erotic prelude to the unlamented obliteration of the human race.” The book contains numerous illustrations from the original editions of Sade’s works and from related materials.

The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and His Image in American Society, by Thomas L. Connelly. Knopf $10

This thoughtful book is one of the few fruitful and appropriate studies in the “image” genre since Merrill Peterson invented that approach. The Lee mystique has colored and sustained a view of the American experience wherein exemplary character and military ideals assume greater importance than the dreary details of the everyday in assessing the Old South. Connelly reviews the darker side of the Lee heritage and the process whereby Jubal Early and a coterié of Virginia junior officers elevated Lee’s wartime record to the superlative. The extensive documentation and persistence in shattering a marble image of Lee make for a most valuable product. Yet no revisionist triumph has ever been worked with more repetitiveness or less organization than this volume. The brooding, self-disciplined, and human Lee that Connelly seeks to describe is stillborn in the mind of a reader wearied by many details and few vigorous organizational principles. The result is a very interesting mixture of brilliant investigative instinct and narrative after the fashion of a lengthy legal document.

Adolf Hitler, by John Toland. Doubleday $14.95

This big, sprawling biography is one of the most entertaining—if that word can be applied to the subject—studies of Hitler that we are ever likely to see. Not as scholarly as Joachim Fest’s book, it is nevertheless well researched, and it is written in a lively and provocative style. In some respects the Hitler who emerges is almost too human, too normal; one is left with the uncomfortable feeling that if he had not existed a perfectly adequate stand-in would have been found, and the monstrous story would have unfolded in much the same way. For Hitler was a product of his time, and Mr. Toland has told the story of that awful period well.

Cavafy: A Biography, by Robert Liddell. Schocken $8.95

Robert Liddell has produced a careful and workmanlike, but not very readable, study of a fine Greek poet who is only now receiving wide attention in the English-speaking world. Unfortunately, however, the chief datum to emerge from this book is that Cavafy lived an exceedingly dull life, and Liddell’s discussions of the poems are too superficial and diffuse to relieve the tedium of his narrative.

Oscar Wilde, by Louis Kronenberger. Little, Brown $8.95

It is difficult to think of many undertakings less called for than yet another biography of Oscar Wilde. Mr. Kronenberger tells Wilde’s story gracefully, if somewhat perfunctorily; his account is marred, however, by its absence of documentation and by the unilluminating and wrongheaded treatment accorded Wilde’s literary achievement. Both casual and serious students of Wilde should forego this book for H. Montgomery Hyde’s recent biography, which remains the best available.

A Princess Remembers, by Gayatri Devi and Santha Rama Rau. Lippincott $12.50

For pure escapism one should read this exotic autobiography of a girl who was raised in a palace with 500 servants, shot her first panther at the age of 12, married a Maharajah, survived the Jet Set, and became a leading member of Parliament in her modern mother India.

O America, by Luigi Barzini. Harper & Row $10

Anyone who has read with sheer delight the author’s The Italians will be equally enthralled with the incisive insights of this intriguing autobiography by the Dean of the 20th Century America Watchers.

The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, Volume 22: 1910—1911, edited by Arthur S. Link. Princeton $25

The letters and speeches that fill this volume bear largely upon that most crucial episode of the making of the Wilson bid for the Presidency, his masterful derailment of the political machine of James Smith, Jr. of Newark. Denying Smith a return to the U. S. Senate and triumphing over city boss opposition to direct primary elections, Wilson opened the way for Progressive victories in railroad, utilities, and workingman’s regulations. The unfortunate disappearance of most of Wilson’s official papers from this period is here remedied with a rich collection of private letters and especially Wilson’s chatty letters to Mrs. Peck. This volume chronicles the rise of a great national hope.

The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 20: January 1 through December 31, 1773, edited by William B. Willcox. Yale $20

There is a peculiarly animated quality to Franklin’s every thought and project that infuses each volume of this superb edition with fascination. The supremely energetic and shrewd man, Franklin, is revealed to great advantage in his letters, essays, and return correspondence. More than that, each new volume provides intimate access to an age we little understand and a revolutionary struggle we little enough appreciate. 1773 was the year of Bostonian defiance of Hutchinson, of the erosion of Franklin’s political position in London, and of the first complete French edition of Franklin’s works. What relish there is to sit by the day over Franklin’s shoulder in a fateful time.

Montgomery of Alamein, by Alan Chalfont. Atheneum $12.95

Chalfont’s book is primarily a study in personality and psychology rather than an in-depth examination of Montgomery’s campaigns. Perhaps this is as it should be, for in an important sense Montgomery is more remembered as a personality than a military tactician. Indeed, there is growing agreement that, although the Field Marshal was not as incompetent as many Americans have believed, neither was he one of history’s outstanding battlefield generals. Yet his importance in sustaining the morale of the British armies is made clear by Chalfont’s analysis, as is Montgomery’s difficulty adjusting to an allied partnership and strategy. If he performed an outstanding service in mobilizing the energies of the British soldier, one can be grateful that Dwight Eisenhower was the Allied Commander.

Saint Paul, by Michael Grant. Scribners $14.95

Without Paul, Christianity might possibly have remained a Jewish sect. Whether this would have been a good or a bad thing depends on what one thinks of Pauline Christianity. Mr. Grant makes easy capital out of comparing Paul’s revolutionary age with our own; but if Paul was to Jesus as Lenin was to Marx—well, there are people who think that Lenin ruined Marxism. Mr. Grant’s real virtue is to provide the reader with substantial background information about that distant and difficult time.

Another Winter, Another Spring, by Louise de Kiriline Lawrence. McGraw-Hill $8.95

In World War I, a Swedish nurse met and in due course married a wounded Russian officer who was recuperating in Denmark. It was a common enough story in those days, and indeed it has been immortalized in A Farewell to Arms. But Louise de Kiriline Lawrence’s story had a different twist. She followed her husband, who was violently anti-Bolshevik, back to the Northern Front to rejoin the battle against the Communists. Captured and imprisoned together, the couple eventually reached Moscow, where Louise was freed. As a “White” officer, her husband was sent back to Archangel to face trial. He never arrived there, and Louise never saw him again. This is a story told with dignity and grace from the calm perspective of half a century later. It is an old-fashioned book; one wishes there were more like it.

Henry Kissinger: The Anguish of Power, by John G. Stoessinger. Norton $8.95

Stoessinger undoubtedly sees his book not simply as a portrait of a controversial secretary of state but as a study of the dilemmas of choice in the world of international politics. Stoessinger seeks to relate Kissinger’s personal philosophy and scholarly reflections to the policy which he later fashioned. As Stoessinger skillfully demonstrates, such reflections did not determine Kissinger’s approach to foreign affairs, but they did provide the perspective from which Kissinger has viewed the problems of the U. S. in world affairs. In a real sense, the study concentrates less on the outward successes or failures of Kissinger’s diplomacy than on the inward motivations and visions.

POETRY Henry’s Fate, by John Berryman. Farrar Straus & Giroux $7.95

Years after the poet’s bones have been buried, his poetical remains continue to be exhumed. John Haffenden wrote the introduction to this book and selected poems from a vast amount of unpublished manuscript. Most of the poems will not help Berryman’s reputation, especially the drafts of long poems. The series of poems on his alcoholic problems are pathetic but quite poor. His “suicide note” shows more hostility toward friends than toward himself. A few of the Dream Songs show the old flash, but too much of this volume falters under the terrible burden of self-pity.

The Zodiac, by James Dickey. Doubleday $6

Dickey’s inspiration for this long and intriguing poem was the Dutch sailor, Hendrik Marsman, who wrote a fragmented poem by the same name about his obsessive madness in the discernment of stellar meaning. Dickey describes his own poetic reinvention as “. . .the story of a drunken and perhaps dying Dutch poet who returns to his home in Amsterdam after years of travel and tries desperately to relate himself, by means of stars, to the universe.”

Selected Poems, by Tudor Arghezi. Princeton cloth $16.50; paper $5.95

This is a unique collection of poems by a Rumanian poet unknown to the English-speaking world. The themes of these poems are important as they deal with one of the basic dilemmas of the 20th century: how one transcends personal pessimism and develops an art of humanism.

The Collected Early Poems of Ezra Pound. New Directions $22.50

This sumptuous book contains the complete texts of Pound’s first books, their title pages in facsimile, and covers work of the years 1908 to 1912. In addition, 25 poems originally published in periodicals have been brought together for the first time. Much of this work is trivial or derivative but will, of course, be of capital interest to students and admirers of the poet.

Complete Postcards from the Americas: Poems of Road and Sea, by Blaise Cendrars. Translated, with an introduction, by Monique Chefdor. California $10

Adventurer, bohemian, traveler, poet, Cendrars was a kind of cross between Whitman and Rimbaud, a roughneck with a tender soul, as colorful and legendary as Hemingway. He is best known for his strong poem on the railroads of Europe, and this bilingual volume seems quite dull and prosaic in comparison. The style of a postcard is indeed what we have here.

The Swastika Poems, by William Heyen. Vanguard $6.95

Though grief is not a willed response, the American with German connections (uncle and father-in-law fought for Hitler) may understandably make a pilgrimage to a (literally) God-forsaken place such as Bergen-Belsen to evoke the proper feelings of sorrow and horror. He has a book of poems he wants to write, and he will be reading Elie Wiesel and Albert Speer, respectively survivor and devil’s agent, for more atrocity news. Good will in all of this, but grief is not a willed response, and affectation too often displaces exploration as Heyen tries to make poems out of graves and gas chambers, obeying Susan Sontag on “the moral function of remembering.” If only unrealized art—apostrophes to the dead, laconic diarizing—had the power to move us as Heyen intensely wills! But it usually doesn’t; except for some sharp twinges from powerful borrowed details (“workers checked the mouths of the dead, which they tore open with iron hooks”), these pages leave pretty much interred the past that will alone cannot resurrect.

‘The Survivor and Other Poems, by Tadeusz Rozewicz. Princeton cloth $12.50; paper $3.95

A beautifully produced bilingual edition of poems by one of Poland’s most important living writers. Having suffered the savage brutality of the Nazi invasion and the humiliation of Soviet occupation, R?zewicz has little time for ideologies or generalized value systems. He dispenses with traditional poetic diction and subject-matter: his poetry often strikes the reader as not only anti-esthetic but also harshly pessimistic. But in their splendid introduction, Professors Krynski and Maguire suggest R6zewicz should be viewed as a “qualified humanist” who is troubled by the materialism both of the capitalist West and his Socialist homeland. The poetry is interesting in its own right and as an example of Polish writing today.

Full of Lust and Good Usage, by Stephen Dunn. Camegie-Mellon $3.50

This is a fine book of short, direct, and rather dramatic poems. It is filled with honesty and humor and informed by an unself-conscious masculine eye for image and detail. Dunn deals with his struggle to assert his own values in face of the archetypal rituals and responsibilities of his newly discovered middle age. His writing about the person that he has become is enriched by his sense that expectation and potential are only sometimes realized.

Leaping Clear, by Irving Feldman. Viking $5.95

These poems are predictably thoughtful and elegant. “Beethoven’s Bust” and the title poem, “Leaping Clear,” are the best, resonating with moral stringency and a very subtle use of images for the spirit. “Beethoven’s Bust” is one of the most exciting poetic experiences this reviewer has enjoyed in a long time, Feldman is in the same class with Richard Howard.

Words in Stone/Pierre Écrite, by Yves Bonnefoy, translated by Susanna Lang. Massachusetts $8.50

Bonnefoy may very well be the greatest living French poet. With the passing of Saint-John Perse, whom he resembles in his use of a persistent, overriding metaphor throughout a long poem, Bonnefoy has sadly few competitors. In his surreal gentle melancholy, he is like Reverdy, Desnos, Eluard, or Supervielle. In strength and bite, he is like Valéry or Beckett. This book, published in a bilingual edition given the poet’s imprimatur, consists of a series of poems whose extreme unity almost seems rigid.

German Poetry 1910—1975, edited and translated by Michael Hamburger. Urizen Books $6.95 paperback

This anthology is a collection of poems representing more than 80 different writers. It is intended to replace an earlier work—Modern German Poetry 1910-1960— long out of print, by Hamburger and Christopher Middleton. The plan of the book has the German on the left hand pages and the translations on the right. Each poet’s selection is prefaced by a short biography, still with the German and English on facing pages. This collection by Hamburger, who is undoubtedly one of the most competent translators of German verse and an able poet in his own right, will serve well the needs of the student as well as the general reader interested in the subject.

“Concrete” Poetry from East and West Germany, by Liselotte Gumpel. Yale $15

This book, subtitled “The Language of Exemplarism and Experimentalism,” is an attempt to assess some of the poetry being written in East and West Germany today. The German word “konkret” today has a different meaning in the two parts of Germany as applied to poetry. In the GDR, a konkret poem arises from the resolve to be exemplary of a sociopolitical setting that represents the object world while in the Federal Republic, such a poem is the result of an experimental enterprise aimed at esthetic innovation. Further, in the East,” concreteness affirms bounds set by empirical reality” whereas in the West “concretion breaks such bonds, substituting counterreality of the poet’s own making. Ms. Gumpel, who is in the German department at the University of Minnesota, discusses the current poetry of the two Germanics using large numbers of examples. The book will hardly interest the casual reader but is valuable to the serious student of the subject.

Ramayana, retold by William Buck with an introduction by B. A. van Nooten. California $14.95

The Ramayana is a Sanskrit verse epic written some 2,000 years ago and is considered, along with the Mahabharata, to constitute the essence of the Indian cultural heritage. Although Buck departs in some respects from the original tale, he captures the religious tone and beliefs of the original. Moreover, the Ramayana is simply a fascinating story of courtly intrigue, fierce battles, and sacrifice on an heroic scale. As in his retelling of the Mahabharata, Buck has done a real service in making available to the English-speaking world this incomparable Indian epic.

CAPStan: Poems by CAPS Poetry Fellows 1970—75. Publishing Center for Cultural Resources cloth $7.95; paper $4.95

CAPS is the Creative Artists Public Service Program, funded by New York state and federal (NEA) grants, and foundations and corporations, which, among other things, has been given fellowships to poets and introducing their work to the public, The 44 diverse voices here are mostly active and able (among them Kinnell, Wakoski, Giovanni, Benedikt), and the poems have appeared in their own books and in magazines from New Yorker to Yardbird. CAPS has given blacks and Latinos token representation or better, and further signs of our times are poems by Joseph Bruchac about teaching in prison and a long ode over Nixon by Dan Berrigan. Except for prose poems, only Ed Sanders and John Giorno try unusual typography, and Dugan Gilman actually rhymes. Some inevitable coyness, solipsism, and tiresome yak-yak should not detract from the real originality and effectiveness of many poems here—Audre Lorde’s for a start, about a sort of agonizing black prophet/goddess in a 17th-story room, creating legends and myths for desperate suppliants.

HISTORY Gold and Iron. Bismarck, Bleichrdder, and the Building of the German Empire, by Fritz Stern. Knopf $17.50

This is a work of epic proportions by one of the foremost historians of 19th-century Germany. It is also one of the most important works on the Bismarckian period in any language. In addition to a fascinating history of the relationship between two remarkable personalities and the building of the German Empire, it is also an intriguing account of the origins of anti-Semitism in 19th-century Germany. Bleichroder was a wealthy Jewish financier who attained the status of hereditary nobility. But his very prominence helped to foster what became the stereotyped image of the Jewish capitalist in Nazi Germany. BleichrSder contributed to finance Bismarck’s wars and brought for himself and his family a precarious status that scarcely survived his own children. The vulnerability of German Jewry, even at the height of its influence and prestige, is amply described. A fine work.

Men Against McCarthy, by Richard M. Fried. Columbia $14.95

This is the best historical work to appear on McCarthyism as a political phenomenon. In a well-organized narrative, richly enhanced by metaphorical, lively writing, the author tells us practically all we would want to know about Joseph McCarthy’s rise and fall. He bases his work on prodigious research in manuscripts and in published sources. According to some recent studies, McCarthyism was virtually created by Harry Truman. The evidence in Fried’s book effectively refutes that thesis, though the author unfortunately shies away from drawing either that or any other conclusion. He is mainly interested in laying out the facts, honestly and objectively. He succeeds in that task admirably. But one would have hoped for a greater willingness by the author to analyze his facts and produce a fuller and clearer explanation of why the phenomenon he describes so well occurred.

History of the Ottoman Empire and Modem Turkey. Volume 1, Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280—1808, by Stanford J. Shaw. Cambridge cloth $23.50; paper $12.95

This ambitious undertaking by America’s leading specialist on the Turkish Middle East, Professor Shaw, merits the highest praise. It deals with a subject that is beyond the ken of even educated lay-men, and most readers will be astonished to learn just how great the gap in their knowledge is. Shaw traces the history of the empire from the late Seljuks down to the first Serbian Revolution, which spelled the beginning of the end for the Ottomans. It is a complex story, and there is no point in pretending that this book is easygoing. It is not. But the Ottomans shattered the unity of the Christian world to a greater extent than had even their Mongol predecessors, and there was a time—in fact, two times—when all that lay between them and Paris and Amsterdam was a handful of brave defenders of Vienna. It is only by historical accident that we are not today dealing with an Islamic Europe.

Desperate Diplomacy—William H. Seward’s Foreign Policy, 1861, by Norman B. Ferris. Tennessee $12.95

A superb monograph on one of the most critical moments in American history— when foreign intervention in the civil conflict could have plunged Washington into foreign war and effectively destroyed the union. Ferris persuasively demonstrates that the Secretary of State, William Seward, along with Charles Francis Adams, the U. S. minister in London, skillfully balanced a policy of concessions and resistance so as to avoid both conflict with Britain and extensive foreign interventions which would have sealed the fate of the union. Ferris lays to rest much of the misinterpretation of Seward’s role and Leads us to see him as one of our more imaginative and shrewd secretaries of state. An original contribution to the field.

A History of Israel, by Howard H. Sachar. Knopf $20

A massive, one-volume study of the development of the Jewish state from its early 19th-century ideological beginnings to the 1973 Yom Kippur war and its aftermath. The study provides both a sweeping panorama of the evolution of Jewish nationalism and the role of the new state in regional and great power conflicts. A particularly useful aspect of the book is Sachar’s analysis of the various groups which make up the Jewish state and the many extraordinary personalities, Jewish and non-Jewish, who have animated the struggle over the establishment of a Jewish state. At the same time, Sachar presents an insightful and poignant perspective on the plight of the Palestinian Arab minority. A comprehensive and remarkably objective study of one of the most exciting chapters in the annals of modern nationalism.

Wind on the Buffalo Grass, collected and edited by Leslie Tillett. Crowell $35

The battle of the Little Big Horn River holds such an important place in American mythology that we forget the cultural meaning and historiological importance the battle had for the Indians who fought in it. In this volume, Tillett has colligated excerpts from some 15 Indian accounts, the only eyewitness accounts we have, of the Custer battle; this is the first time these intriguing documents have been readily available outside anthropological archives. The real glory of the book, though, is the large number of drawings in Plains pictographic style, especially those by Amos Bad Heart Buffalo, which memorialize forever that sunny afternoon in June when the Seventh Cavalry rode into eternity.

Guernica—The Crucible of World War II, by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witt. Stein and Day $8.95

In this gripping and poignant reconstruction of the German bombing in 1937 of Guernica, the cultural and religious capital of northern Spain, Thomas and Witt provide a magnificent narrative of the face of war. It was at Guernica during the Spanish Civil War that Wolfram von Richthofen perfected the blitzkrieg technique that later destroyed Rotterdam, Coventry, Hamburg, and Dresden—demonstrating that, in both human and technical terms, Guernica was very much a precursor of World War II. On a day-to-day basis, Thomas and Witt recount the events leading to the aerial bombardment and the aftermath. An extremely able account by two excellent observers.

The Virgin Diplomats, by Elmer Bendiner. Knopf $10

A lively, anecdotal history of the beginnings of the American foreign service and the men—Franklin, Jay, Adam, the Lees of Virginia among them—who shaped that service—and the nation. Bendiner traces the rise of these “virgin diplomats” from commercial agents to negotiators of the Pact of Paris formally concluding the peace at the end of the American Revolution. The serious—yet at times hilarious— pursuit of arms and money from the monarchs of continental Europe in order to prosecute the revolution is presented by the author in an engaging and provocative narrative.

Wind in the Tower—Mao Tsetung and the Chinese Revolution 1949—1975, by Han Suyin. Little, Brown $12.95

This study completes Han Suyin’s biography of Mao Tsetung, volume one, The Morning Deluge, having traced Mao’s career through World War II and the struggle against Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang forces. This volume analyzes Mao’s political career from the victory of the revolution to the thaw in relations with the United States. She sheds light on Mao’s fear of the development of a new, technocratic ruling class and the impact that this concern had on the twists and turns of his domestic and foreign policies. In general, the study is completely sympathetic to Mao, which probably accounts for her gloss on the human tragedy of the Chinese revolution.

American Opinion and the Russian Alliance, 1939—1945, by Ralph B. Levering. North Carolina $17.95

This is one of those books that have been not so much written as stuck together. The author selected some American newspapers, magazines, and radio news broadcast transcripts, picked out what seemed to deal with Russia (in some cases it did not), and put the whole collection into the pot. The result is an almost totally uninformative book. We may learn what Henry Luce or Colonel McCormick or Robert Trout or Scotty Reston thought or wrote about Russia at a given moment, but “American Opinion”? Of that there is not a trace.

The Chinese Machiavelli—3,000 Years of Chinese Statecraft, by Dennis and Ching Ping Bloodworth. Farrar, Straits & Giroux $10

A fascinating—entertaining as well as informative—survey of Chinese statecraft over the last 3,000 years. The study seeks to elucidate the mental reflexes and traditional rules which have influenced Chinese tactics and strategies across many regimes and throughout history. In effect, as the title implies, this volume constitutes a Chinese handbook for the prince, concentrating on the “power game” and the social and cultural environment within which it has been played. A useful complement to Western-based studies on statecraft.

Roman Government’s Response to Crisis A. D. 235—337, by Ramsay MacMullen. Yale $17.50

After the murder of Alexander Severus in A. D. 235, the Roman empire experienced a century of internal disruptions and foreign wars until Diocletian and Constantine restructured the empire and recovered order. MacMullen’s study is thus an analysis both of political delay and political-administrative imagination. He demonstrates both the potency of political leadership and social-bureaucratic manipulation and the limits of these acts of political insight and will. A superb study which should appeal not only to those interested in history but also to those concerned with important political questions.

The Ethnic Southerners, by George B. Tindall. Louisiana $11.95

Winner of the Sydnor Award in 1968 for his mammoth study, The Emergence of the New South, 1913—1945, George B. Tindall has a well-established name in the field of Southern history. The Ethnic Southerners, a small volume of eleven essays, seems to support his reputation, though it would not singularly justify it. There are a number of perceptive and handsomely written essays in this collection, yet, as a whole, it remains rather inconsistent. In short, two or three of the essays might have been meaty topics for ambitious monographs—they leave much uncovered. The title essay, as well as” Mythology: A New Frontier in Southern History,” is very good. Though sometimes frustrating, the collection is, nevertheless, well worth a solid reading.

FICTION Your Ticket is No Longer Valid, by Romain Gary. George Braziller $8.95

A sensuous WWII Resistance hero faces a triple energy threat through premature impotency, imminent loss of his financial empire, and prospective decline of his beloved France in depletion of her (and his) natural resources, A bizarre solution leads to a surprise ending in what is a thoroughly diverting piece of entertainment. The title, of course, is a play on words of the familiar sign one sees on the Metro in Paris.

Hard Feelings, by Don Bredes. Atheneum $8.95

Another long, boring first-person narrative of what it was like back then growing up absurd. The agonies of defeat, the brief triumphs, the clumsy sexual fumblings are all told in excruciating detail. Bredes tries to add a little excitement by using a colloquial style as though he were speaking instead of writing. He also sprinkles his text with harmless expletives. Bredes is fond of the graphic present tense, which makes parts of the book sound like a pastiche of Damon Runyon. This is a depressing book because its style and subject matter are so old-fashioned, and one has read this sort of thing so many times before. Maybe the novel is dead.

Home To Roost, by Andrew Garve. Crowell $6.95

According to the blurb, Garve’s novels are very popular in England; he has written 29 since 1950, which isn’t bad going. Judging by his latest effort, one finds that typically English knack for producing thrillers with sharply delineated characters and deftly prepared twists in the plot, Unfortunately, there is much else that is familiar; the tired technique of first-person narration by the hero who is (you guessed it) a writer himself. The remaining characters are really stereotypes, as are the relationships and the plot. A harmless way to spend an evening, but you could surely be better employed.

Come Back, Lolly Ray, by Beverly Lowry. Doubleday $ 7.95

Miss Lowry is already a published writer, but this is her first novel. It makes a refreshing change from most such works. Miss Lowry has had the smart idea of using a majorette and baton twirler (the American version of the Vestal Virgin) as her heroine. Lolly Ray, though born and living on the wrong side of the tracks, becomes a symbol of purity and hope to the folks in a small Southern town. She finds this too heavy a burden to bear and struggles unavailingly for her own happiness, Miss Lowry takes every opportunity offered by the setting for satire and treats her heroine with compassion and honesty, so that the reader does not feel cheated.

Condominium, by John D. MacDonald. Lippincott $10

The author’s 64th book will undoubtedly expand substantially his previous record of 70 million copies sold. It is an exciting yarn of a great American condominium rip-off of senior citizens whose retirement dreams turn into a ghoulish nightmare, with a devastating tropical hurricane thrown in for good measure. The author’s capacity for successful story telling appears to be inexhaustible.

Beard’s Roman Women, by Anthony Burgess. McGraw-Hill $8.95

Burgess’s latest novels are all bravura and no heart. This one about hits the usual level. Ostensibly, it’s about a widower coming to terms with himself and his sexuality after the death of his wife. The marriage had lasted 26 years and seems to have been held together by a dozen bottles of gin a week. To this basic situation, Burgess adds classical undertones (the stories of Alcestis and Orpheus); self-parody (his hero is raped by four girls); a takeoff of script-writing (his hero is writing a film about the Shelleys and Frankenstein), and a great deal of feeling for Rome and Italian life. The novel never truly comes to terms with its material and leaves the reader dissatisfied, but it has the merit of being a spirited read. The photos by David Robinson echo photos that figure in the book’s plot.

Sleep it Off, Lady, by Jean Rhys. Harper & Row $7.95

Who could resist a book with this title? And who, after having read these 16 stories, could resist locating and devouring Miss Rhys’s earlier works, which are being reprinted after a long absence. The publisher tells us that Miss Rhys has not published in some 40 years, and that this slim volume marks her return to writing, Her superb distillation of a wide range of locations, and her ability to tell marvelous tales in a highly individualized style, mark that return as an auspicious event.

Her Death of Cold, by Ralph Mclnerny. Vanguard Press $7.95

G. K. Chesterton may now rest in peace in that his Father Brown has been happily well reincarnated into Father Dowling, who is the creation of an incumbent professor of philosophy (of all things!) at Notre Dame University. The author is off to a fast start in what the publisher proclaims to be the first of a new mystery series. One may therefore pleasantly look forward to additional exciting adventures of this newly created contemplative priest-detective and his worldly sidekick, a police captain—former seminarian.

The Eye of the Beholder, by Philip Glazebrook. Atheneum $7.95

A deftly written British psychological thriller, with sharp character studies of a prissy diplomat and his nutty relatives. Earthy descriptions of the bland retirement set in Antigua and a gloomy winter in the North of Scotland are balanced by a welcome style of wit.

A Piece of My Heart, by Richard Ford. Harper & Row $8.95

The jacket blurb promises violence, cruelty, purposeless random accident, and sexual love coupled with hatred. Unfortunately for the reader, it’s all included here. This is a grim exercise, vaguely Southern in tone and setting, and just plain vague in most other aspects. Plot and characterization unfold in bits and pieces through flashback, disconnected dialogue, and nebulous description, a technique Dashiell Hammett occasionally used with success long ago. Hammett was, at least, fun to read; reading Ford is rather a chore.

Remember Me, by Fay Weldon. Random House $7.95

This is the sardonic and sexually explicit story, told in simplistic language and existential style, of the towering rage of a contemporary British middle-class woman against her parents, husband, and lovers, including her posthumous power to make those who survive her even more unhappy than they were made in her miserable life-time. It is an alternate Book-of-the-Month selection for those who are so impressed.

The Black Death, by Gwyneth Cravens and John S. Marr. Dutton $8.95

Bubonic plague, the ultimate medical disaster, which twice before has almost destroyed mankind, is running rampant in Manhattan. The recent Philadelphia Legionnaire disaster and the swine flu vaccine fiasco give a frightening credence to this chiller-thriller novel, which has a scary ring of medical authenticity.

A Memorial Service, by J. I. M. Stewart. Norton $7.95

This is book three, and the best volume thus far, of Stewart’s quintessentially British serial entitled “A Staircase in Surrey.” Having assumed his duties as an Oxford Fellow, playwright Duncan Pattullo, around whom the series revolves, becomes entangled in a variety of Academic intrigues, each of which illustrates precisely, and with good humor, a particular facet of Oxonian deportment. Characters from the first two books reappear to mutter Latin witticisms, and numerous others are introduced, including one with the improbable name of Charles Atlas. To be continued.

Temporary Sanity, by Thomas Glynn. Fiction Collective $3.95

In the bitter cold and living of northern New York, Thomas Glynn’s eccentric characters rub against each other like sticks, setting off local fires. While Mr. Glynn’s narrative voice is not yet firmly established, he is capable of absolutely breath-taking writing. The curious fates of his characters, at once joined and alone, merge at times with animals and inanimate objects to create a compelling fictional world. A very worthy novel.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS The Superfluous Men: Conservative Critics of American Culture, 1900—1945, edited by Robert M. Crunden. Texas $14.95

“To the surprise of many observers,” Professor Crunden tells us, “conservative thought has revived in the 1970’s.” Even though this truism is barely out of the cradle, it does seem a propitious time to present a compact, representative selection of conservative thought from the first half of our century. Students who have never heard of, much less read, Walter Lippman, Albert Jay Nock, John Crowe Ransom, Irving Babbitt, and H. L. Mencken (to name about half of the writers represented) will be in for an informative, thought-provoking, and enjoyable time if someone forces them to read this book,

The inclusion of the merely cranky Ralph Adams Cram in such a respectable company is puzzling, as is the exclusion of Frank Chodorov and the wholesale exclusion of conservative revisionist historians such as Harry Elmer Barnes, Garret Garrett, and John T. Flynn. Professor Crunden reveals in such exclusions an anti-individualist bias and a favored status for Burke-like notions of organic societies that vitiates his anthology’s claims to representativeness. Nonetheless, the collection of so much intelligent conservative thought (and so much refreshingly good prose) in a single volume is a welcome occasion.

Precarious Security, by Maxwell D. Taylor. Norton $7.95

A wise little book on the components of national security—defined not simply in terms of military force but in all the economic, political, and moral resources which constitute both values to be secured and means of protection. To define the national interest and to integrate all applicable resources bearing upon national security, General Taylor recommends the transformation of the National Security Council into a broadened National Policy Council with a more general vision of national security and supported by a center for long-term policy research.

The Committee of One Million—”China Lobby” Politics, 1953—1971, by Stanley D. Bachrack. Columbia $14.95

An important and controversial study of the role of the “China Lobby”—the congressional-based pressure group for the Chiang Kai-shek government on Taiwan—in shaping American policy toward the People’s Republic of China. Dr. Bachrack’s analysis is thus not simply an examination of an important substantive area in U. S. foreign policy but an examination of the exercise of congressional power to influence administration policy. Bachrack raises questions about intelligence agencies’ involvement in the operations of the committee, as well as foreign financing—and indicts the element of secrecy in governmental operation. Not a particularly balanced monograph but a provocative beginning to studies on the work of this committee.

The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, by Daniel Bell. Basic Books $12.95

In this literate and illuminating analysis of the attitudes and values bred by capitalism, Professor Bell continues his examination of the nature and growth of modern bourgeois culture begun in his earlier volume, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. His provocative thesis is that, whereas capitalism as an economic system requires postponement of gratification as well as efficiency and balance between costs and benefits, the capitalist culture which has emerged emphasizes immediate self-gratification and social abandon. In effect, the vaunted capitalist ethic of work comes into head-on conflict with the cult of self-fulfillment of the consumer society, The result could well be bad economics and a corrupted policy. An extraordinary tour de force which should be read and pondered not only by scholars but by the concerned public.

The Dynamics of Detente—How to End the Arms Race, by Arthur M. Cox. Norton $8.95

An advocacy book which systematically marshals argument for the theme that the arms race is progressively reducing American security and should be replaced by a number of unilateral arms control measures on the part of the United States— which it is believed will eventually be reciprocated on the Soviet side. Like many books of this genre, it suffers from a one-sidedness which concentrates on American politics and the motives of a number of political and bureaucratic actors but does not systematically analyze the motives and policies of the other side. Indeed, when Soviet perspective and motives are analyzed, the evidence seems remarkably thin, and one suspects that the pre-determined conclusions control the evidence and arguments. Most startling is Cox’s apparent ignorance of recent force deployments in Eastern Europe, which cannot simply be explained by the necessity of maintaining internal control. Cox raises a valid thesis but remains unconvincing by his very lack of detached analysis.

The Home of Man, by Barbara Ward. Norton $8.95

Miss Ward is one of the most skillful contemporary popularizers in the area of social thought. In past studies, she has focused the public’s attention on the environment, global distribution of wealth, nationalism, and ideology. In this short study, Ward deftly unifies a mass of statistics into a succinct and literate analysis of population and its movements. As a brief and plain statement of the problem, the book is without peer. At the same time, she provides a variety of provocative suggestions from land-use planning to housing and transportation policy. While many of her prescriptions may be subject to challenge, her overall work provides a useful framework for reflection and debate.

America-Watching: Perspectives in the Course of an Incredible Century, by Gerald W, Johnson. Stemmer House $12.95

It is seldom that one may comfortably believe the laudatory blurb of a book cover. America-Watching, however, fulfills its every claim, and more. This grand collection of essays, “the best of the best,” shows Johnson to be more than a journalist; he is an educator of the first order. With more insight into our American character than a score of textbooks, America-Watching is consistently sharp, consistently a joy to read. This collection might well be renamed “Incredible Perspectives in the Course of a Century.”

Blood & Money, by Thomas Thompson. Doubleday $10.95

Every good-sized American city has a major unsolved crime sto


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Recommended Reading