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Notes on Current Books, Summer 1979

ISSUE:  Summer 1979

The title of this book would naturally lead one to believe that it is limited to Weimar Germany, but that is not the case: Mr. Willett covers all Europe and covers it well. Although the chapter format is in a way as strange as the title with its textbookish headings, the book is a solid, serious history of the major art forms in the confused period between the Bolshevik Revolution and the coming to power of Hitler and his gang of barbarians. All the isms and their founders and devotees are here, from Activism to Zeittheater, Aalto to Zoshchenko. Mr. Willett is especially good on the Bauhaus movement and Dadaism, and he includes in this book one of the better accounts of the arts in the new Soviet Russia.

Farewell the Trumpets, by James Morris. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $14.95

The final volume in Morris’s trilogy— and tribute—to the British Empire is fittingly subtitled “An Imperial Retreat.” Opening with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897 and closing with Winston Churchill’s death in 1965, Morris chronicles the decline and, ultimately, disappearance of the greatest empire the world has ever known. Perhaps one great reason for the Empire’s collapse in the relatively short period of 68 years was simply that the British people were never of one mind about it, never completely certain it was a good thing to have so much dominion over palm and pine. And the uncertainty, which began to reveal itself in the Boer War, accelerated after the holocaust of World War I. World War II, of course, saw the Empire’s finest hour—and final exhaustion. It is all best summed up in a footnote, where Morris quotes a line from “Onward, Christian Soldiers”: “Crowns and thrones may perish/Kingdoms rise and wane. . . .” Americans might well ponder that line as well as this moving, memorable book.

The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics, by Don E. Fehrenbacher. Oxford $25

This magisterial study is a triumph of scholarship. Not only does Professor Fehrenbacher astutely analyze the complexities of the Dred Scott Decision itself; he also reviews the entire history of the various issues involved in the case, such as Negro citizenship, interstate comity, and the status of slavery in territories. In short, this is really a full-scale history of the sectional conflict that led to civil war, and Fehrenbacher consistently provides acute insights into and persuasive revisions of what was heretofore accepted wisdom about it. His contributions are too numerous even to list, but among his most impressive findings are that Chief Justice Taney, because of an emotional determination to protect the South from Northern assault, was largely responsible for the Court’s broad ruling in the case, that neither Taney’s nor any other justice’s ruling on the unconstitutionality of congressional prohibition of slavery was based explicitly or even largely on the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause, and thus the case was not a landmark in the development of substantive due process, and that the decision had only secondary importance at best in explaining either the disruption of the Democratic party or the Republican victory in 1860. All in all, this magnificent achievement is must reading for anyone interested in American legal history or the Civil War.

The French Stake in Algeria, 1945—1962, by Tony Smith. Cornell $15

Professor Smith has written an informative essay on France’s treatment of her last major colony. The Algerian war was protracted, brutal, and costly. Smith argues convincingly that the inability to decolonize gracefully (and wisely, as the British were doing) was due to what he calls “the colonial consensus,” the tangled web of expectations and prejudices regarding the justice of the French presence in Algeria. Consequently, he plays down the internal contradictions of France’s political tradition which others have seen as the main stumbling block to decolonization. This makes for a refreshing change of perspective and some brilliant pieces on collective behavior.

The German Colonial Empire, by Woodruff D. Smith. North Carolina $16

This is a good, solid, introductory history of the German colonies, primarily the African ones, and their relations with and effects on Germany. Professor Smith makes no unusual claims, except to hint that the way the Germans dealt with “inferior” peoples during World War II may have been learnt during their administration of Africans before World War I. If Germans were colonial tyrants at times, The German Colonial Empire shows that they were motivated by the same needs, shared the same concerns, and followed the same policies as their English and French rivals.

The U. S. Crusade in China, 1938—1945, by Michael Schaller. Columbia $14,95

There is no question that American policy makers found themselves faced with a confused and often contradictory picture of China during the period mentioned in the title of this book. Dr. Schaller’s documentation is copious and, so far as these things can be, adequate. His prose is brisk, and he does not wear the reader down with lengthy selections from his sources. He does tend to use metaphors and termsin-quotes rather to excess; and there is a real question why he calls the American involvement in China a “crusade.” The dust jacket (reproducing a leaflet showing a U. S. flier decked out somewhat like a general in the classical Peking opera) is one of the nicest features. There are no illustrations in the text.

Life in the English Country House: A Social and Architectural History, by Mark Girouard. Yale $25

For 500 years, English upper-class domestic architecture has symbolized and incarnated a way of life, each changing to accommodate the other. Social and sexual mores quickly find their architectural expression, as do political and even literary principles. Girouard traces as well the architectural effects of changes in family structure, from the tightly knit medieval household through 17-century interest in privacy and division. His book is magnificently illustrated, his text an engaging weave of all kinds of history.

The Sui Dynasty, by Arthur F. Wright. Knopf $15

This book by the late Professor Wright is an attempt at a synoptic view of the ephemeral Sui dynasty (581—617) which reunited all of China following several centuries of fragmentation and prepared the way for the subsequent magnificence of the more enduring T’ang (618—907). Wright succeeds in presenting a coherent if at times oversimplified survey of this truly momentous age. This is meant to be popularized history, with the scholarship only occasionally burdened by notes and references and makes for easy, rarely stimulating, reading. One might wish that the author’s prose were not so lifeless, so unremittingly flat. But it is good indeed to see the long-neglected Sui given its due.

Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820—1920, by Paul Boyer. Harvard $18.50

Boyer has written a brilliantly conceived, long-overdue synthesis on a central theme in American social history. He tells a familiar story: the long and ultimately unsuccessful quest by clergymen, missionaries, charitable organizations, and “environmental reformers” to impose “moral order” on America’s teeming cities. He has deftly handled the enormous literature on urban reform movements, culled important new insights from the sources, and successfully integrated detail with interpretation. Although specialists will disagree with him on certain particulars, Boyer’s book will endure for decades as the standard work on the subject.

The Grand Expedition, by Gordon C. Wood. Georgia $17

The Walcheren Expedition began in 1809 as the largest British invasion force yet assembled, when 600 ships and more than 40,000 troops left Britain for Antwerp, held by Napoleon’s brother Louis. Like British military ventures before and since, it was hampered from the start by poor planning, uncooperative and incompetent officers, and inadequate supplies. The failure was so great that the one major objective taken, Walcheren Island, had to be ignominiously abandoned when over half the garrison took malaria, aptly named Walcheren fever. Gordon Wood has adequately shown the development of the fiasco and placed it in its historical context.

Jefferson and the Presidency: Leadership in the Young Republic, by Robert M. Johnstone, Jr. Cornell $15

This is an intelligent, clearly written study of Jefferson’s presidential leadership. Robert Johnstone approaches the subject as a political scientist seeking to apply and to test certain theories and models of his discipline. His conclusions, generally favorable to Jefferson, are in line with those of the best historians. While he gives little evidence of fresh research in primary sources, he has read widely in the secondary literature and shows good judgment. If he repeats some authors’ errors, he more often offers corrections.

Our Masters the Rebels: A Speculation on Union Military Failure in the East, 18611865, by Michael C. C. Adams. Harvard $12.50

Adams argues that Northerners credited the Confederates with such military prowess that to engage them forcefully would lead to disaster. Accordingly, for three years the Yankees fought fitfully and cautiously, allowing the war to drag on unnecessarily since Southern superiority was only mythical. Some of his ideas are new, but much of the book is merely a retelling of accepted history.

The Department of State on the Eve of the First World War, by Rachael West. Georgia $11.50

American State Department officials failed to anticipate the outbreak of World War I, and West’s illuminating volume attributes this failure in part to the ignorance of foreign affairs of both President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary William Jennings Bryan and their appointment of political amateurs to key diplomatic posts. Fortunately, the American system displayed resiliency during and after the war, and departmental and embassy reforms were introduced, improving the government’s capacity for foreign policy review. The book should be required reading for anyone wishing to understand American diplomacy.

Circular Letters of Congressmen to Their Constituents, 1789—1829, edited by Noble E. Cunningham, Jr. North Carolina $75 a set

That the people must be kept informed is a fundamental principle of our republican system of government. But the part our first elected representatives played in carrying out that principle had been little studied by historians until Noble Cunningham began his earlier work on the rise of the Jeffersonian Republican party. He makes a new and important contribution in these three volumes. John Adams called the congressional circular letters the best source for the history of the infant republic, but, never having been collected, they have been rarely exploited. In the future, one expects they will be often cited. Cunningham includes 269 circulars and an illuminating introduction.

The Roots of Black Poverty, by Jay R. Mandle. Duke $8.75

The study of post-bellum Southern economic history has recently occupied a gaggle of scholars. Now Mandle, an avowed Marxist, chimes in with his explanation of Southern (black) poverty: the persistence of the plantation-mode of production. It is an interesting, occasionally provocative survey of post-bellum development; the analysis rests on no new research, and not on class, but on familiar cultural and racial arguments and information. Hardly a startling approach, hardly Marxist, and hardly persuasive.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS The Nature of Mass Poverty, by John Kenneth Calbraith. Harvard $8.95

This is a valuable book. In a remarkably brief 139 pages, Galbraith says much about the nature of mass poverty—and about the nature of mass wealth in the developed countries. The one, he argues, is not the result of the other. Galbraith does not spare other myths, especially those of the policymakers—himself included—or the cultural and intellectual myopia of economists, who rarely understand the problem of mass poverty and whose prescriptions equally rarely have any meaningful impact on that poverty—except negative. Whatever one’s ideological perspective, Galbraith’s book is one which must be confronted.

Primacy or World Order, by Stanley Hoffmann. McGraw-Hill $12.50

Of all Hoffmann’s books, Primacy is most specifically directed at current American foreign policy from 1947—1974, concentrating on successes and failures in the Cold War and especially the adequacy of the philosophy and policies of his former colleague, Henry Kissinger. It is Professor Hoffmann’s most personal book not only in his dialogue and differences with Kissinger but also in his perspective on world order in which he explores and applies the outlook of another colleague, Joseph Nye, whose philosophy of global interdependence has become a core value for President Jimmy Carter’s foreign-policy team.

Decision for the Democrats, by William J. Crotty. Johns Hopkins $16.50

Since the New Deal, Democrats have had the reputation, earned or not, as the party of reform. In the lean years out of power, between the Johnson and the Carter presidencies, the Democratic Party spent most of its energies reforming itself. First the McGovern-Fraser Commission and then the O’Hara Commission redressed the Democratic donkey from head to tail, and this volume records and examines those changes, often in excruciating detail. The author is generally favorable to the reforms in the party’s structure, asserting that the resultant party is both more efficient as an organization and more responsive to the Democratic electorate. Particular attention is paid to the machinations of the party forces opposing reform, from the Daley regulars to the AFLCIO.

Kissinger and the Meaning of History, by Peter W. Dickson. Cambridge $14.95

Dickson’s attempt to trace Kissinger’s foreign policy and world view to Kant is not persuasive, resting as it does on Kissinger’s 400-page undergraduate thesis on the Meaning of History. It would have been surprising if Kissinger had ignored Kant as a student, given the strongly held Kantian views of his Harvard professors, Friedrich and Elliott. Whatever Kissinger may have said in speeches at the United Nations or in using words such as “imperative,” his model for the conduct of foreign policy was surely Bismarck and the realists.

Referendums: A Comparative Study of Practice and Theory, edited by David Butler and Austin Ranney. American Enterprise Institute $4.75

Proposition 13 introduced much of America to a device hitherto ignored nationally and in many of the states: the referendum. Ranney and Butler skillfully capsule the arguments for and against the referendum, wisely pronouncing it neither inherently progressive nor conservative. Other contributors make clear the device’s strengths and failings in mini-histories of the referendum in Switzerland, the U. S. (with California highlighted), Australia, France, Scandinavia, Ireland, and the U. K. A remarkable and invaluable appendix of all recorded referenda, in both sovereign nations and subordinate territories, is included.

Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record, by Carl Sagan and others. Random House $15

Two spacecraft named Voyager were launched by NASA in August and September 1977. These spacecraft have already passed Jupiter, are programmed to pass near Saturn, and will eventually pass out of the solar system to travel billions of years in deep space. Aboard each craft is a long-playing gold-plated phonograph record carrying messages from Earth. A portion of the book is devoted to information concerning the spaceflights of the two craft, but the major portion describes an assembling of the pictures and recorded sounds aboard the craft. This is an interesting exercise in how to give another civilization an idea of earth and its people and their civilization. As a scientific experiment, however, it would be hard to conceive of any other experiment being funded at all whose chance of success was one in a billion, or one in a billion billion. In the vast emptiness of space, the odds can’t be much better than this.

Career of Empire: America & Imperial Expansion Over Land and Sea, by George Liska. Johns Hopkins $17.95

Few political scientists see America in 1979 as a universal empire, but Liska has consistently pursued the theme of American hegemony and power in such books as Imperial America, War and Order, and Quest for Equilibrium, seeing America’s rise to power from its earliest colonial beginnings as paralleling the British and Roman empires.

Innocents of the West, by Joan Colebrook. Basic Books $15

This is a frightening book in its detailed and accurate documentation of the highly organized and coordinated movement of the young violent revolutionaries around the world who are dedicated not so much to the creation of a new world order as they are to the destruction of Western democracy. The author is a skilled and sophisticated political observer who has survived a naïve earlier enchantment with the international Communist movement and in her present maturity has rung the bell of alarm for those who are willing to listen. It should be made required reading for all the folks over at Foggy Bottom.

The Holocaust in Historical Perspective, by Yehuda Bauer. Washington $8.95

More and more people in the past few years have begun to view the Holocaust as simply another atrocity of World War II, like the bombing of Dresden. Bauer, however, maintains that the Holocaust is unique, and this collection of four essays is an interesting and forceful statement on the origins and ramifications of the Holocaust. Bauer, an historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is—as one would expect—deeply disturbed at the attempts to belittle the extent of the Holocaust, but that unfortunately leads him into seeing the world as either pro-Jewish or anti-Jewish. An example of this myopia is his statement that “the only non-Aryan was the Jew.” Clearly, there is much “gray” in between.

A Crisis For the American Press, by John Hohenberg. Columbia $14.95

Government is on a collision course with the press, the author says in this solid warning. Congress is moving, he feels, toward press regulation, while judicial screws are tightening on protection of sources and other matters. Executive secrecy rankles. Meanwhile, concentration of ownership of newspapers proceeds, with 70 percent of newspaper circulation in a few group hands and 95 percent of U. S. communities without competing newspapers. Mr. Hohenberg doesn’t suggest much but vigilance, but his fears, especially those about public support of a free press, are well documented.

The American as Anarchist, by David Deleon. Johns Hopkins $14

Deleon has written a useful guide to the various forms of anarchist thought indigenous to America. His thesis is that a vital Protestantism, an expansive geography, and capitalistic economy have provided the environment out of which radical, anti-institutional critiques of society have constantly emerged. Deleon argues convincingly that these libertarian critiques, whether of the right or left, were not imported from Europe, but were only natural expressions of basic American ideals confronting a progressively more centralized economic and political order. The book deserves to be read, and the native anarchistic tradition revealed in its pages needs to be incorporated in other discussions of American political thought.

Underground To Palestine, by I. F. Stone. Pantheon Books $8.95

Occasionally, journalistic accounts of historical events can provide insight into men’s actions by focusing on individual personalities. Stone’s collection of pieces on refugees fleeing post-World War II Eastern Europe does this without becoming maudlin or blurring the wider historical and political implications surrounding the creation of Israel. Written in 1946, as Stone traveled with Jewish “displaced persons” to Palestine, this document is particularly relevant to current issues surrounding the search for peace in the Middle East. A postscript, written in 1978, presents Stone’s recent thoughts on the subject.

Great Britain and the Creation of the League of Nations, by George W. Egerton. North Carolina $16

The League of Nations is often attributed to the will of one man: Woodrow Wilson. What Egerton has shown in this volume is the extent to which the League was actually a British contribution, and largely the creation of Robert Cecil, who struggled tirelessly to overcome the opposition of many, including Lloyd George, the Prime Minister. Egerton begins with the union of democratic control and shows how the stresses of war changed its idealistic goals held by a radical fringe into a program that would be supported, if reservedly, by the British government. Worthwhile and well done, the book will, however, be of interest only to students of the period.

An Idea and its Servant: UNESCO from Within, by Richard Hoggart. Oxford $13.95

This book is a lively account of the inner life of the leading cultural international organization. Hoggart places the ideals of UNESCO in the context of its petty personal and nationalistic rivalries but answers the question “Should UNESCO survive?” in the affirmative.

LIVES & LETTERS Rudyard Kipling, by Lord Birkenhead. Random House $15

This is the long-suppressed biography, first commissioned and then rejected by Kipling’s daughter. It is not hard to see what a family member might find objectionable in this brilliant book. When attempting to describe what many critics found repellent in Kipling, and what caused the author to dislike certain pieces, phrases like “utter vulgarity” came easily to his pen. In Lord Birkenhead’s hands, however, such words form part of a scrupulously honest assessment. As a result, Birkenhead is especially convincing when he defends some of Kipling’s more controversial lines, like “or lesser breeds without the law,” against unfounded charges of racism. Birkenhead paints a portrait that is disarmingly human. Invaluable to Kipling scholars, this book should delight all those who love literature—or good biography.

The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czemiakow, edited by Raul Hilberg, Stanislaw Staron, and Josef Kermisz. Stein and Day $16.95

For nearly three years Adam Czerniakow was chairman of the Warsaw Judenrat or Jewish Council. In that position he had to act both as leader of the Jewish community and as its chief spokesman with the occupying Nazi forces. It was an impossible task, of course, but someone had to do it, and Czerniakow comported himself with dignity and honor until he finally caved in under the pressure and committed suicide in July of 1942. His diary has been known for some time but was previously unavailable in English. Students of the Holocaust will welcome its appearance now.

Elinor Wylie, by Stanley Olson. Dial $12.95

Somewhere in the middle of this new biography—meticulous as to facts and researched within an inch of its life—the reader begins wondering why the author wrote it. His subject, a women and poet who was a legend in literary circles, and outside them, in the 20’s and 30’s is presented as a monster of ego, living an incredibly selfish life. Of her work—traditional saving grace for deplorable literary lives—he has none too high an opinion; at worst he shows the same contempt he has for her as a person.

To Build a Castle—My Life as a Dissenter, by Vladimir Bukovsky. Viking $17.50

From street fighter to world-famous crusader for human rights, Mr. Bukovsky has come a long way fast. His memoirs, if the term be appropriate for a man not yet 40, will only enhance his standing. In his special field, the study of the Soviet misuse of psychiatry for political purposes, Mr. Bukovsky simply has no equal, and indeed he may be said to have created the science. This account of 13 years of sparring with the Kremlin will take its place alongside the works of Solzhenitsyn as the burst of light that exposed Soviet crime and corruption in the late 20th century.

George I, Elector and King, by Ragnhild Hatton. Harvard $15

Was George I as lucky, as incompetent and as ignorant of England and English as people, even historians, believe? Evidently not, according to Hatton’s carefully researched biography. In this painstakingly recreated world, George I impressed his contemporaries as a talented general, a farsighted ruler, and a sensitive human being who was deeply grieved by the constitutionally important break with his son. It was character assassination which ruined George’s reputation, and Hatton goes far to redress the balance, perhaps too far—leaving the impression that George did no wrong at all.

Galileo at Work: His Scientific Biography, by Stillman Drake. California $25

No book like this has existed before: Drake’s is the first accurate inquiry into the actual chronology of Galileo’s achievements, based on his unmatched command of Galileo’s manuscripts and correspondence. Despite Drake’s adherence to the view that Galileo was first of all a careful empiricist, not a philosopher—he takes the side of Mach against Duhem in this old debate and rejects out of hand the evidence amassed by Koyré, Feyerabend, and Shapere—this book is a masterpiece of speculative intellectual reconstruction.

Bill Tuck: A Political Life in Harry Byrd’s Virginia, by William Bryan Crawley, Jr. Virginia $14.95

This carefully researched, well-written study captures the flavor of a truly colorful man and his time. Yet there is nevertheless an inherent note of sadness in Bill Tuck’s story of misdirected energy. His years as governor (1946—1950) represented the “golden age” of the Byrd machine, and Tuck surely acted out his role with zest, vigor, and bourbon, but he was essentially a Don Quixote charging windmills in an era of atomic power, emerging desegregation, and rampant change which he could neither control nor comprehend. Certainly the most appealing of a band of bland political operatives known collectively as “the Organization,” he was possessed of wit, a flair for living, and above all else honesty. Tuck, for example, had no illusions about his years in Washington (19531968), and while talking with the author bluntly noted, “I don’t amount to anything in Congress.” Rarely does one get such incisive self-appraisal from so-called “public servants,” and rarely have author and subject cooperated so successfully to cast new light upon Virginia’s recent past.

The Letters of William Hazlitt, edited by H. M. Sikes, W. H. Bonner, and Gerald Lahey. New York University $22.50 cloth, $8.50 paper

Three professors emeriti, the first no longer alive, have spent years preparing this, the first complete edition of Hazlitt’s extant correspondence. The letters are sparser than we should wish, except those concerning the middle-aged Hazlitt’s affair with his “Infelice,” Sarah Walker, a girl nearly half his age. Of literary matters the letters reveal little, of business, too much for most readers; yet they are lively, and it is Hazlitt’s style that survives.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, by Paddy Kitchen. Atheneum $11.95

The unremarkable thesis of Paddy Kitchen’s competent biography of Hopkins is that, despite the 20th-century publication date of his poems, he was a creature of his time. Possessing a PreRaphaelite-like gift for minute observation of nature, a Paterian aesthetic sensibility, a medieval ingenuousness rivaling Ruskin’s, and a sexual proclivity to pain not unlike Swinburne’s, he was, indeed, quintessentially Victorian. The reader’s capacity for devotion may flag somewhat, however, when he learns the real extent of Hopkins’s prurient self-abasement and ravenous scrupulosity. A grim story.

The Man Whistler, by Hesketh Pearson. Taplinger $9.95

Of all the flamboyant poseurs of the late Victorian period, Whistler has remained the most colorful and controversial. Launching epigrams that Wilde coveted— and did not disdain to borrow—he set a new standard for coruscating wit, exquisite taste, and high spirits. Hesketh Pearson manages to put much of this delicious banter between covers in his consistently entertaining biography of this great American painter. A feast of bans mots.

Gerald Griffin, 1803—1840: A Critical Biography, by John Cronin. Cambridge $16.95

The author of The Collegians is now generally forgotten; John Cronin, editor of two of Griffin’s works, here makes an excellent case for a broadening of memory. Griffin provides an excellent example of literary failure in the Romantic and early Victorian periods, and of the plight of an “Irish novelist,” to which Griffin’s imaginative failure is intimately connected. Cronin lacks an adequate sense of Griffin’s period, but he does provide the material for some very useful inferences.

Henry Ward Beecher: Spokesman for a Middle-Class America, by Clifford E. Clark, Jr. Illinois $12.95

Clark’s Henry Ward Beecher is an important addition to the wave of recently published Beecheriana. The author follows a standard format for intellectual biography, tracing the evolution of Beecher’s ideas over time. Clark’s treatment of Beecher’s changing views on slavery, sectionalism, and civil rights is new and incisive; those chapters are likely to stand the test of further research and writing on the minister’s career. On other topics, students will want to consult William McLoughlin’s more impressionistic Beecher for additional and often more penetrating analysis. But Paxton Hibben’s Beecher, long the standard biography, has been superseded entirely by this effectively written book.

Dostoevsky: His Life and Work, by Ronald Hingley. Scribner’s $14.95

Hingley, professor of Russian literature at Oxford and the author of an impressively wide range of books on Russian history and culture, has placed us yet more deeply in his debt with a crisply written, thorough and judicious study of Dostoevsky’s life and works, all in just 200 pages. Obviously, this is not a work of original scholarship, and such a brief survey cannot satisfy the specialist, but judged on its own terms Hingley’s book is successful and should gain a wide audience. The book is generously illustrated, well annotated, and has a full index. Hingley wears his learning lightly and does a good job of showing the relationship between life and works, without overemphasizing either one.

Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, edited by Ralph M. Wardle. Cornell $25

The author of Thoughts on the Education of Daughters and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was also the author of letters notable for their liveliness, limpidity of style, and for a transparent nobility in the face of steadily adverse reality. Most of these letters (Mary Wollstonecraft died in childbed before she was 40) are either to Gordon Imlay, by whom she had a daughter, or to her husband, William Godwin, by whom she had Shelley’s future wife. Necessary reading for anyone interested in the history of feminist thought.

Albert Camus: A Biography, by Herbert Lottman. Doubleday $16.95

Although Camus has slipped from among the first rank in the literary pantheon sooner than anyone might have reasonably supposed, he has acquired a counterbalancing panache in the popular imagination. In 700 pages of heterogeneous particulars that do not dwell overlong on the literary, Lottman gives us Camus, a man of action, plagued by consumption and despair, who finally wins big at writing (Nobel Prize, 1957). The plethora of personal detail here insures at least a partial rehabilitation of Camus’s reputation.

FICTION Good as Gold, by Joseph Heller. Simon & Shuster $12.95

Bruce Gold wants everything traditionally denied his race—sexy blondes and political power. But Heller’s moral is simple: a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, and don’t expect a WASP to do anything but remind you of this fact. To achieve new comic heights, Heller exploits the lovable lunacy of Gold’s extended family and the bureaucratic double-talk of Washington, D. C. The outcome is, among other things, a devastating attack on Gold’s prefiguration, the one man who overreached the devil and, in effect, denied his heritage—Henry Kissinger. Heller brilliantly writes the book that Gold puts aside in pursuit of power—a history of the Jews in America told in the only way imaginable, as the history of one Jew in America.

The Libera Me Domine, by Robert Pinget. Red Dust $10.50

Red Dust Press deserves great credit for undertaking to publish the work of Robert Pinget, an avant-garde French novelist virtually unknown in the United States. Like Beckett, with whom he has marked affinity, Pinget concerns himself with the timbre of human speech in its more problematic self-definitions. Apart from L’Inquisitoire, Libera Me Domine is Pinget’s most notable accomplishment, and one which challenges the assimilative ingenuity of the cleverest reader of contemporary fiction.

Emma Blue, by Beverly Lowry. Doubleday $7.95

The southern town of Eunola with its suffocating blanket of damp, mildewed air does not suffer any sign of unusualness. The literate, frizzy-haired Emma is a loser until she connects with the local millionaire who, incredibly, appreciates her kinkiness. Lowry writes with a humorous, light touch about potentially tragic situations. While her choice of fictional locale and her origin establish her as a Southern writer, her coy bittersweetness makes her, like her heroine, an outsider. Unlike most Southern fiction writers, Lowry writes fairy tales.

The Short-Timers, by Gustav Hasford. Harper & Row $8.95

The fictional tale of a Marine’s strange journey from boot camp into the American nightmare of Vietnam, this book pulls no punches. Hasford’s style is direct and shocking. No one can read this work and remain comfortable. Hasford confronts the reader with all the horror and sickness that characterize war, and particularly the unreality and despair that faced those who actually fought in Vietnam. Hasford takes the reader to the war in a way that the nightly news never did. As such, The ShortTimers is indispensable in helping the present generation of Americans discover the Vietnam War for themselves and question, now in retrospect, how such a thing could ever have taken place.

SS/GB, by Len Deighton. Knopf $9.95

The best selling espionage novelist (The Ipcress File) has done it again in this exciting tale posited upon the successful invasion of Britain by the Germans in World War II. A routine murder soon involves the fate of the King and England itself as collaborators and the Underground Resistance struggle against each other to an inexorable smashing climax that will rock you from your socks.

Mark Coffin: A Novel of Capitol Hill, by Alien Drury. Doubleday $10

A new, wet-behind-the-ears senator full of boyish charm rolls in the hay at the Watergate with a TV “woman person” on Inaugural Night and then confesses all publicly to regain self-respect and save career and marriage. Not very convincing and rather sluggish of movement. However, there’s a hellava lot of dialogue which befits any tale dealing with D. C. and politics.

Quarantine, by Nickolas Hasluck Holt, Rinehart & Winston $8.95

The successful debut of a young Australian novelist who relates the relentless story of an Egyptian faszad (dirty business) which takes place in a deserted Suez Canal port when people start to crumble on a ship which is mysteriously stalled in an inexplicable quarantine.

The Oxford Chekhov, Vol. VII; Stories, 1893—1895, by Anton Chekhov. Translated and edited by Ronald Hingley. Oxford $24.95

Ronald Hingley’s scholarly translation of the works of Anton Chekhov is generally regarded as the most pleasing metamorphosis into English that Chekhov has until now undergone. His versions are vivid and, within limits, exact; yet they preserve a little of the elusive poetic mist that wistfully glows in the saddest and most prosaic of Chekhov’s Russian streets. This volume contains some of Chekhov’s finest stories, such as “Three Years,” “The Black Monk,” and “Rothschild’s Fiddle.” Chekhov is the one writer that even Nabokov would choose as companion on the lonely moon.

The Devil’s Wager, by Frederick L. Santee. Exposition Press $10

A modern version of the Faustian drama in the struggle over a human soul. This time Satan’s offer of tenure to a university professor is countered by God’s presentation of a coed who offers her love to assist him in the development of a better world. A scholarly and deep insight into one’s search for personal integrity in today’s mixed-up society.

At Buttons, by Garry Wills. Andrews & McMeel $8.95

This first novel by a successful nationally syndicated political columnist is a memorable one(, with a plot artfully conceived and superbly executed. He spins a conspiracy of scholarly intrigue into a subtle comedy graced by a classic style of literary dialogue which is regrettably not often found in present-day writers.

The Year of Living Dangerously, by C. J. Koch. St. Martin’s $10

The year is 1965, and President Sukarno warns of the danger from the explosion of Indonesia’s legendary volcano. Human emotions erupt instead among a group of Western newsmen whose relationships are the sordid counterpart of an exotic Javanese puppet shadow in a land “whose children are more numerous, its women more beautiful and its land more fertile” than any other in the world.

The Associates, by John Jay Osborn, Jr. Houghton Mifflin $8.95

This lightweight novel will undoubtedly follow the author’s Paper Chase into a movie and TV series. But in writing about life in a Wall Street law firm, he is up against literary giants like Louis Auchincloss, whose urbane and sophisticated treatment of the same turf makes it difficult, if not impossible, for anyone else to compete successfully.

The Rheingold Route, by Arthur Maling. Harper & Row $9.95

This is an unheralded dilly of a thriller which may well be the sleeper of the year. After you finish reading the exciting manhunt which takes place on the Continent, you’ll probably be prompted to read the previous ten novels of the author to see if they are as pleasurable as this one.

Suttree, by Cormac McCarthy. Random House $12.95

With this novel Mr. McCarthy’s bid to be accepted as a major American writer wins the pot. He is good, very good, and admirers of The Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, and Child of God will rejoice. This is perhaps the best novel of river life in midcontinent America since Huckleberry Finn. Mr. McCarthy’s Knoxville and his Tennessee speak to us in language so true and pure it hurts. A major-league truant (as was Huck), Suttree sets up camp on the river and defies time and reality to lure him back. He makes his point the hard way, and he gets hurt; but he makes his point. He cannot go the way of the city rat, Harrogate, who turns to crime; nor of Abednego Jones, the huge black who relies on his brute strength to see him through; nor of his crooked-as-a-dog’s-hind-leg friends who dredge for mussel shells at 40 dollars the ton. And he most certainly cannot go home again, for that way lies capitulation. So Suttree stays on the river and looks at life through as uncomplicated a glass as he can find. The view is worth the price of the ride.

The Last Year of the War, by Shirley Nelson. Harper & Row $9.95

During a winter of exploration—mental, emotional, religious—an 18-year-old girl discovers the world, her strengths, and herself. She is a student at a Bible Institute, a setting which, because of its fictional rarity, becomes exotic. But the heroine finds, like all of us who have passed into adulthood, that she is the source of her own strengths and that her perceptions are equally bound to her abilities.

Passacaglia, by Robert Pinget. Red Dust $6.95

This short, virtuoso novel, whose title refers to a recurrent musical motif, is written in the mode of oblique circumstantial rumination which may lack universal appeal. Pinget shares with Beckett and other French nouveaux romanciers a concern with extending the limits of fiction well past what the common reader will accept as justified or understandable. This rather flat translation will interest only those readers who have some investment in following the latest trends in French fiction.

Wolfsbane, by Craig Thomas. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $8.95

This is a story—a less than gripping story—of international espionage, political assassination, and personal vengeance. It centers upon the life of an otherwise obscure English solicitor who finds himself dragged into the intrigue of the Cold War after he had successfully escaped the brutality of World War II. This book is intended to be a “thriller,” but it is unlikely that it will thrill anyone.

Scot Free, by Ivy Strick. Taplinger $8.95

This novel, in which a young woman comes to recognize the immaturity and selfishness of her husband and her need to break out of her marriage, suffers from sketchily drawn, one-dimensional characters and a mechanical style which shifts from hollow-sounding dialogue to dull description as though against the author’s will. The pacing of the novel also suffers from an extremely slow beginning, which takes up the first half of the book, and a conclusion in which the characters seem glued into their static roles.

Reincarnation In Venice, by Max Ehrich. Simon & Schuster $9.95

A proven master storyteller in the reincarnation genre has written another spellbinder about a murdered Venetian who lives again in the person of a vacationing American computer analyst. The successor vindicates the death of his immediate predecessor after having fallen in love with the spouse of the Venetian. Eerie but good.

LITERARY STUDIES What’s Happening to American English?, by Arn and Charlene Tibbetts. Scribner’s $8.95

Why can’t Johnny write? The Tibbetts’ book is the record of an exploratory tour of 50 high schools across the country, as well as of years of teaching. The authors are conservatives and favor a return to pre1960’s methods of instruction; they make their case for the high schools very well, but seem less aware of the problems that really beset college teachers of composition. Their book documents in moving detail the need for change, and contains as well (as do few books of this sort) a sad awareness that not just methods of instruction but attitudes to education are finally at stake.

The Tudor Play of Mind: Rhetorical Inquiry and the Art of Elizabethan Drama, by Joel B. Altman. California $18.50

This book breaks important new ground in our understanding of a large body of literature. Altman divides Renaissance literature into two rhetorical “paradigms,” the “demonstrative” and the “explorative,” and traces the fortunes of the latter, eristic type in dramas built not as homilies or illustrations of settled beliefs, but as questions. His study is exciting both in giving a new explanation for the historical filiation of seemingly disparate genres and also for providing a fresh approach to a large group of plays; Altman’s readings of Lyly, Marston, and Marlowe, among others, are engagingly written and very convincing.

Making Sense of Literature, by John Reichert. Chicago $10.50

A plea for common sense framed as a survey of problems in critical theory, Making Sense pleases in its reasonableness even as it disappoints in its effort to settle debated questions. Reichert’s book is more manifesto than argument, containing many useful reflections on the effects of theoretical preference upon pedagogy; as a theorist, however, Reichert has cast his net too widely and failed really to catch up the notoriously slippery fish he seeks.

Blake and the Assimilation of Chaos, by Christine Gallant. Princeton $12.50

The example of Blake is essential for the correct understanding of the several generations of Romantic writers who succeeded him: Shelley, Swinburne (who wrote a study of Blake), Hardy, and, perhaps most of all, Lawrence. Gallant emphasizes (quite appropriately) the significance of the writings of that latter-day Romantic, Carl Jung, for the proper reading of Blake’s The Four Zoas. Although transparently a reworked thesis, this book is a credible reading of a frequently baffling major poet.

Robert Lowell: Life and Art, by Steven Gould Axelrod. Princeton $14.50

The definitive critique of this study of Lowell was written by Helen Vendler for the Feb. 8, 1979 issue of The New York Review of Books. With monstrous fidelity to critical integrity, she utterly eviscerates the shallow pretense of Axelrod’s method and of his prose style. Before reading this book, then, students of Lowell must read both Hugh Staples and Alan Williamson to avail themselves of the best criticism on the subject.

Boris Pasternak’s Translations of Shakespeare, by Anna Kay France. California $15

Russians rival the Germans in the brilliance of their translations from English, and Pasternak occupies a special place of honor in this tradition of excellence. Even during the years when he and his works were rejected by the Soviet authorities, Pasternak’s versions of Shakespeare were those most used in productions of the plays in Russian. In this clearly written and thorough study, Professor France analyzes Pasternak’s translations of eight plays, showing for example, how he tended to colloquialize passages and to stress resistance to evil and an optimistic world view by making subtle changes in his versions of the English text. France links these and other practices to Pasternak’s own original poetry.

René Char: The Myth and the Poem, by James R. Lawler. Princeton $11

The most distinguished Valery critic now writing in English, the author is superbly prepared to “enter the semantic thickness, to engage the quiddity of” a fiercely difficult poetic oeuvre. In a series of brilliant, erudite, and elegant close readings, which focus primarily on La Paroi et la prairie, Lawler discloses and synthesizes the mythological, moral, and thematic elements of Char’s vision and sensibility, as they have evolved over a period of 40 years. A model of its genre, this brief volume is as exciting in its own way as the lyrics that it makes available even to the Frenchless reader.

Dante’s Paradiso and the Limitations of Modem Criticism, by Robin Kirkpatrick. Cambridge $23.50

After examining the major modern critical theories, R. Kirkpatrick suggests that Dante expressed his religious and philosophical beliefs, of which his ideas on language were part, in a structured form of restrained, moderate expression. Thus Dante’s use of language is a key to understanding his work and thought. Unfortunately, Kirkpatrick’s valuable points are obscured by his verbosity.

The Idea of the Clerisy in the Nineteenth Century, by Ben Knights. Cambridge $29.50

This elegant exercise in what might be called the “sociology of criticism” details the struggle of 19th-century intellectuals such as Coleridge, Carlyle, Arnold, and Newman to maintain the dignity of literary and religious knowledge in an increasingly “materialist” society. The result was a new intellectual elite, or “clerisy,” which, in trying to stress fundamental human values, cut itself off from what most people saw as their most important concerns. Knights’ book is excellent background to the true concerns of Victorian criticism.

Nature and Society: Later Eighteenth-Century Uses of the Pastoral and Georgic, by Richard Feingold. Rutgers $13.95

Although concerned primarily with a reading of John Dyer’s The Fleece (1757) and William Cowper’s The Task (1784), this book has a larger aim. It seeks to provide social, political, and economic contexts for 18th-century pastoral and georgic traditions. The analysis of the poems is occasionally provocative, but the author introduces highly questionable hypotheses about imitative rhetoric and plain or straightforward statement to distinguish successful from unsuccessful poetry. The aim of the contexts is laudable, and one wishes the author took better advantage of it.

Rescuing Horace Walpole, by Wilmarth S. Lewis. Yale $20

Before estheticians, there were esthetes, and before both of them, there were antiquarians. God said let elegant trivia be, and, lo, there Horace Walpole and Wilmarth Lewis were. Mr. Lewis dwells lovingly on 26 of his incomparable bits of Walpoliana to focus this diffuse catalogue raisonne, which flits around rare manuscripts and paintings to tell the often fascinating story of a unique personality. A work of deep infatuation, Mr. Lewis’s book is in every way comparable to the collector’s items it describes.

The Metamorphoses of the Self: The Sensualist, and the Artist in the Works of Julien Green, by John M. Dunaway. Kentucky $9.75

By and large, Americans have been quite slow to claim kin to Julien Green, the only American member of the Academie Françase. Dunaway’s monograph is an attempt to bring Green, a novelist of some stature, to the attention of the better-informed American reader. This project would be more promising had Dunaway concentrated on Green the artist rather than Green the Catholic or Green the erotomaniac. Nonetheless, this is an interesting essay which deserves a better fate than oblivion.

The Interpretation of Otherness: Literature, Religion, and the American Imagination, by Giles Gunn. Oxford $14.95

The questions that inevitably arise after reading Gunn’s book are ones involving both substance and style. How, for instance, can a book that seeks to integrate the exciting theological insights of Barth, Tillich, and Niebuhr with American literature be both so faultlessly composed and yet so lethally boring? And again, how can a writer pretend to depth by merely reeling off titles of books without addressing their real arguments? Glib, superficial, vacuous.


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