Professor Kirsch immediately and directly states the aim of his examination of Shakespeare’s treatment of love: he declares that “the plays represent elemental truths of our emotional and spiritual life, that these truths help account for Shakespeare’s enduring vitality, and that they deserve critical attention.” His critical attention draws upon Christian and Freudian approaches as means of understanding “the profound experience of love Shakespeare depicts.” His use of these appoaches follows his intention—to see them as far more “spacious and humane” than we are accustomed to in interpreting the experience and design of the plays. He chooses five plays—Othello, Much Ado, Measure for Measure, All’s Well, and Cymbeline— that are concerned with erotic experience that encourages both psychological and religious interpretation. These five for him have rich and illuminating analogies, particularly in a sacramental conception of marriage and an aspect of romantic love that is ultimately represented as a modulation of charity. His interpretations, which combine clarity, perception, and much-to-be-desired tact, illustrate again the comprehensive mind and spirit of the dramatist.
Dostoevsky’s search for God led to the creation of an art form, the psychological novel, which has never been easily accessible to the public despite the enormous and continuing popularity of the Russian genius’s works. This sensitive, perceptive new study by Professor Jackson of Yale may break down some of the barriers between Dostoevsky and his readers. It is not enough to know that Dostoevsky was obsessed by guilt and redemption; we must seek the origins of his obsession, and no one has ever done this better than Professor Jackson.
In this consistently thoughtful and revealing study, Gary Nelson argues that the war in Vietnam destroyed certain political assumptions about the possibilities of democracy in the United States, and with them the Whitmanian model of visionary poetry on which many postmodern artists had relied. After Vietnam, he believes, poets must abandon transcendence, prophecy—even the possibilities of verbal connection and formal completion—and embrace the necessary failure of the poem. Their challenge is to “create poems that turn rhetorical disintegration into a species of poetic assertion.” I don’t know how many readers will accept Nelson’s historical determinism, assessment of the character and limitation of the tradition of Walt Whitman, or deconstructive bias, but his virtue is less to invite agreement than to challenge and provoke. His historical inquiry is aggressive, daring, and at least useful, while his analyses of Theodore Roethke, Galway Kinnell, Robert Duncan, Adrienne Rich, and W. S. Merwin are models of critical discourse. One finds good things on every page.
Harold Bloom is one of our most articulate and original critics. In this volume of essays, he amplifies, in more detail than elsewhere, some of the theoretical ideas he has developed. These involve the religious sources of writing, the rejection of distinctions between poetic and critical language, the primary function of tropes. The volume includes essays on Freud, Emerson, Whitman, Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, and John Ashbery and provides an excellent introduction to Bloom’s range and originality.
The purpose of this book, according to the author, is “to trace, through the poetry . . . the tension in Romanticism between a conventional vocabulary and an emergent self-understanding.” The Romantics made of art a “dialogue between illusion and its deconstruction.” The book has chapters on the poetry of Shelley, Keats, and Coleridge, but its main thrust is philosophical. It has interesting things to say about Romantic thought, but, unfortunately, it is committed to a phenomenological vocabulary that will severely limit its readership.
For reasons not altogether clear, detective fiction has begun to elicit highly eclectic responses from its scholarly readers. When the outcome resembles John Cawelti’s relevant chapters in Adventure, Mystery, and Romance— where a master paradigm subsumes a great variety of frameworks—understanding is enhanced and the Great Dialogue benefits. Unhappily, this is not the case in Porter’s Pursuit, which only loosely yokes formalism, anthropology, and phenomenology. However interesting the individual insights may be (and here they are most interesting), they remain isolated: incommensurable and immune to synthesis. In short, a good book to leaf through, though it really does not bear close reading.
Often critics tend to focus upon lesser literary figures of a given period only to bear out or augment their ideas concerning the major writers. Ms. Seelig avoids this in her study, managing to present intelligent commentary not only on Herbert’s Temple but also on the works of the less appreciated Henry Vaughan and Thomas Traherne. The book is gracefully written, and the author’s analysis of the similarities and (perhaps more importantly) the differences between the three poets merits the attention of anyone interested in 17th-century verse.
A brilliant deconstructive reading of the poet’s masterwork, this brief monograph suggests close ties between Jacob and three other authors who have appeared to have no affinities with any contemporary: Artaud, Queneau, and Leiris. For Lévy, Jacob’s art—rich in puns, riddles, tricks, and the donning of masks—neither mirrors a world nor proposes a world view; instead, it embodies instability and ambiguity as well as their effects: the failure to communicate and to establish a self. Profoundly influenced by the critical theories of J. D. and Renée Riese Hubert, Lévy’s exposition is exhaustive, exacting, and elegant. So too are Judith Schneider’s translations of Jacob’s selected works, which close the volume.
The Weimar Republic was no great shakes politically, but it was a paradise for artists and writers who had never been so free in the German-speaking world. When Hitler came to power in 1933, many of the writers had to flee or face arrest and possible execution. The leftists among them naturally went to Stalin’s Russia, only to find that they had gone from one horror to another. Professor Pike has exhausted the archives, memoirs, and secondary literature on this important subject and has produced a work that is certain to become a standard reference source.
In his essay, Professor Jackson examines the tension between the established though weakened ruler and the herousurper that operates in a number of the great Western epics. As the title suggests, the author very much pursues a theme rather than attempts to outline a static convention; in fact, the subject varies so in the nine works treated that the unity of the study occasionally becomes tenuous. Still, Jackson’s observations are acute, and the book is well worth a careful reading.
Heidegger’s work has been an increasingly important influence on American philosophy and literary criticism during the last two decades. To the extent that his complex thought, abounding in untranslatable neologisms, can be explained, this volume succeeds—presenting a clear exposition of Heidegger’s philosophical meditations on art. Exploring the writings from 1927 through the 1950’s, Halliburton puts the major modern philosopher’s work in a broad philosophical and literary context, referring to Rilke, Otto, Wittgenstein; to Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, and Gadamer, among others. Heidegger’s emphasis on the power of art to transform one’s life is especially worth pondering. But there is a certain paradox in the fact that, although Heidegger was inspired by poetry, much of the American criticism inspired by Heidegger is so remote from poetry—couched as it is in an unpoetical and obfuscating jargon.
First published in 1932, The Savage Pilgrimage is both a passionate defense and a critical appreciation of Lawrence as man and writer. This new edition contains a memoir of the author by her son, John Carswell, which also puts in perspective the running battle between Catherine Carswell and John Middleton Murry which punctuates the book. Written so soon after Lawrence’s death, this in part eyewitness, wholly friendly account is necessarily limited and incomplete, but that does not affect its interest and value.
This is an account of a page of history now long since turned: the rise and influence of certain American magazines in the last third of the 19th century. The preeminent editor of the time was the “genteel critic” Richard Watson Gilder, a period piece indeed. He was a dominant influence on writers and readers of his era, and if that influence now seems not bad but stultifying, blame that on this age, not on his. There is no doubt that Gilder was a remarkable man with a gift for friendship, but it is hard not to find him a bore.
The argument of this book is that from the middle of the 18th to the end of the 19th century, the works of the major European writers reveal a hunger for autonomy or self-sufficiency. Among the writers discussed are Richardson, Rousseau, Sterne, the English Romantics, Goethe, Hölderlin, Schiller, Stendhal, Poe, Baudelaire, Wilde. No one could accuse the author of a light touch, but in exploring how these writers sought to deal with self-sufficiency, he offers some interesting insights.
“Play” here refers both to the behavior of some of Shakespeare’s characters in his early comedies and to Shakespeare’s own activity in putting together the plays in which they disport. From A Comedy of Errors to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Huston maintains, Shakespeare is exploring the therapeutic and artistic resources of such a self-consciously artificial approach to reality. Much of this is nothing new, but the centerpiece chapter on The Taming of the Shrew is unexpectedly full and has its surprises.
A book of 324 pages and 50 tables on the political history of one decade of one North Carolina county of 15,000 people? Such is the detail some historians now deem necessary to explain complex change in a truly satisfying way. Glittering generalities may sell more history books and make for easier reading, but they often obscure more than they reveal. Studies such as this one will, undoubtedly, proliferate as historians try to get at the roots of history. If those books are as thoughtful as this one, this is a trend to be welcomed. Harry L. Watson ingeniously employs sophisticated statistical techniques to recreate the texture of political conflict in the age when the American twoparty system came to life. He discovers that the original conflict turned around divergent visions of the future: one of economic change versus one of arcadian stability, Whig versus Democrat. He is not the first to see this rift, but he gives it a concreteness, a local context, it has heretofore lacked. History, he shows, does not happen only in Washington but even in places as obscure as Cumberland County.
It was no great thing to destroy Europe: the armies merely pointed their guns at each other and pulled the triggers. But putting it back together after 1918 presented problems never before encountered. As Professor Silverman shows in this pioneering study, it was not just the European economy but economic ideas too that had to be reconstructed. The old methods and assumptions of managing debts, fighting inflation, and stabilizing foreign exchange would no longer work, and new ones had to be found if another conflict were to be averted. These problems proved insoluble.
Something there is about Marxism that just will not let go. No country lives by it or ever has lived by it (although many run it up the flagpole every day). No one believes in it save a few fanatics in Berkeley, New York, and maybe Tripoli (and what they profess bears no resemblance to Marxism). Marx himself said that, above all, he was no Marxist. But scholarly studies continue to appear like locusts, and this present collection is one of the best. We can, or at least should, learn something even from ideas that fail.
As history would have it, photography and civil war came to America almost simultaneously. Enterprising photographers were not slow to recognize the possibilities, commercial and artistic, of a war that touched virtually everyone in the nation. This book, the first of six volumes, presents the pictures those photographers captured of the first modern war. Their daguerreotypes, many of them never seen before, are fascinating both for what they tell us of the war and of early photography. Perhaps owing to the awkwardness of early photographic equipment and to the chaos of battle, the best photos focus on scenes away from the terrain of actual conflict: the homefront before and during the war, camp life, studio poses of proud young soldiers. The prodigious amounts of time, energy, and money invested in gathering these scattered and elusive photographs were well spent.
The mysteries of the Second World War continue to unravel. In this old-fashioned but excellent study in diplomatic history, Eleanor Gates takes apart the tragic break between France and Great Britain after the Blitzkrieg in the spring of 1940. When Britain refused to provide any more aid, Pétain and his colleagues had little choice but to make the best deal they could with Hitler. It was an inglorious end to the Western alliance, and its consequences are still felt.
This is an aggravating book. Very well written—as one would expect from this erudite and prolific author—and of coffee-table proportions, it is heavy to hold and difficult to read. In spite of an early promise to the contrary, the illustrations, which are beautiful, are not referred to in the text (they have their own legends in very small type, making them almost a book in themselves), and the bibliography, said to be on page 218, does not exist. It is hard to guess for whom this volume is intended. Perhaps the text alone will appear one day in a manageable paperback.
Kremlinology has been likened to the reading of chicken entrails, with the primitive priests who do the latter coming off rather better. In the absence of hard, verifiable information out of the Kremlin, even the best of Western specialists (such as Mr. Hahn) are reduced to analyzing the kind of data one would scoff at in most other fields. This study of the early postwar period contains little that is new, although the partial rehabilitation of A. A. Zhdanov will come as a surprise to some students of Soviet history.
The quixotic final attempt of James II and a secret Jacobite conspiracy to overthrow William of Orange has not been subjected to a full monograph account in modern times. The complex intrigue, supported by the ships and men of Louis XIV, is of considerable importance in the understanding of English political, social, and religious history in the enlightened days of Locke, Dryden, and Newton. Garrett’s shrewd and readable monograph is thus welcome and quite adequate to its task. Not a trained historian, she demonstrates a natural aptitude for historical argumentation and for vivid characterization. The account is framed in dignified prose and provides insight into daily life of the period. Garrett does not suspend her judgments as to men and affairs in the customary manner of professional historians, but the judgments she displays are fair and convincing.
This book is an ambitious attempt to explain why no strong business class ever developed in tsarist Russia. There were thousands of individuals who engaged in business, of course, but they never developed any coherent sense of belonging to a powerful estate. Rieber has explained the powerful hold of tradition upon these people, and he has looked closely at the competition they faced from foreigners and national minorities. This is a large and ambitious book, one of the best on imperial Russian society to appear in some time.
Scholarship on “the mightiest mass movement in European history before 1789” has been so predominantly German that it has never been fully integrated into the English-speaking picture of the 16th century. This translation of a short but ambitious recent discussion can now serve as an introduction both to the fearsome complexity of the events (each jurisdiction in Germany worked out its destiny by slightly different rules) and also to some of their larger urgency. The Bauernkrieg, Blickle finally wants to insist, was not just a “revolt” but a revolution in every serious modern sense of the term.
Ever since Karl Marx made that famous comment about the “idiocy of rural life,” the Communists have had a difficult time convincing the farmers that they really ought to read a few paragraphs of the “Communist Manifesto” before going out into the fields each morning. Extensive research has proved that private farming is the only way to feed mankind, and yet the Communists keep trying to win over those who till the soil. They tried mightily in the United States in the period 1919—60, and their efforts are the subject of this splendid study by Mr. Dyson.
It is hard to think of a more exciting month in this century than November 1918. Empires fell, new states came into existence, revolutions consolidated themselves, and of course the greatest war the world had yet seen ended. Brook-Shepherd has sought out vignettes from many corners of the world and has combined them into a superbly readable narrative. This is one of the best of the “you are there” books to appear in some time.
A number of books have recently been published recounting the story of America in the Western Pacific. Hoyt’s book is the only one of these to take a largely military perspective. It describes the important battles from Dewey’s decisive victory in Manila Bay to our agonizing defeat in Vietnam. Most of the chapters are short journalistic accounts of the major 20th-century military encounters in the Pacific, and they contain little discussion of the political, economic, or cultural causes or consequences of any of these encounters. The book will be enjoyed by readers interested in popular naval history but will be found lacking by those who want to know why so many American lives have been lost on the seas, islands, and coasts of the Pacific basin.
This book represents mature social history at its best. It discusses such diverse topics as working-class crime in the port of Hamburg, drinking habits among the workers, teenage violence in working-class districts in Berlin, and similar themes. Studies such as this can help us understand why the German working class, which stood to lose the most from Hitler’s accession to power, failed to oppose the Nazis in sufficient numbers to halt the German disaster.
Until 1980 Erik McKitrick’s collection of 15 proslavery writings, Slavery Defended, was available to students in paperback for less than four dollars. With that volume out of print, LSU Press commissioned a young professor of American Studies to produce a book excerpting the work of seven apologists and in paper costing more than double the old price. Since McKitrick first appeared, scholars have profitably re-examined the proslavery argument, its proponents, and its setting. Ms. Faust, liberally citing her own work, mentions in her introduction some of that literature. She downplays the difference between racism and proslavery, decides not to discuss the influence of Aristotle, Burke, and Carlyle on slavery’s spokesmen, and omits altogether the importance of republicanism in the Old South. Faust’s headnotes are well done, and her specimens illustrative of the genre, but one wonders how much we have gained in the exchange.
Frances Davis, the daughter of Russian immigrants whose lives were devoted to helping others, passed her childhood happily in a Utopian community, The Farm, on the banks of the Merrimack River, “sixty acres of freedom to be yourself,” a sanctuary created by a former minister, Ralph Albertson, and his wife. When she was grown, she became a reporter whose ambition drove her to Paris and then to Spain, where she was a war correspondent behind the Franco lines until a minor wound resulted in a septicemia that sent her home, half dead and voiceless, desperate to make those at The Farm understand the dreadful evils of the times. Her apt title comes from an 1802 Wordsworth sonnet which says in 14 lines what she elaborates in some 200 pages. But though this book takes longer to read than Wordsworth’s poem, it is well worth it.
Richard Winston intended this book to be a complete biography of Thomas Mann, an analysis in depth of all his work, but he died just as he came to 1911 and the writing of Death in Venice. As far as it goes, this is a superb piece of writing, probing, and analyzing of Mann’s roots, background, accomplishments with acute understanding and deep but clear sympathy. If Winston had been given time to complete the work, it would undoubtedly have been the definitive account of this great writer. Can another take up the tale and carry it through on the same high level and in the same distinguished style ?
Thomas De Quincey is known today largely for his Confessions of an Opium-Eater, one of the most sensational works of English Romanticism—a peak of inspired visionary prose that still has the power to transport the reader, though it is more often remembered for its influences on Poe and Baudelaire than actually read. Scarcely the story of “adventures,” Lindrop’s book is a thoughtful, measured, and sympathetic account of De Quincey’s yearnings, family tribulations, illnesses, and important literary friendships, especially with Wordsworth and Coleridge. The details of De Quincey’s life will be of greater interest to the scholar of English literature than to the reader who is not a specialist, but Lindrop suggestively offers sufficient commentary on such essays as “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts” as to arouse or reawaken one’s interest in De Quincey’s works.
Douglas MacArthur called him “undoubtedly the greatest soldier that England has produced since Wellington.” Alan Brooke (later Viscount Alanbrooke) was an Ulsterman, but never mind that. He was a dignified, intelligent, and decent soldier whose life was marked by tragedy: his first wife died of injuries suffered in an automobile accident for which he was responsible. But Brooke weathered that awful crisis, rose to become Commander of the Imperial General Staff, and proved to be the one British general who could put the Americans in their place and make them like it. This is a splendid regimental history by a man who served with him.
A reverence for Pasternak is not enough. Mr. de Mallac shares the awe in which many people hold the late, great Soviet writer, and his new biography is an amiable tribute. It is not, however, much of a contribution to Pasternak studies. The judgments are routine, the criticism frankly boring, the insights not very profound; the work resembles an endless newspaper article by a well-meaning but not very well-informed journalist.
A curious work, over 30 years in the making. The manuscript was rewritten six or seven times and still turns one of the most exciting events of the 19th (or any other) century into something akin to an 11th-century monastic chronicle. Based on an upstate New York farmer-turned-argonaut’s diary, the flow is as tortuous as the overland trip from St. Joseph to Stringtown. We keep waiting for the unexpected, and don’t get it. (There is a limit to the interest one can have in family health. ) So it becomes a drab account with all the usual 49er’s disappointments, all the heartaches—none of the excitement or adventure on a grand scale. Although the author says discovery of the diary altered his life, the reader is left wondering about his motives. What makes a man spend a generation working on an 1850-vintage soap opera? It certainly proves that time, labor and devotion do not conquer all!
Nelson’s study marks one of those rare scholarly achievements when a biographer is able to penetrate the paradoxical genius of a man like Pascal and discover unifying elements that unfold, rather than oversimplify, the subject. The author explains the ambivalence of Pascal’s religious stances evident in the major works as a function of the philosopher’s need to challenge persistently his own views, to insure validity through a continuous skeptical self-questioning. As Nelson states, the “experimental cast of Pascal’s rationalism comes to the fore in religion, then, as well as in science.” The minor writings, along with the Provincial Letters and Thoughts, are given close scrutiny, and the result is a most stimulating, satisfying inquiry.
Margaret Beaufort had an ambition, to make her son, Henry Tudor, King of England. To that end this very private, religious woman bent her considerable talents successfully. But she remains a shadowy figure, her machinations unclear until after Henry is crowned, when her power in the king’s household is obvious and clear. Simon’s biography, although chatty and interesting in its reconstruction of some of the aspects of the period, does not dispel the shadows in Margaret’s early life. Margaret Beaufort still remains the woman with the “lean and hungry look” and a kingmaking, determined ambition.
This important section of the Washington Papers comprises the executive daybook for the first administration. More than a diary of appointments and issues, it is a collection of submitted papers from the executive departments, including primary information and the ruminations of the cabinet secretaries—among the highest quality state papers in our history. The volume is generously larded with contracts, patents, diplomatic correspondence, Indian affairs, organizational memoranda, and the only extant War Department Papers—the rest having been destroyed in a fire in 1800. To the general historian the greatest interest inheres in the documents related to the Genêt Affair of 1793. The editorial standards are superlative, with thorough yet unobtrusive documentation and illumination.
A total of 31 letters, exchanged by the poet and his wife between 1810 and 1812 are included in this collection, a bundle of ardent affection that came to light only in 1977. Aside from the information on village life, poetry and art, and domestic Wordsworthian life, these letters display a tenderness and profound satisfaction with one another perhaps not sufficiently appreciated in the past. There are moments of nearly illicit pleasure in the exchange of these passionate letters, as well as satisfactory elucidation of the importance of his wife to the poet—something well known to De Quincey and Coleridge, but not so well to moderns emphasizing his attachment to sister Dorothy. Thus satisfactorily is laid the ghost of Wordsworth’s supposed “marriage of convenience” and thus further is renewed our appreciation of the sincere domesticity and tranquility of soul of the singer of nature.
According to Arnold Silver, Shaw, long cherished for his irreverent wit, was actually a man troubled by “homicidal and sadomasochistic tendencies.” These tendencies, evident throughout his works, can be attributed to the author’s lifelong doubts about his legitimacy, his contempt for his drunken father (hence his admiration of father figures such as Hitler and Stalin), and his sexual difficulties, particularly his unconsummated marriage and his disastrous affair with Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Many readers will no doubt find Mr. Silver’s psychosexual explorations and reinterpretations of Candida, Man and Superman, and Pygmalion overingenious and infuriating; none, however, will find them trivial or uninstructive.
Sheed, an engaging writer and skillful raconteur, warns us in his preface that what follows is not biography. . .”I’m not dead sure what it is.” He’s dead right. The pages are cluttered with famous names, Sheed himself, and Clare. In a rambling, comfortable fashion we learn a bit about the latter—how she married for money the first time, then for power, how she used money and power. But in the end it’s not clear whether we are looking at Wonder Woman, the Dragon Lady, or simply an ambitious bitch who has compiled an astounding track record.
This volume completes the much-heralded twelve-volume edition of Byron’s letters and journals. Marchand, Byron’s masterful biographer, brings to this complete collection both a devotion to his subject and a commitment to scholarly precision. Along with a comprehensive index that comprises most of the volume, Marchand includes a 40-page selection of “aphorisms, bans mots, and facetious and memorable passages” culled from the previous volumes. Byron on love, politics, and literature is irresistible; this brief anthology will compel readers to plunge into the deeper pleasures of this fine scholarly project.
Lord Randolph Churchill lived a remarkable life in a flamboyant period. He never reached the heights of social or political influence; but because of his outrageous behavior, his unconventional political ideas, his personal tragedy, and his famous ancestors and descendants, he often stands out as the most dramatic figure of his age. R. F. Foster’s new biography is, as its subtitle suggests, a political life, and it successfully describes the intricacies of Churchill’s parliamentary career. Foster is more objective than Churchill’s other biographers, including Randolph’s son Winston, and generally finds that ambition rather than principle is at the root of Lord Randolph’s actions. But, while Foster can be extremely helpful in explaining the positions Churchill took on the complicated issues of his day, he rarely brings his subject to life. Foster begins each chapter with a long quote from one of the many Victorian political novels in which a Churchilllike character plays a part, recognizing that the full story of Lord Randolph needs the flair of a novelist as well as the accuracy of a political historian.
Many subjects in international relations are talked about more than they are thought about. The sale of arms has long been one of those subjects. Two years ago Andrew Pierre edited a book on the problem of arms transfers in American foreign policy; now he has written one that treats the problem in a global context. Both books provide serious commentary on a complex phenomenon that is usually ignored by those who believe that arms and arms races do not cause wars and frequently condemned by those who believe that the makers and sellers of weapons are the principal source of evil in world politics. Pierre treats the problem of arms transfers with balance, examining the motivations of both suppliers and recipients, and concluding that the political factors in these transactions are more important than the military or economic. His book ends with a series of proposals for imposing restraint on the growing international arms trade. Coming as they do from someone who has given careful thought to a complex problem, these proposals deserve serious attention.
Of very recent coinage, the term “genocide” describes a very ancient practice. From the beginning of recorded history, men have killed men simply because the victims were somehow “different.” Our century, of course, has seen genocide perfected: the unimaginably dismal record is too lengthy to be recounted here. There was hope, after World War II, that the United Nations might be able to avert future acts of genocide, but that body’s record in Africa, Bangladesh, and elsewhere suggests nothing so much as indifference. Professor Kuper has written what has to be the definitive work on this subject.
Nobel laureate and Atomic Energy Commissioner (1961—71) Seaborg recollects his participation in the nuclear arms negotiations in the late fifties which eventually led to the signing of the Test Ban Treaty on Aug. 5, 1963. Seaborg’s portrayal of Kennedy and Khrushchev seems to be sympathetic, and the brunt of the blame is laid on the doorsteps of hard-line bureaucrats in both countries for the unsuccessful enforcement of the treaty. Recent history has illustrated the shortcomings of summit meetings among heads of states or high ranking government officials; and while some agreements may be reached between the United States and the Soviet Union, it seems that their achievement rests on the level of confidence displayed by both parties. The Soviet reaction to the 1963 Test Ban Treaty in the atmosphere was to encourage new types of nuclear weapons testing, mostly in underground salt caverns, a stipulation not covered by the negotiations and the treaty. In light of this record, whether we should pursue SALT (Strategic Arms Limitations Talks) or START (Strategic Arms Reductions Talks), arms negotiations with the Soviets needs to be debated, and Seaborg’s evaluation and plea for new attempts for talks present a good case but limit the discussion to one perspective.
As one of the many books that engulf the public soon after a presidential election, this one is better than most. Written by a national political correspondent of Time magazine, the book chronicles the presidential election campaign from the summer of 1979 through the November election in 1980, with a thorough examination of the candidates and the campaign. Although Stacks does provide some analysis of the broader political, economic, and social factors of contemporary politics, the book’s greatest strength, by far, is its discussion of the candidates and their campaigns, their successes and failures in the election process. Written in an easygoing journalistic style, the book is both informative and entertaining. It is well worth the few hours it takes to read it.
The theme of this collection of 17 essays, in turn the product of a conference held in Washington, D. C. in June 1980, pertains to two of the important issues concerning the Muslim people: the resurgence of Islam and the diversity of the Islamic world. The book, successfully, explains the “resurgence” of Islam and, at the same time, shows the reader the diverse character of this resurgence in a global area, which extends from Morocco to Indonesia. This is, on the one hand, a valuable contribution to the study of Islam and what is happening to it as one of humanity’s great religions, and, on the other, a valuable reference book for understanding what is happening to the Muslims.
Mr. Alvarez (author of The Savage God: A Study of Suicide) probably ought to have waited a few more years after his divorce before undertaking this book. He tells stories about the divorces of friends and acquaintances with the flair that marks all his published work, but he cannot get the link between them—if there is one—right, and he flounders badly when he speaks of his own experience with the breakup of a marriage. He is, in short, a far better writer than he is either social critic or self-critic, and this book is only occasionally amusing, rarely instructive.
The title of this book is misleading and can lead to severe disappointment if taken literally. The first 124 pages constitute a rather lengthy introduction to the last 75. The real subject is “Born-Again Politics” in general and in particular Jerry Falwell and his role in the presidential election of 1980. There is, of course, cursory treatment of other “televangelists,” but it is peripheral to the true concern of Hadden and Swann. Falwellian politics and the swift reaction of more liberal groups to the growing power of conservative “religious” figures are discussed in some depth. The power of these celebrity preachers to mobilize significant numbers of people around nearly any politically conservative issue is a very tangible threat to every politician and citizen who stands in oppostion to them. Hadden and Swann do a good job of offering a more realistic assessment of the actual power of televangelists than either Falwell’s inflated claims or the reactionary estimates of the threatened establishment. Unfortunately, however, they end by harping on the conflict between organized religion and these rising video stars. One is left wondering if this conflict is real or a “straw man” erected to confuse. No solid answer is given.
A skillful job of reporting and analysis, Hometown dissects Hamilton, Ohio, while evoking memories of life in other communities both large and small. The scenes described—a wedding, rumor, confrontation, public scorn, and public acclaim— have been played out many times. Davis makes good use of local history throughout and introduces the reader to an interesting cast of characters. This portrait is marred somewhat by a rather pretentious introduction, sudden digressions that lead nowhere, and too-long discussion of a sordid murder.
Defense policy is usually taught in American universities as a secondary issue in international relations or as a budget problem in American government. The editors of this book believe that it should be taught as an independent subject, and their collection of essays is designed to be a textbook for such a course. It includes original chapters commissioned by the editors, selected readings reprinted from leading journals, and bibliographical essays on the defense policies of various regions and nations. There is much useful information in the long chapters and short bibliographies, and the readings include some important and controversial essays on defense issues. The comparative approach is also useful but it is not clear whether readers will be comforted or dismayed to discover that the United States is not alone in having problems defining a strategy, managing a defense budget, or controlling a military-industrial complex.
Amid accusations that the Soviets have recently engaged in chemical and biological warfare in Southeast Asia, this history of the development and use of chemical and biological weapons in the 20th century has a frightening timeliness. Written by two British journalists, it begins with the first clouds of chlorine gas slowly drifting over the trenches of the First World War and ends with a sad summary of the futile progress made in chemical and biological disarmament. In between are a number of chapters on familiar subjects like the CIA experiments with LSD and the suspected Soviet anthrax accident in Sverdlovsk, and a few on less well-known incidents such as Churchill’s approval of the use of mustard gas on British beaches in the event of a German invasion. The book provides a good review of a grisly subject that is too often ignored because its details are classified and its consequences are horrendous. Harris and Paxton warn us that we ignore the dangers of chemical and biological weapons at our peril.
Readers of George F. Will’s nationally syndicated columns will delight in this latest compilation of his work. Will defends his “Tory” principles with clarity, erudition, wit, grace, and good humor in bringing them to bear on such topics as American-Soviet relations, domestic politics, the Supreme Court, child rearing, baseball, current personalities, and even camping. For Will the preservation of a regime devoted to liberty depends on a proper understanding and exercise of that liberty, which is to say that it depends on the cultivation of virtue. Therefore the focus of “conservatism properly understood,” which is about balancing many competing values, often requires limits to prevent license from replacing “durable, disciplined liberty.” Education, not simply entertainment, is the object here, and Will proves to be a compelling teacher.
Like one who flies a kite, Prunty practices the fragile craft “of letting go and holding on at once,” of balancing freedom and formality. A poet of twilight, he explores “the times between,” when stillness overtakes motion, silence blots out noise, and the homely seems the unfamiliar. For him the simple act of fishing becomes the necessary plumbing of inner depths, and family life a kind of trapeze act where we “live by taking/ leave of those/ who move [us] most/ to stay.” This paradoxical movement characterizes many of the poems of The Times Between, Prunty’s first full-length collection and a wonderful book that shimmers and resonates magically.
These poems convey the quotidian and the unfamiliar equally well with dazzling imagery and careful craftsmanship. For instance, in a series of “Vegetable Poems” the everyday potato is seen with “softened, mealy flesh/ rotting into the earth. . .but still flinging up roots and occasional leaves/ white as fish in caves,” and the unfamiliar “A Turkish Story” tells of a rug weaver who kept his daughters at home, unmarried, while he worked on a rug that would have no errors. When he died, his daughters married husbands “strong as the sea. / They danced on the rug and its errors blazed like stars.” Antarctic Traveller is a young poet’s first book, and it’s a good one.
Levine’s latest book, his tenth, is as lyrical and as humorous as its title implies. A master of poetic rhetoric, Levine blends content and technique to make the poems almost as accessible to the reader as prose. Here is an example from “The Conductor of Nothing”:
We all have occasion to wish for such explanations, and it is possible to find them in this hopeful, witty, loving book.
I come back to life each day. . .
a sort of moving monument
to what a man can never be—
someone who can say “yes” or “no”
kindly and with a real meaning,
and bending to hear you out, place
a hand upon your shoulder, open
my eyes fully to your eyes, lift
your burden down, and point the way.
In addition, narrative skill blends with wit
to give the book strength and spice—as in
“The Fox” when the speaker tells us he
believes he has lived before as a fox, for
This would explain my nose
and the small dark tufts of hair
that rise from the base of my spine.
It would explain why I am
so seldom invited out to dinner.
Most critical anthologies treat their subjects with all the sanctity due the dead and ossified; not this one. Jones and Daniels, editors of the spunky new magazine, Poetry East, assemble a diverse and balanced group of essays by various hands along with new poems and translations by the very much alive poet Robert Bly. This critical and biographical homage should immediately establish itself as the single most valuable handbook to the career of the poet whose insight and outrage span the last, tumultuous 25 years. The editors, who originally gave us this volume as an issue of Poetry East, have performed a remarkable task: they come not to bury Bly but to nurture a career still in full bloom.
Along with Boris Pasternak, Osip Mandelstam, and Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetayeva dominated Russian poetry in the years 1920—50. She had the kind of talent that defies description precisely because there is nothing against which to measure it. Tsvetayeva stripped away the superfluous to get to the core; and when she reached that core, she described it precisely, without affectation or sentimentality. Hers was a tragic life; she lived abroad until 1939, and shortly after her return, her husband and daughter were arrested by Stalin’s men. Tsvetayeva committed suicide in 1941.
The title poem of this collection is strategically placed in the middle of the book, for being at midpoint both spatially and temporally is what the book is about. Not only are the lovers in the title poem “in the middle of a field, in the middle of the world,” but they are in the middle of their lives—”Their faces and their lives. . .unfinished.” The varied speakers in this group of poems are aware of being in the middle of their time on earth, just as they are aware that their lives are centered between those of their ancestors and their own, often unalterable, futures. Such thematic coordinates bring Norris’s strongly narrative, easily accessible poems sharply into focus.
This is one of the most graphically attractive books of poetry to come from a small press in recent months. Its black and white drawings by Abigail Rorer, illustrating the New England landscape of Howell’s poems, are so deftly done that the poems themselves pale somewhat in contrast. The poems are reveries “transcribed” from the observations of the poet’s imaginary friend from 14th-century China. As is often the case with Eastern meditative poems, the short ones are most successful. Here is a sample from “Ling Wei at Night Near the City”:”Walking under leaves of the shattered apple groves in a field moon-strange I saw the dogs stone still on white grass. They were beautiful.”
David Ignatow’s writing in Whisper to the Earth is infectious. The style of these lyric and prose poems at first seems too easy, as though a thought occurred to Ignatow, he jotted it down, and here it is in print. But this ease of style is deceptive: the reader is gradually tugged into Ignatow’s world, drawn into an intimate knowledge of his obsessive fear of death, his resistance to and struggle with the fact of his aging, his doubts as to how he has lived his life and how others around him are living, and his deep affection for and identification with nature. Whisper to the Earth is an invaluable collection of poetry.
It is imprecise to speak of a writer’s mature eye for detail. We see most clearly when we see as children because, to them, the mundane object is full of mystery and purpose. Yet, along with this native wonder comes naïveté. We do not expect a child’s description of a sunrise to be in full control of its connotative meaning; we do not expect children to be masters of the symbol. So, when a poet who is old enough to publish books is able to preserve in grammar, syntax, and diction a wry, but childlike simplicity, that poet will be refreshing to read; but the wish of many of these poems is that the reader mistake imprecision for profundity, and as regards readers who have lost their innocence, that was the original sin.
This fine new anthology of Japanese verse offers to readers of English a carefully culled sample of the output of a millennium and a half of a people singularly addicted to poetry. Most of the poems here have not previously been published in transla