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Notes on Current Books, Summer 1990

ISSUE:  Summer 1990

This is a handsome and useful book, which will be of much interest to the amateur historian. Written in conjunction with a major exhibition on the Civil War era at the Chicago Historical Society, it melds a clear, sharp text by one of the period’s premier historians with visual images (in the form of contemporary photographs, lithographs, and pamphlets) drawn from the Society’s large collection of Civil War memorabilia.

Science and Medicine in the Old South, edited by Ronald L. Numbers and Todd L. Savitt. Louisiana $37.50

Science is not one of the first things to spring to mind when we think of the Old South; the region, we assume, was as bereft of scientific development as it was of everything else that smacked of modernity. The picture that emerges from the essays in this book, though, will lead readers to reconsider any easy generalizations. While, due to the direct and indirect effects of slavery, the South certainly lagged behind New England in both science and medicine, the region also produced a surprising number of thinkers and practitioners. This volume is by no means a chauvinistic celebration of forgotten pioneers, for many of the essays are harsh indictments of the parochial society of the antebellum South. But by uncovering a lost history of science, disease, and medicine among blacks as well as whites the book forces us to abandon one more set of comfortable stereotypes about the South.

Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War, by W. Bruce Lincoln. Simon & Schuster $24.95

Before 1917, Lenin’s Bolsheviks had a vision of a just, humane, democratic Russia. By 1921 that vision had become so skewed as to produce a vicious despotism that would endure until 1985—the year of Gorbachev’s accession—with only minor breathing spells. What happened? The Civil War. It was one of the most savage conflicts of this misbegotten century, and it scarred all whom it touched, and their descendants. Professor Lincoln, one of the West’s leading authorities on Russia, recounts this period of Russian-Soviet history with rare skill and insight.

Communists and Catholics in France, 1936—1939: The Politics of the Outstretched Hand, by Francis J. Murphy. Florida $14.95

This is a brief history of efforts by the French Communist Party to woo Catholics into an alliance during the “Popular Front” era. Without a prayer of gaining the cooperation of the church hierarchy, especially Pius XI, the PCF attempted to coax Catholics into “unity from below” by appealing to traditional Catholic hostility to laissezfaire capitalism. Judging from Murphy’s narration of repetitious and wooden sloganeering drawn from speeches by PCF Chairman Thorez, Humanité articles, and party pronouncements, it is no wonder that their efforts bore no perceivable fruit.

Race and History: Selected Essays, 1938—1988, by John Hope Franklin. Louisiana $29.95

This is an extraordinary collection of essays spanning 50 years of scholarship by one of America’s most distinguished historians. The subjects range from a discussion of the role of the historian of race relations to minibiographies of important figures to the failure of reconstruction to the role of black scholars. Franklin’s introspective essay delivered as a lecture before the American Council of Learned Societies in 1988 discusses his own background, and why he chose to remain a scholar, declining college deanships and other high positions.

The Last Jews on Iberian Soil: Navarrese Jewry 1479—1498, by Benjamin R. Gampel. California $32

When Ferdinand and Isabella issued their famous expulsion order against the Jews in 1492, it was only from their kingdoms, which did not yet include the kingdom of Navarre. Jews had lived in Navarre for hundreds of years, and, while they constituted a small minority of the population (3.5 percent), they had become integral to the community and economic structure of the region. Gampel studies information gleaned from hundreds of documents unearthed in archives in Pamplona, Tudela, and other areas in order to recount as fully as possible the daily life, economic endeavors, and political problems of the Jewish community of Navarre. For many years the Jews lived in convivencia with their Christian and Muslim neighbors, but finally they could no longer withstand the peninsula-wide moves against them. In 1498 they were definitively ejected (if they refused to convert to Christianity) from what was soon to become modern Spain. This lively book is full of interesting details and case studies of the merchants, farmers, and small businessmen who struggled to survive the inexorable Christianization of late 15th-century Spain.

The Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City, 1760— 1900, by Stuart Blumin. Cambridge $49.50

Blumin is a leading expert on the social history of urban America. This book takes full advantage of his wide and detailed knowledge to tease out what it meant to be a part of the emerging middle classes in the 19th century. What determined and defined the transformation from “middling folk” to “bourgeoisie”? How was the salariat different from the rest of American society? Using New York City as a case study, and focusing on living patterns, social organizations, and political preferences, Blumin provides an incisive and intriguing analysis of the individual and collective experience of the new class.

Russia Goes to the Polls: The Election to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly, 1917, by Oliver H. Radkey. Cornell $24.50

A pioneering effort when first published 40 years ago, Oliver Radkey’s study of what was until 1989 the only free election in Russian history remains a timely cautionary tale. By adding new data and reassessing some key precincts, Radkey fleshes out the earlier version with fresh insights.

Nazism: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, 1919—1945, Vol. 2, edited by J. Noakes and G. Pridham. Schocken $16.95

There are no decent histories of Nazism. William L. Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remains a classic of journalism, but history it is not and never pretended to be: The best way to tell the unvarnished truth is through documents, and the editors of this volume have selected some of the most powerful ones imaginable. Some nut in California continues to offer a prize to anyone who can prove Hitler had anything to do with the Holocaust; some enterprising soul ought to confront him with this volume and claim the loot.

Blood of the Bastille, 1787—1789, by Claude Manceron. Simon & Schuster $29.95

This is the fifth and final volume of Manceron’s “Age of the French Revolution” series. The real merit of this volume (and of the others) lies in its treatment of the men and women behind the events. Colorful character sketches and vignettes make Manceron’s work a useful companion volume to the histories of the period which stress processes rather than personalities.

Death by Migration: Europe’s Encounter with the Tropical World in the Nineteenth Century, by Philip D. Curtin. Cambridge $39.50

One of the great constants of the literature on colonial exploration and exploitation is the vulnerability of native peoples to the diseases of the invader. Comparatively little is known about the loss of European life through exposure to tropical disease. Professor Curtin, an expert in the epidemiology of the transatlantic slave trade, fills this gap with a detailed quantitative study of the mortality experience of European soldiers in the tropics, that shows the immense burden of empire on the lives of its defenders, as well as the striking ability of the physiology of man, aided by medical research and understanding, to adapt and survive.

Constitutions and Constitutionalism in the Slaveholding South, by Don E. Fehrenbacher. Georgia $16

This slender volume (81 pages of text) consists of three essays given as the Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures. Don Fehrenbacher, one of our foremost students of the 19th-century United States, is here billed as a constitutional historian—only one of his specialties. Unlike many printed lectures, these are fully annotated, strongly argued, and packed with new information and original ideas. The first lecture discusses the constitutions of Southern states, arguing, among many other things, that constitutional differences between the Eastern and the Western states were more pronounced than those between the Northern and Southern states. The second analyzes federal-state relations and suggests that states-rights dogma was not some natural outgrowth of Southern culture present from the beginning, but a rather late response to perceived threats to the slave South. The third covers the Confederacy and illuminates the many fascinating obscurities in the Confederate Constitution, legal system, and constitutional thought. These essays should be more fully developed (and perhaps will be, in another format), but books this short and this inexpensive are rarely this rewarding.

The Federal Road through Georgia, the Creek Nation, and Alabama, 1806—1836, by Henry DeLeon Southerland, Jr. , and Jerry Elijah Brown. Alabama $24.50

The Federal Road adopts an interesting and innovative approach to its subject. Rather than provide yet another account of the settlement of a region already occupied by the “Five Civilized Tribes” and still subject to the rivalries of France, Great Britain, and Spain, the authors choose instead to tell the story of the road, built from central Georgia to Mobile in the three decades after 1806. The road was essential for both the settlement and the security of the frontier, but its construction, in turn, provoked the conflicts that climaxed in the Creek War and the battle of New Orleans between 1813 and 1815. Thereafter, the road facilitated the removal of the Indian inhabitants, while also allowing the American settlers to establish the heart of the cotton kingdom of the antebellum South. The authors’ selection of maps and illustrations also serve to complement their story nicely.

A History of Private Life: From The Fires of Revolution to the Great War, edited by Michelle Perrot. Harvard $39.95

The fourth in the series of volumes edited by Philippe Aries and Georges Duby, this is a fascinating, copiously illustrated social history of the 19th century that investigates seemingly every nook and cranny of both public and private space. The book is above all of immense value for its illustrative matter—photos, prints, paintings, which depict various aspects of social and family life from birth to death. An illustration from Le Petit Parisien, for example, of a wife murdering her husband, reminds us that major newspapers, filled with stories of crime, contributed to the rise of the detective story, which is one of the dominant genres of our own age—a mirror of our own social world, with deep roots in the 19th century.

The Union League Movement in the Deep South: Politics and Agricultural Change During Reconstruction, by Michael W. Fitzgerald. Louisiana $25

This is one of the great untold stories of Reconstruction. During those years of tumult, years when politics became saturated with violence, black Republicans in the South secretly banded together for their own protection and for the furtherance of their interests. White Democrats—and subsequent historians in the early 20th century—portrayed the Union League as a secret society filled with danger to racial integrity, home rule, and manly politics. The Republicans countered that the Democrats’ constant threat of bloodshed and fraud at the polls made the secrecy essential. Michael Fitzgerald has told the story for the first time from the viewpoint of the League itself, and he shows how the movement was driven by a desire for economic as well as political change. It is a wonder this book has not been written before, but it is a relief that it has finally been written so well.

A History of West Germany, by Dennis L. Bark and David R. Gress. Blackwell $34.95 each

This two-volume set forms a solid and useful synthetic history of West Germany since World War II. Volume I (From Shadow to Substance) covers the period up to the end of the Adenauer era; Volume II (Democracy and its Discontents) takes the story up to 1988. This is primarily a narrative history, with a limited, and largely uncritical, analytical focus. It is at its best when dealing with political developments. Disappointingly, given the extraordinary regeneration of postwar German society, the coverage of social, economic, and cultural developments is ineffectual.

Women for Hire: Prostitution and Sexuality in France after 1850, by Alain Corbin. Harvard $39.50

Alain Corbin’s most recent work provides a fascinating view of the business and politics of venal sex in France from the 1850’s through the 1970’s. This was a daunting task, but through an exhaustive study of the available sources, Corbin had written a most valuable source for anyone interested in the history of sexuality or gender relations.

LITERARY STUDIES Coleridge, Keats, and the Imagination: Romanticism and Adam’s Dream, edited by J. Robert Earth and John L. Mahoney. Missouri $26

This volume is a Festschrift in honor of Walter Jackson Bate, until his recent retirement one of the pillars of the Harvard English Department. In dealing with the problem of the imagination in the Romantic era, the essays focus on an area that was one of Bate’s own principal concerns as a critic. The authors who contributed to the volume were all at one time or another students of Bate, and the fact that the list includes such people as David Perkins and Thomas McFarland is a tribute to Bate’s power as a teacher. Perkins’ essay on the introductory note to Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” is one of the highlights of the . volume. It also includes a biographical sketch of Bate by Perkins, as well as a revealing interview John Paul Russo conducted with Bate. This set of essays will not strike readers as being on the cutting edge of Romantic criticism today, but they are a good reminder of the virtues—above all, the sanity—of Bate’s own broadly humanistic approach to literature.

Shakespeare and the Popular Voice, by Annabel Patterson. Blackwell $39.95 cloth, $14.95 paper

This is a well-intentioned book. Annabel Patterson is concerned about the tendency among contemporary critics to attack Shakespeare as a pillar of the Establishment. Viewed by new historicists and cultural materialists as a force for cultural and political conservatism, Shakespeare may be in danger of being displaced from the center of literary studies in today’s predominantly left-wing academy. Patterson comes to his defense by suggesting that we have been misreading Shakespeare when we see him as an unthinking supporter of the British monarchy and its privileged classes. She is certainly to be commended for her willingness to part company with the kind of mindless attacks on Shakespeare which are now in fashion and to risk ridicule by invoking such supposedly outmoded concepts as authorial intention. Unfortunately Patterson does not have all the equipment she needs to carry out her task effectively. Her chapter on Coriolanus, for example, shows the gaps in her knowledge of political theory. She anachronistically injects the modern concept of representative government into her discussion of the Roman Republic; evidently she is unaware of the difference between the direct democracies of the ancient world and the indirect democracies of the post-Renaissance world. Moreover, for someone who makes so much of history in her discussion, her grasp of ordinary historiographical principles is surprisingly weak. For example, she quotes Renaissance parliamentary proceedings as if they were modern-day literal transcriptions of actual debates. In the end, a lot of wishful thinking governs Patterson’s interpretation of Shakespeare, and she tends to confuse popularity as a playwright with populism as a thinker.

Critical Terms of Literary Study, edited by Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin. Chicago $45 cloth, $16.95 paper

The editors believe that because a basketball coach recently spoke of deconstructing a zone defense that “literary theory” has arrived. Well, not quite! Basketball coaches have always deconstructed zone defenses, even when they didn’t have the term “deconstruction.” If basketball coaches will not find this book helpful, graduate students in English will. It includes brief essays by various members of the theory “cosa nostra” (Hillis Miller, Fish, Greenblatt and Co.) on ideology and all that. Those who care about literature will blithly ignore all the academic posturing and make-believe of this volume and go on reading.

Wordsworth: The Sense of History, by Alan Liu. Stanford $39.50

This vast and vastly researched piece of work is part of the current scholarly effort to bring the category of “history” into academic reflections on the Romantic poets. Liu, an extremely sophisticated critic, focuses on the complex relations of Wordsworth’s poetry to the historical context from which it emerged, but he also makes use of psychoanalytical and deconstructive techniques. No interpretive option or opportunity is left untouched. The book is a massive challenge to the community of Wordsworth scholars; to the general reader of poetry, its weight would be crushing.

Fictions of Reality in the Age of Hume and Johnson, by Leo Damrosch. Wisconsin $15.50

In recent years intellectual historians and literary scholars have traced the skeptical current of modernism to its Victorian roots. Damrosch presses further into the past by studying the antecedent skeptical conservatism of the 18th century. A subtle and incisive scholar, Damrosch closely reads the philosophical and political texts of representative figures of the period. His work adheres to the ideal of an “historically informed New Criticism.” Although Damrosch is interested in the ideological assumptions of literature, he stands in opposition to the misguided new historicism, for he is more interested in the ways in which the individual imagination shapes its world than in the ways in which the world shapes its imaginations.

The Cambridge Companion to Milton, edited by Dennis Danielson. Cambridge $42.50 cloth, $12.95 paper

Milton has long suffered from the misconception—endemic among both undergraduates and the general population—that his work is more difficult than it’s worth. This volume, the latest in the exemplary Cambridge Companions series, collects 18 recent essays which, despite their varying critical orientations, share the common goal of dispelling that myth. On the whole, they are remarkably successful: Milton has seldom seemed so accessible.

Paris in American Literature, by Jean Méral. North Carolina $34.95

Originally published in France, Méral’s work is a study of how the city of Paris has been represented—or re-created—in literary writings by Americans. Méral isolates two main strands in American perspectives of the French capital: one emphasizing the exotic nature of the city; the other sees Paris through the inevitable lens of expatriation. This is a fascinating study which reveals as much about what it means to be American in a genetic sense as it does about the American experience in a Paris that is both mythical and vrai.

Renaissance Pastoral and Its English Developments, by Sukanta Chaudhuri. Oxford $84

This book is characterized by vast learning, lucid prose, and astonishing inclusiveness, accounting for its nearly 500 pages. Chaudhuri traces the pastoral up from its roots, centrally Virgil, to its late configurations in Drayton, Marvell, and Milton. One of the book’s best features is that Chaudhuri thoughtfully supplies, in the text itself, translations of Latin and Italian quotations, easing comprehension even for those competent in the languages. The book is arranged in distinct sections treating various subgenres, making it useful as a reference as well as for its sustained argument. It ought to become a standard in its field.

Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance, by Jonathan Goldberg. Stanford $29.50

Inspired primarily by Derrida and also by Levi-Strauss and Roland Barthes, who have all plumbed the depths of “writing,” the author explores the archaic art of handwriting. He refers to a variety of 16th and 17th-century texts—A Book Containing Divers Sorts of Hands, Libellus Valde Doctus, II Primo Libra de Scrivere, etc. —that range over the fashioning of quills, the proper position of the hand, and the sweetness of the script, above all, the elegant and courtly italic. Writing, the author rightly and gravely observes, reflects power; it is ideological. Writing also demonstrates artifice, but of this we hear remarkably little. No wonder! This book was written on a word-processor.

Remembering and Repeating: Biblical Creation in Paradise Lost, by Regina M. Schwartz. Cambridge $29.50.

The book holds that we may see a paradigm of Milton’s incessant narrative mediations of events in his preoccupation with the nature of chaos. Ms. Schartz joins the dichotomy of form and matter with that of origin and utterance so neatly that the reader may not notice the novelty of the scheme. She writes about jargon, but not without sophistication, joining Milton with postmodernism as seamlessly as she engages essentialist metaphysics with Freud.

Transfigured World: Walter Pater’s Aesthetic Historicism, by Carolyn Williams. Cornell $35

In the wake of an extensive, recent, academic literature that plumbs the theoretical depths of Walter Pater’s writings, the author has written her own dense, learned treatise. She justly shows that, although the timeless character of aesthetic experience is often divorced from the necessarily temporal aspect of historicism, both are inextricably wed in Pater’s highly complex, skeptical vision. She persuasively shows that beneath the smooth, polished surfaces of Pater’s prose lurks a host of deep, subtle, and intricate questions. Ms. Williams’s book is a reminder that Pater, in his investigations of “cultural relativism,” is as much a “figure” of the 1990’s as of the 1880’s.

A History of Afro-American Literature. Volume I: The Long Beginning, 1746—1895, by Blyden Jackson. Louisiana $29.95

Jackson’s new book is the first installment of what he projects as a four-volume comprehensive history of the literature of black America from its beginnings to the present moment. That is a remarkably ambitious undertaking for a single scholar; but if the present volume is any indication, Jackson is in most respects equal to it. His command of the subject is nothing less than encyclopedic, embracing materials ranging from novels and poems to slave-narratives, sermons, and political tracts. The book is history in a fairly strict sense; Jackson spends little time on close interpretation of individual works, and those in search of literary-critical fireworks will need to look elsewhere. But as a survey of and introduction to the vast and still largely unknown territory of Afro-American writing, this volume and its successors should prove invaluable.

Addison and Steele Are Dead, by Brian McCrea. Delaware $38.50

This book breaks neatly into two parts: in the first McCrea reflects on the manifold virtues of the work of the two 18th-century literary journalists, Addison and Steele; in the book’s second half, the subject is the departure of the pair from the canon of English literature. This has taken place not because the authors are lacking in “literary quality” in comparison to their contemporaries. Rather, the university has lost sight of them because they do not respond to “advanced” critical methods. Addison and Steele have become the victims of the literary professionalism to which their own work, genial, colloquial, and humane, is, in McCrea’s estimation, a worthy alternative. Though this book is not always as intelligent and well-composed as the sort of work it sets out to praise, its arguments are not easy ones to refute. What is taught in college continues to be that work which responds best to “method.”

Thomas Hardy’s Personal Writings, edited by Harold Orel. St. Martin’s $39.95

This collection is a reprint of a 1966 volume. It gathers together Hardy’s prefaces, literary opinions, and reminiscences. The book does little to enhance our appreciation of Hardy’s narratives and poems. Unlike such writers as Yeats and Lawrence, who develop significant theoretical systems outside their art, Hardy’s brilliance lies exclusively in his poetry and fiction. His extraliterary writings are occasional, elusive, and epiphenomenal.

Fictional Truth, by Michael Riffaterre. Johns Hopkins $25 cloth, $9.95 paper

This concise and penetrating book holds that fiction is truthful, not by reference, but by verisimilitude. Not facts, but forms provide a sense of both convention and truthfulness. And that sense of truthfulness can be valid. (Cf. Marcuse on the necessity of framing for the aesthetic to be critique.) Riffaterre locates verisimilitude in devices that repeat and presuppose a given, and does so tellingly. Nineteenth century novels are his exemplars; experience of “fictional truth” is experience of reading. Yet the argument holds for oral narrative as well. The art of oral performers is as much a matter of persuasive structuring of words, of the arousal and satisfying of expectation (to use Kenneth Burke’s expression) as the written art of Dickens and Trollope, Balzac and James. Which is to say that anthropologists and folklorists should read and adapt this book.

Writing Realism: Howells, James and Norris in the Mass Market, by Daniel H. Borus. North Carolina $34.95

Daniel Borus has delved into the correspondence of publishing houses and the ledgers of novelists. The result of this painstaking research is a valuable contribution to our understanding of literature as a commodity. He convincingly demonstrates that many of the long-noted characteristics of “realism” are authorial strategies for dealing with a largely unknown mass audience. Borus, however, takes received notions of literary realism too much for granted, even though his discoveries seem to call them into doubt. He never, for example, questions Howells’ critical decrees that novels be simple, natural, and honest, even though his own are peppered with snobbily fastidious prose and highly stylized chorus-figures. Specialists will find this book a useful distillation of archival research, but the material recovered warrants a more radical reformulation of the period than Borus is at present ready to offer.

LIVES AND LETTERS Henry James and Edith Wharton: Letters 1900—1915, Edited by Lyall H. Powers. Scribner’s $29.95

When Henry James met Edith Wharton in the early 1900’s, he was an established writer and she, at the start of her career. Their close, caring friendship lasted until James’ death in 1916. His letters to her often have the coy, flirtatious tone the confirmed bachelor feels free to adopt with a married woman 20 years younger. Both expatriates, they enjoyed entrée to Edwardian society’s drawing rooms. James’ letters are sprinkled with news and gossip of his social life, (when did he have time to write?) with plans for their meetings, especially journeys in her touring car, which he loved. He was a sympathetic listener to news of her love affair with W. Morton Fullerton and the decline of her unhappy marriage. But the reader longs to know whether Wharton’s responses to James’ gushing epistles (“I thrill at your approach”) were as extravagant in their affection. There are only 13 Wharton letters to James’ 167, most of hers having been destroyed, presumably by him. The final letters from James’ secretary to Wharton give a touching account of the last days of the writer whom Wharton called “one of the wisest and noblest men that ever lived.” Powers, who edited James’ notebooks with Leon Edel, has provided extensive notes.

Sara Coleridge, a Victorian Daughter, by Bradford Keyes Mudge. Yale $30

To Virginia Woolf, Sara Coleridge was an “unfinished masterpiece.” More brilliant and accomplished than her brothers, she spent her life in the shadow of her father— also an unfinished masterpiece. She labored unceasingly to transform his “fragmentary and miscellaneous corpus” into a finished and understandable whole. She married for love her cousin Henry Coleridge, had children, but never gave up her intellectual labors to subside into domesticity, though of domestic cares she had enough to drag her down into nervous illnesses, acute depression, and dependence on opium. Her husband died young and left her saddled with the care of her children and poverty, yet she never gave up. She died of cancer at 49 with much that she wanted to accomplish left unfinished. Sara Coleridge is another of those women of the past who we assume, rightly or wrongly, would have lived and worked more happily and successfully today.

Rudyard Kipling: A Biography. With a New Foreward by the Author. By Martin Seymour-Smith. St. Martins $22.95

Kipling continues to fascinate as a subject for biographers. Following C. E. Carrington’s Life of Rudyard Kipling (perhaps too kind) and Lord Birkenhead’s biography (too tough) Seymour-Smith treats the author’s life and writings based on speculation that Kipling was a latent homosexual. This, according to Seymour-Smith, contributed to “his naïve and ferocious politics in the light of artistic achievements which contradict them.” In the new foreword to the first U. S. edition, written to answer the critical attacks following the book’s initial publication in Britain, Seymour-Smith denies the major role that psychosexual inquiry plays in his study. But this does not change the message of the book, which interprets the vast number of works, not on fact, but on speculation. In the end, the only new materials in the book are the interviews with former employees at Batemans, Kipling’s house at Sussex. The best critics of Kipling’s writings are still J. M. Tompkins and Angus Wilson.

Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics, by Michael L. Kurtz and Morgan D. Peoples. Louisiana $24.95

Even though Earl Long served three different times as governor of Louisiana (the first time for only a year when as lieutenant governor he succeeded a governor he helped persuade to resign and the third time with a greater popular mandate than his older brother Huey ever received) and died (but not in Blaze Starr’s arms!) in 1960 as congressman-elect, 1990 may be his best year ever. First, he was romanticized in the movie Blaze, where Paul Newman made Earl look not only bright but also virile; and now he is the subject of an engaging biography. “Uncle Earl” supported President Truman in 1948, refusing to join the Dixicrats, and was ahead of his time in promoting black voting rights in Louisiana. On the seamy side, Earl accepted bribes from organized crime and probably was mentally ill. This is a delightful and perhaps the best study available of Louisiana politics in the Long eras.

Louise Brooks, by Barry Paris. Knopf $24.95

Bubikopf, Berliners once called her—the boyish scamp with bobbed hair. Brooks lived as close as life can come to the art of Lulu, the erotic, amoral femme fatale of expressionist Frank Wedekind, immortalized in opera by Alban Berg and on film by G. W. Pabst in Pandora’s Box (1928). Lulu’s theme—the antagonism of primitive sexuality to a philistine society—was Brooks’ as well. In this definitive if over-devoted biography, Paris recounts Brooks’ early years as Denishawn dancer and Ziegfeld girl, her films with Paramount and Pabst, and the long decades of obscurity and alcohol which ended with her rediscovery by Kenneth Tynan and others in the late 1970’s, As Erdegeist and paradigmatic flapper of the silent screen, her only competitor was another black-bobbed beauty, Clara Bow. Unlike Bow’s “It” girl affirmations, however, Brooks’ nihilism in life and on film—”Love is a publicity stunt,” she once said—both attracts and repels with its smell of death.

Margaret of York, by Christine Weightman. St. Martin’s $35

The author’s preface sums up her book very well indeed: “It is essentially a study of how a woman of the second half of the fifteenth century could ensure her personal survival and prosperity in the face of a series of disasters which removed all her most powerful relations in both England and Burgundy and which left her as the relict of a failed alliance.” Indeed it is the story of a survivor, of a woman who took a keen interest in all that her status and society had to offer and was eager to use her considerable talents to the advantage of others as well as for her own advancement. Her father, brothers, and husband all died before her, leaving her vulnerable. She maintained friendly, even loving relations with her stepdaughter and with other young relations whom she nurtured in the fashion of the times. Perhaps her greatest claim to remembrance should be her encouragement of books and printing, notably to Caxton, whose work she personally corrected. Christine Weightman has written a thorough account of Margaret of York. It is the lady’s bad luck again that this competent history is all in black-and-white, with no color at all.

Joshua Leavitt: Evangelical Abolitionist, by Hugh Davis. Louisiana $19.95

This is an excellent and important biography of an abolitionist leader because it sheds new light on the shifting of abolitionist activity from the religious to the political realm as the movement struggled to achieve its goal in the 1840’s and 50’s. Leavitt, an influential newspaper editor and writer, was active in the formation of new political parties and the selection of candidates for president. A reluctant supporter of Lincoln and later Grant, Leavitt never achieved high office himself, although he tried.

Exit the Rainmaker, by Jonathan Coleman. Atheneum $18.95

Coleman’s subject is Jay Carsey, a Maryland community college president who walked away from his job, his wife, and his community without telling anyone he was going. Carsey proves fascinating: equal parts charmer and snake charmer, a master at deceiving both others and himself, he is at once both engaging and infuriating. Sadly, the same holds true for the book. Coleman’s reporting is breathtakingly thorough; he seems to have talked for hours with anyone who ever even heard of Carsey. But when he plays the pop psychologist—and he does so often, focusing at length, for example, on Carsey’s childhood—he stumbles. In the end, though, the reporting redeems the analysis, and it is Jay Carsey himself, not Coleman’s analysis of him, that we remember.

Charles Wesley: A Reader, edited by John R. Tyson. Oxford $49.95

Though Charles Wesley is best remembered today as the author of hymns sung in Christian churches throughout the world, his chief historical significance lies in his founding (with his more famous brother, John) of the “Methodist” movement, which ultimately seceded from the Church of England and became an independent denomination. John R. Tyson has designed this selection of Wesley’s writings as an introduction to the preacher’s life and ministry and accordingly selects and orders his materials chiefly to provide insight into Wesley’s personal experience and religious thought. This volume has its faults: the annotation, though extensive, is erratic (Wesley’s unexplained reference to Bishop Seabury, for example, might puzzle a general reader); the governing bibliographical principles are unclear; the introduction is gracelessly, and often confusingly, written. Nevertheless, Wesley’s writings themselves are of great interest, particularly with regard to the history of Protestant theology.

Roosevelt and Marshall: Partners in Politics and War, by Thomas Parrish. Morrow $25

By his forthrightness with powerful leaders, whether General John J. Pershing or President Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Catlett Marshall carved out a niche in history unique among military leaders. Through political instincts and skills at improvising, FDR established the standards by which all his successors in the modern presidency are judged. Historical writings, especially on Roosevelt, fully document the story of his leadership. Marshall’s history is recorded more in the memoirs and biographies of others because he refused to profit from his public service. Roosevelt and Marshall is the chronicle of these two remarkable leaders joining together to forge the greatest military force in history that proved successful in turning back Hitler and defeating the Japanese. Their Kentucky chronicler brilliantly portrays their relationship but leaves open Tolstoy’s classic question whether history gives us our heroes or heroes shape history. Without a world war, can such leaders emerge, especially a George Marshall with his 18th-century ideals, so notably different from military politicians like Alexander Haig?

Fortune’s Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt, by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II. Morrow $24.95

A book like this needed to be written. This family, which attempted to rule the social scene of their time, is a phenomenon which could only have occurred in the United States. The empire-building men were one thing; their wives something else. The glittering “cottages” at Newport were the manifestation of excessive wealth and a desire to compete and dominate. The smallness of the world of these aspiring worldly people is astonishing. The author traces their development from the flamboyant Commander—so named as a boy by the seasoned boatmen of the river between Statton Island and New York—to the saga of little Gloria. A good read—and a splendid slice of American social history.

The Sun Also Sets, by Bill Emmott. Times Books $18.95

This is a full, detailed biography of the first community organizer in America, Saul Alinsky (1909—72). Alinsky. is best known as the founder of “People’s Organizations” in urban slums, including the Back of the Yards program in Chicago, all of which he recounted in his best-selling Reveille for Radicals (1945). Alinsky’s programs became the model for Cesar Chavez, for civil rights leaders of the 1960’s, and for others involved in social justice programs. Alinsky himself was a defiant, colorful figure, a Russian Jewish intellectual who became close friends with Protestant and Catholic clergymen and was on good terms with street gang leaders and delinquents. The biography is not always well written, but the subject matter is engrossing.

Kafka, by Pietro Citati. Knopf $22.95

Neither conventional biography nor academic literary criticism, this strangely beautiful, incantatory book is nothing less than a re-creation of Kafka’s very consciousness. Using Kafka’s letters and major novels and stories, Citati evokes Kafka’s complex, anguished psychology. His book is a creative projection of Kafka’s mind and psyche. Reading in it, one loses himself, entering deeply into Kafka’s interior world. The book is so powerfully evocative, if not hallucinatory, that the reader becomes Kafka and feels his very pain.

The Townshends of Raynham, by James M. Rosenheim. Wesleyan $40

Rosenheim has had a scholar’s dream come true: he was granted direct access to the Townshend papers still at Raynham Hall in Norfolk, where he was able to do research for this book. The opportunity was not wasted; his work on the lives and careers of the first two Viscounts Townshend in the 17th and 18th centuries is a standout example of “local history,” readable and extremely informative about both local and national matters. Rents and land transactions are not on the whole scintillating material, but Rosenheim’s close attention and narrative skill have rendered them quite attractive.

Utopian Pessimist: The Life and Thought of Simone Weil, by David McLellan. Simon & Schuster $22.95

This biography of Weil, by a well-known scholar on Marx and Marxism, successfully integrates Weil’s political and religious beliefs with the world in which they took shape, much as Weil herself translated philosophy into action. By not shrinking from the inconsistencies in her thought, McLellan has produced a refreshingly balanced study of one of the most influential thinkers of the century.

FICTION Charley Bland, by Mary Lee Settle. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $18.95

Profane love, homecoming, and forgiveness are all a part of Mary Lee Settle’s remarkable new book. After the heroine returns home to West Virginia from Europe, she must confront her past in the guise of Charley Bland. Charley is the home town’s wicked bachelor, who is too good looking to marry, and who fulfills the narrator’s adolescent dreams until they turn to ashes during a six-year affair. Settle examines the destruction and redemption of love and family with a hauntingly beautiful prose that brings to life the characters and customs of Southern society. Her precept says one must be forgiven by the past in order to go into the future. This adage, along with many valuable observations on life and love, will be cherished and recognized by all her readers.

Goodnight!, by Abram Tertz (Andrei B. Sinyavsky). Viking $22.95

One of Leonid Brezhnev’s first acts, after toppling Khrushchev, was to sentence Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel to long prison terms. The charge? Writing stories and essays that undermined the dignity and power of the Soviet state. Well, history moves along. Now it is Brezhnev who is— posthumously, to be sure—reviled in the USSR, while Sinyavsky and the late Daniel are published by dint of glasnost. Goodnight! will probably see the light of day in Moscow, and rightly so: it is a phantasmagoric account of Sinyavsky’s clash with Brezhnev, and it is one of the most hilarious books of the last quarter-century.

Ordinary Love and Good Will, by Jane Smiley. Knopf $17.95.

These two novellas are written from the point of view of a man and a woman observing their families and the lives they have created in very different ways. Ordinary Love describes a divorced mother of five holding a family reunion of sorts whose results are somewhat awry from her expectations and beliefs. The second novella shows another family who live entirely off the land. As the narrator finds out, his expectations of his family’s carefully constructed isolation give way to many other results. Both these novellas examine family relationships with great insight and honesty. Smiley writes in a sparse and quiet style that conveys believable emotion. Her portrayal of parents and children and their complicated relationships is compassionate and warm. Smiley understands the nuances and subtleties of families and good writing, and her mixture is compelling. As the mother says in Ordinary Love, “I try to accept the mystery of my children, of the inexplicable ways they diverge from parental expectations, of how, however much you know or remember of them, they don’t quite add up.”

Death of a Salesperson: And Other Untimely Exits, by Robert Barnard. Scribner’s $16.95

Barnard has earned a justifiable reputation for his skill at writing light mysteries with ingenuity, humor, and, at times, mordant wit. This book suggests that he has found the limit of his range: the lead story in this collection (“The Woman in the Wardrobe”) is skillful indeed, but unfortunately the rest of the stories speak with precisely the same voice, one that is a little too cute, a little too clever, and a little too contrived for the good of its audience.

Some Can Whistle, by Larry McMurtry. Simon & Schuster $19.95

Larry McMurtry’s 13th novel is a sequel to his first, All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers, and shows the polished result of a master storyteller. The older and wiser Danny Deck is rich, retired, and reclusive until the daughter he has never seen bursts onto the scene. She proceeds to turn Danny’s life upside down with her two children and a host of eccentric characters. Like all vintage McMurtry, this novel is hilarious, tragic, and Texan. It will be greatly enjoyed by both previous and future fans.

Where Joy Resides: A Christopher Isherwood Reader, edited by Don Bachardy and James P. White. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $25

The editors might have styled this welcome volume “The Return of Herr Issyvoo,” after the way a Berlin landlady pronounced Christopher Isherwood’s name, but in opting for a moderately mystical title they catch the essence of one of the century’s best minor talents. Isherwood knew how to combine the ordinary and the bizarre, the routine and the dramatic, in ways that revealed the funny edges of life’s dark side. Old friends and new will be delighted with the selection here: Sally Bowles strides alongside Katherine Mansfield, Berlin meets Hollywood.

27, by William Diehl. Villard $19.95.

It is hard to make the Nazi terror boring—and a travesty of the period’s tragedy to make it the background of yet another romantic pulp “thriller.” Diehl has succeeded at both. Padded with large chunks of ersatz history, the story, which really gets going only in the last third of the book, is the familiar one of a Nazi spy in the U. S. programmed to neutralize the country in the event of war by carrying out some preposterous scheme. Diehl, whose previous credits include Sharkey’s Machine, a book with both feet on the ground, here soars into a kind of ionosphere of the ludicrous. When the hero gets a foot-long dagger in the eye and then proceeds to. . . . Well, you get the picture.

Nobody Lives Forever, by Edna Buchanan. Random House $17.95

A puzzling series of murders committed with the same .38 revolver makes a small splash in the torrent of crime that deluges Miami every year. But for homicide detective Rick Barrish the violence is hitting too close to home; his placid neighborhood is placid no more. And Rick’s girlfriend— wonderfully wacky though she is—is being pushed thoroughly off-balance by the events. For years Edna Buchanan has been dazzling Miami Herald readers with her gripping crime reports. Her mystery debut shows the same gritty and glittering prose for which her stories are justly celebrated. Strewn throughout the story are little gems of the bizarre that are just too weird to have been invented and which lend a macabre authority to her tale. This is without a doubt one of the best and most imaginative efforts of the year.

Postmortem, by Patricia Daniels Cornwell. Scribner’s $16.95

Cornwell’s first mystery is based on the 1987 Southside strangler murders in Richmond. That in itself has disturbed many readers—creating artificial chills out of real life horror seems too much like a ghoulish disregard for the victims. But there is another aspect of this all-too-gripping novel that is both ironic and bothersome. Most mysteries present a puzzle to the reader, as escape from reality, and a confirmation that right will eventually triumph as the criminal gets his or her due. In the process the victim is a cipher, merely a point of departure for the story and almost never depicted with the same range and depth of the other characters. The story is not about the crime, but about bringing the criminal to justice. But in Postmortem, the hero is Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the chief medical examiner of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Because she is an expert in forensic medicine, the victims—and the extremely gruesome manner in which they died—hold center stage. However, in the process of detection, which admittedly is fascinating, Cornwell breaks all the rules. The author cheats us out of a motivated killer. Her descriptions of Scarpetta’s professional life leave little to the imagination. And finally the reader’s victory in stumbling on the killer is empty. The scale of the story is so out-of-kilter, the killer so evil, the crimes so real, that the criminal’s apprehension and punishment cannot bring our world back into balance. We do not read crime fiction in order to have our worst fears about life magnified, but to believe that there is justice in the world. In Postmortem, justice is served after a fashion, but there is precious little comfort in that.

First Light, by Peter Ackroyd. Grove Weidenfeld $19.95

Peter Ackroyd possesses one of the most exotic and spooky imaginations to be found in print today. First Light ranges further in time than any of his other books. Hawksmoor seesawed only between today and the time of Christopher Wren. First Light brackets a neolithic grave (that of an astronomer?) with today’s archaeologists and astronomers who are excavating the grave and examining the night sky. Weird is one word to apply to Ackroyd; others might be exciting, stimulating, mind-extending. One word no one will ever use is commonplace or dull.

The Horse Latitudes, by Robert Ferrigno. Morrow $18.95

California has always been America’s fourth dimension—a kind of loony landscape where the truly weirded-out give life to their fantasies of excess. Excess is the subject of Ferrigno’s stylish mystery—an ocean swimmer who strokes through the night sea until he nearly drowns; a Cuban drug dealer who dreams Horatio Alger-style of going legit; twin no-neck health fanatics in search of the perfect body; a Viet Vet so withdrawn he lives alone like a spider at the center of a web of computer linkups. The list goes on. What connects them all is a beautiful and violent woman for whom there are no limits. Horse Latitudes is less a story than a cast of characters marooned on some steamy vision of the future, complete with all the fevered heat and dread of your worst nightmare come true.

Hardball, by Barbara D’Amato. Scribner’s $17.95

This mystery introduces Cat Marsala, a Chicago freelance writer who specializes in personality profiles. When she is hurt in the bomb-killing of a pro-drug legalization activist she was trying to interview, Cat resolves to keep digging at the story until the killer is uncovered. D’Amato tries hard for a light and sassy tone and sometimes achieves it, but parts of the novel read more like a drug legalization tract. There is nothing subtle about the plotting either, which poses the obvious questions of why, if the reader was so quick to catch on, it took Cat so long. But should readers make it to the end, they will be rewarded with a genuinely chilling scene that will make the most anemic reader’s blood pressure rise. One can only ask why she left her best writing for last.

Loose Lips, by Jon L. Breen. Simon & Schuster $17.95

Jerry Brogan, trackside announcer and horse-racing maven, plays amateur detective for the third time in this entertaining but conventional mystery. Brogan discovers an appropriate number of skeletons in the closets of a jockey, an owner, a trainer, and (as Breen insists on calling him) a restauranteur, on the way to exposing the killer of a blackmailing journalist. Why the reader should care about the latter is never made clear, but the story moves along smartly. Unfortunately, the most exciting passages involve horse races, and that leaves the human interaction rather flat. All in all, Loose Lips finishes in the money, but it’s a very slow field.

A Small and Incidental Murder, by John Walter Putre. Scribner’s $17.95

A stranger drives over a narrow bridge and onto a small island in Chesapeake Bay. The silent and clannish islanders there— people who harvest the Bay’s ever decreasing marine life for a living—hold the reluctant suspicion that a murder has fouled their peace. Yet they close over their secret like an oyster over its pearl. The stranger, a man called Doll, on the flimsiest of pretexts, begins to pry at the foundations of their lives in an effort to expose the crime. Acts, as Putre points out, have unforeseen consequences. It is in that context that the human drama unfolds as the watermen struggle to eke out a living on the Bay while holding on to their way of life. Putre evokes a sense of place so vivid it seems at times hallucinatory. He places the island and the Bay at center stage. The mystery, such as it is, is nearly incidental to a wonderful story. And when the stranger rides out of town, you hope he’ll be back.

A Chill Rain in January, by L. R. Wright. Viking $17.95

In the winter, cold misty weather envelops the little town of Sechelt on the coast of British Columbia. Within this reclusive world, Karl Alberg of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is faced with two quiet crises. An elderly woman has been missing from a nursing home for a week, to the dism


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