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Notes on Current Books, Winter 1976

ISSUE:  Winter 1976

Mr. Clubb, U. S. Foreign Service Officer and teacher and writer on Chinese history and politics, recounts in this fascinating book the climate in Washington after the “loss of China” and the rise of McCarthyism—which ultimately ended his diplomatic career. As might be expected, the author does not attempt to assess the period from the point of view of a detached observer but in effect constructs an apologia pro vita sua.At the same time, he generalizes the experience of the 50’s into a broad indictment of American politics and diplomacy in the 70’s. Where his analysis of the earlier period demands serious attention, his attempt at general interpretation seems rather cranky and airy. The most intriguing player in his drama is “the witness,” Whittaker Chambers, who at the end of the book still remains most elusive.

Robespierre or The Tyranny of the Majority, by Jean Marat. scribner’s $12.50.

Although little new ground is covered by this biography of the fanatic of the French Revolution, Mr. Marat does present a balanced and extremely well-written study—touched by just the requisite mixture of detachment and passion befitting the subject matter. Mr. Marat explores with skill and a sense of the dramatic the tension between the ideals of the Rights of Man and the practice of the guillotine, the contradiction between the incorruptible revolutionary and the martinet having his head meticulously powdered every morning. The study emphasizes both the mark of “original sin” in the heroic figure and the dangers of rigid ideologies—a lively biography and thoughtful political commentary.

Edward VIII, by Frances Donaldson. Lippincott $15

In a literate, unsentimental and well-researched biography of the Duke of Windsor, Lady Donaldson analyzes the transformation of this complex and fascinating character from the most popular Prince of Wales in history to the sad-faced and embittered Duke of Windsor. With unparalleled access to letters, memoirs and intimates of Edward, Lady Donaldson has woven together a tale of flawed character and dubious judgment. She tells her story with wit and clarity and makes real this remarkable period in British history—undoubtedly one of the better biographies in recent years.

Mirror to the Son of Heaven, by Howard J. Wechsler. Yale $15

This is an account of the life and work of Wei Cheng, chief advisor to the supposed founder of the T’ang Dynasty, Tang T’aitsung. Wei Cheng must have been a remarkable individual, but so many legends and anecdotes have grown up around him that the separating of fact from fiction poses a considerable problem. Professor Wechsler has done an admirable job, and the book, in spite of its scholarly character, is very readable, especially Chapters 5 and 6.

Reading Myself and Others, by Philip Roth. Farrar, Straus and Giroux $8.95

This is a witty, intelligent and lucid book by a man too strong to deceive very much either himself or others. It is auto-biographical in the sense that these articles and interviews, be they critical, topical or reminiscent, touch on concerns which have shaped Roth’s private life of writing. Bellow, Mailer, Lelchuk, Malamud and Kafka are the subject of useful comment. Nixon is seen as a representative of a kind of horrifying clownishness in American life.

Between Paris and St. Petersburg: Selected Diaries of Zinaida Hippius, edited by Temira Pachmuss. Illinois, $12.50

The Slavs have always been mystics. At the beginning of this century that mysticism was expressed by individuals attempting to explore the depth of consciousness through practices and rites sometimes grafted on to the established church and sometimes by setting up new and very short-lived religions, Zinaida Hippius was one of these. Her diaries record her feelings, her love and the ecstasy caused by her living at fever pitch. Her records of this strangely limited life do not, alas, take on the tincture of scripture nor the resonance of ritual.

Passage to Ararat, by Michael J. Arlen. Farrar, Straus &Giroux $8.95

Michael Arlen has written a spiritual travelogue of his voyage to discover “what it is to be Armenian.” Kept ignorant of his heritage by an English-educated father who had wished to escape from it, Arlen began his quest with little sense of direction: he read about Armenia, talked to Armenians in New York and visited William Saroyan in California. The account of this tentative searching is carefully constructed so that the reader reacts impatiently to the author’s detachment, his indirect manner of proceeding. The climactic part of Arlen’s story took place during a trip to Soviet Armenia, where he confronted the significance of the Turkish massacres of Armenians in the 1890’s and again 20 years later. His technique of quoting eye-witness descriptions of these attempts at genocide, with a few connecting comments of his own, brings us to feel the anger and frustration with which most Armenians contemplate their past, and to understand the efforts of many (like Arlen’s father) to evade it. The book compels us to share Arlen’s inner journey; it is written with restraint, sensitivity and honesty.

Katia Mann: Unwritten Memories, edited by Elisabeth Plessen and Michael Mann. Translated from the German by Hunter and Hildegarde Hannum. Knopf $7.95

This slim book is silver leaf. The wife of Thomas Mann, now in her nineties, communicates delightfully the story of her delightful life. And yet she and her husband had lived through the murderous changes of this century. And yet they were both immensely courageous and beautifully sane. With anecdotes that are witty and yet civil, frank and yet kindly, Katia sketches all the charm and interest of a long life with Mann, a life that saw the death of the bourgeois world they were born in.

Wordsworth, The Chronology of the Middle Years, 1800—1815, by Mark L. Reed. Harvard $25

This second volume in the chronology takes up, day by day, the most important and productive period in the poet’s life. These are the years of his marriage and of domestic tragedy, of the completion of his greatest critical and poetic work and the collapse of his friendship with Coleridge. The volume continues the same high scholarly standard as the preceeding chronology and, of course, is indispensable for all who seek to understand this poet and the romantic period generally. The material of a great biography is assembled here.

The Lonely Hunter: A Biography of Carson McCullers, by Virginia Spencer Carr. Doubleday $12.50

An obese book of 600 pages, this biography, in the academic manner, tells all, from maternal bed through all the hotel beds to the final hospital bed. Miss McCullers’ life was of course even weirder and sadder than her novels (her husband’s life was almost as weird and sad: what is gothic in the North is realism down South). Miss Carr in a way is perfect for telling the story, since the clash between her sentimental style and the raw sorrow of the subject matter reflects a similar clash in the mind and in the life of Miss McCullers.

Byron and the Honourable Augusta Leigh, by John S. Chapman. Yale $10

Dr. Chapman joins the admirable list of medical men who have distinguished themselves in letters. His extremely lucid book investigates the diagnosis of incest that has often been made in the case of Byron and his half-sister. For him, a sifting of the available evidence indicates that the unbalanced Lady Caroline Lamb may have deliberately tried to destroy Byron with charges of perversity. At any rate, the book is a fine picture of a section of the Byron circle.

Lorenzo: D. H. Lawrence and the Women Who Loved Him, by Emily Hahn. Lippincott $12.95

It used to be said that serpents fascinate and seduce their prey, so Lawrence seduced, intellectually at least, a horde of shy and/or ready women. Miss Hahn takes advantage of this fact and has produced a book for popular consumption, up-to-date in its snipings at Lawrence’s machismo but at the same time exploiting his romances. Her book is not profound, but it is smooth and well-written and not particularly sentimental. And, let’s face it, the great writer deserves a smack now and then. Despite the slickness of her approach, Miss Hahn’s topic is a fine target.

FICTION I Would Have Saved Them If I Could, by Leonard Michaels. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux $7.95

It is obvious that Michaels would like very much to write fine short stories, yet this collection, his second, misses that mark. The style is reminiscent of Barthelme, though Michaels lacks the biting edge needed to bring it to life. There are other disappointments: the ethnicity is self-conscious and, finally, uninteresting; several pieces run on long after their energy has dissipated while others are too short to make any point at all, save the most banal. This is not to say that the book should be dismissed, rather that it is only partially satisfying. Michaels appears capable of far better.

Look How the Fish Live, by J. F. Powers. Knopf $6.95

A collection of predominantly religious stories written over the past 20 years. Powers focuses on Catholic ecumenicalism and its effects on his characters, mainly Mid-western, middle-aged, old guard priests and bishops. Such individuals are not always sympathetically presented, however. Father Joe, an older priest with a decided eating and drinking problem, appears in two stories and is a man every bit as unconventional as the youthful priests he so readily criticizes, a man whose insecurities paralyze his ability to take decisive actions, and who virtually hides from his housekeeper when he knows she will ask him a question that he can’t answer. There are several low spots to the volume-the short play “Moonshot” is a disaster, and the tacked-on ending of “Farewell” sours an otherwise wittily extended one line joke-yet the overall effect is pleasing enough. While it is difficult for some to think of Powers as anything but a writer about Catholics, two of the book’s best pieces are non-religious. One could only wish for more of these from a man whose fine writing ability is sadly locked into a single thematic mode.

The Last Valley, by A. B. Guthrie, Jr. Houghton Mifflin $8.95

With this book, Guthrie brings to a close his series on the American West, a project which took shape nearly 30 years ago with the publication of The Big Sky. The setting is Arfive, Montana, in an America as we would like to remember it: a place of good intentions and lasting friendships, a place where evil deeds are punished as swiftly as good works are praised, a place where the town doctor makes house calls and dispenses folksy wisdom, a place where an idealistic young man can buy the town newspaper, support progressive causes and learn from his mistakes. Meanwhile, somewhere outside of town, Prohibition, The Depression and World War II begin and end; and while these events don’t go unnoticed, they effect Arfive’s residents only tangentially. The central character, of course, is the land itself, which attracts and repels, shelters and isolates, submits to and combats the men and> women who temporarily inhabit it. The Last Valley may be nine-tenths nostalgia, but it is, at least, first-rate nostalgia.

Clara Reeve, by Leonie Hargrave. Knopf $8.95

The publisher notes that Leonie Hargrave is the maiden name of a writer well known for work in a mode other than fiction, and one suspects that, whoever she may be, she wrote this gothic suspense piece on a bet. While there are occasions where she appears to poke fun at the genre, there is no doubt that she has taken this book quite seriously and has succeeded splendidly. Peopled with maidenly aunts, conniving cousins, sinister valets and assorted eccentrics, the book manages to mimic accurately the 19th century style and manner as well as spin an incredibly fine tale of innocence, debauchery and intrigue.

Strong Wine Red as Blood, by Robert Daley. Harper & Row $10

Inside looks at the French wine industry, American conglomerates and a gigantic swindle keep this novel moving so rapidly that its quality of writing seems unimportant. It could easily serve as an introductory handbook to the mystique of wine. It features a series of wry board meetings. And it starts with a bang as the swindle is set in motion. It hardly matters that the individuals within this triple setting are moved around like chessmen or that one finds the reformation of the “leading man” a little unconvincing.

A Dove of the East, and Other Stories, by Mark Helprin. Knopf $6.95

Helprin’s strength is in his ability to write knowingly of many cultures; his weakness is to be found in his plot structuring. Curiously enough, the two balance out. This is especially true in two of his New England stories, “Elizabeth Ridinoure” and “Back Bay Conservatory,” where the predictable is forgiven and over-shadowed by superb descriptions of, in like order, life on the coast of Maine and winter in Boston with a nighttime view of the Charles River. The 20 stories of this collection, with few exceptions, are some of the best short pieces to appear in many months.

King Death, by Nik Cohn. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich $5.95

Television producer Seaton Carew encounters Death, a man incongruously named Eddie, on the streets of Tupelo, Mississippi. Entrepreneur that he is, Carew decides on the spot to sign Eddie to a five-year contract and make him America’s best loved entertainment. In producing a satire, Cohn had a clever idea, and he manages to achieve some fine comic writing. Somewhere near the middle of the book, however, the tone changes and Cohn begins to take himself, and his idea, seriously. As Death begins his triumphant nationwide tour as a celebrity, the book withers and eventually succumbs in a clear case of novelistic overkill.

The 42nd Year of Mrs. Charles Prescott, by Iain Macnab. Harper & Row, $7.95

Almost hilarious at times, this novel charts how Mrs. Charles Prescott uses her 42nd year to leave one man for another. Its approach to sex is, on the whole, jolly, and the book bubbles along until the denouement. That seems unnecessarily abrupt and harsh while its resolution is suprisingly bland. But the story remains in the mind and the pleasure of its reading is great.

Naked in a Public Place, by Elizabeth Gundy Harper & Row $6.95

Voluptuous, libidinous blonde (Dinah), who is married to dependable, balding dentist (Lester), is sleeping with rich, French Adonis (Paul) who is sleeping with soulful artist (Sybil) who is sleeping with (you guessed it) Dinah. Dinah is restless, hungry (always) and pregnant (at last). But whose is it? Will she leave Loehmann’s, Lutèce and Lester for the Riviera and Paul? Sybil? Her interior decorator (fey)? Does it matter that Gundy has written a comedy of manners with style, flair, humor, character and insight? Who cares?

The Golden Age, by Constantine Fitzgibbon. Norton $7.95

Subtitled “A Gothic Tale of the Future,” The Golden Age is a metaphorical mishmash that reveals the manifestation not so much of the protagonist’s unconscious confusion as the author’s. This transformation of the Orpheus legend into vaguely futuristic symbols that are simultaneously dramatically vapid and metaphysically opaque lacks all sense of direction, balance and meaningfulness, an immense disappointment from an author justly renowned for his usual sensitivity, insight and style.

Mr. and Mrs. Haddock Abroad, by Donald Ogden Stewart. Southern Illinois $7.95

Few authors have had so great an effect upon the history of American comedy, and been as little recognized for their importance, as Stewart. In Mr. and Mrs. Haddock Abroad he created the foundation and impetus for the Crazy Humor school, which dominated American comedy from 1925—40, reaching its fruition in the films of the Marx brothers and in such film comedies as The Philadelphia Story, Holidayand Dinner at Eight, which Stewart himself scripted. This latest addition to S. I. U. ‘s admirable Lost American Fiction series is a minor comic masterpiece that has been too long forgotten.

98.6, by Ronald Sukenick. Fiction Collective $3.95

As his first two novels intimated, Sukenick promises to become one of our most innovative and challenging writers. 98.6 is a clever book, and the reader may feel he is in the presence of a creative genius. But as a novel dealing with the serious matter of man’s attempts to wrest meaning from life, 98.6 is a less than satisfactory work. The book is a collage of ideas, a series of fragments joined together by a thin plot. The three parts, “Frankenstein,” “The Children of Frankenstein” and “Palestine,” express Sukenick’s thinking about the chaos of culture, the promise of communal life and the endless dream of Utopia. There is much fine writing in the first two parts of the novel. However, Sukenick is too self-consciously clever in the third section, and the reader’s response can only be deadened exasperation.

Rock Island Line, by David Rhodes. Harper and Row, $8.95

A family saga which starts well and with bucolic overtones, Rock Island Line turns to melodrama too soon and too suddenly. Characters are disposed of in quick and unconvincing ways, others arrive on the scene unexpectedly and fateful decisions are made in a moment. Although such things may, and sometimes do, happen, they do so rarely enough that they neither reflect life nor aid art.

The Christmas Spy, by John Howlett. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich $6.95

Howlett’s spy, Morgan Hunter-Brown, is the standard odd man out with several new twists, such as ambiguous sexual preferences and an inclination toward woolen long-Johns. After a slow start in which Hunter-Brown joins his quarry in an unplanned and uneventful Christmas dinner, the book really bogs down in flashbacks, asides and painstaking scene-setting. Howlett’s writing is good enough to compel the reader to finish, though the whole affair is unsatisfying. In the final analysis, Hunter-Brown is simply a rather dull fellow.

Prize Stories 1975, The O. Henry Awards, edited by William Abrahams. Doubleday $7.95

In this volume, the 55th in the series, Mr. Abrahams, editor since 1967, presents 18 stories which he regards as the best among hundreds of stories published by American authors within the past year. As evidence of their exceptional quality, two stories were awarded first prize: Harold Broadkey’s “A Story in an Almost Classical Mode,” a moving account of the relationship between a troubled adolescent and his foster mother dying of cancer; and Cynthia Ozick’s “Usurpation (Other People’s Stories),” a complex narrative exploring the mystery and power of the creative imagination. In such annual collections as this, one often finds that the authors are concerned with similar themes. This anthology, however, does not manifest such a pattern of thematic unity; and although the settings of the stories may be largely urban, the characters are Americans of diverse backgrounds: Jewish, Puerto Rican, scandinavian, Negro and so forth. Whatever unity this collection may possess derives from uniform excellence in technique and distinction in narrative style rather than from choice of subject matter. The editor selected his prizewinning stories from The New Yorker and Esquire,about half the others from these magazines, from The Atlantic and Harpers and the remaining stories from Redbook, Mademoiselle and such reviews as Shenandoah and Antaeus. In addition to the two prizewinners, among other writers represented in this unusually fine anthology are Alice Adams, E. L. Doctorow, John Updike, William Maxwell, Anne Bayer and William Kotzwinkle.

HISTORY Russia Under the Old Regime, by Richard Pipes. Scribner’s $17.50

This is an introduction to pre-revolutionary Russia, part of scribner’s History of Civilization series, which is superior in almost every way. Pipes presents the period of Russian history between the 9th century and the late 1800’s, with particular attention paid to the genesis, growth and partial collapse of the patrimonial state. The chapters on the environment and its consequences and the perennial problems of agricultural production are, perhaps, the best available. The most satisfying aspect of the book is its 300-page length. The scope may be broad, but the material is concise, selected for maximum information value and minimum pedantry, and well written.

The Road to Stalingrad, by John Erickson. Harper & Row $25

This is the first of two volumes dealing with Stalin’s war with Hitler. The conflict of wills between the two men, which was reflected in their command strategies and decisions at the front, is one of the most intriguing aspects of the Second World War. Erickson’s study, however, is far from intriguing. If the second book is as lengthy as the first, there will eventually be 1200 pages to this project. In short, the book is too long and filled with the kind of details that keep people away from books on history —the number of tanks in a particular tank movement, exhaustive written documentation, the precise temperature of the water (which is also described as “icy”) in which troops are wading ashore and so forth. Compounding the problem is the author’s style of writing, which is best described as British academic. The publisher is promoting this book as “the most complete account of this mammoth subject.” Quite so.

New Directions in European Historiography, by George Iggers. Wesleyan $16

In this highly readable and scholarly collection of essays, George Iggers has demonstrated his first rank among intellectual historians. The subject matter is current directions in the study of history. It is, however, somewhat more comprehensive than the title would suggest. Iggers introduces the book with a stimulating and wide ranging discussion of 18th and 19th century historians’ attempts to write scientific history and their search for “paradigms” in the manner of Thomas Kuhn. It is indeed one of Iggers’ major contributions here that he realizes both the strengths and weaknesses of Kuhn in the study of history and the social sciences perhaps better than most historians who have attempted to utilize his insights. Essays on French, German and Marxist historiography round out this most worthwhile work.

The Impact of Hitler: British Politics and British Policy, 1933—1940, by Maurice Cowling. Cambridge $42.50

In this latest addition to the “Cambridge Studies in the History and Theory of Politics,” Professor Cowling continues his study of modern British politics. That study was begun with masterful works on Disraeli and Gladstone and followed by The Impact of Labor. This new work fulfills all the high standards readers have come to expect from each of the previous volumes. In The Impact of Hitler,Cowling traces the impact of Nazi Germany on domestic British politics and the Labor Party in particular. His focus is on the relationship of domestic party politics to the government’s foreign policy of the era. It is a period of modern history that has been the subject of considerable scholarship since World War II, but never studied with a surer scholarly hand. The Impact of Hitler must be considered one of the major studies of the period and a work of highest scholarship.

The Poor of Eighteenth-Century France, 1750—1789, by Olwen H. Hufton. Oxford $29

Who were the poor, why they existed, where they were located and how they were served by state, Catholic and private relief programs are the concerns of this study. To a subject of fragmentary, partial and subjective primary sources, Olwen Hufton has carried a very great gift of sensitivity and historical judgment. What emerges is a magnificent account of the gradual deterioration of the quality of life enjoyed by half the population of an underdeveloped France festering with destitution and indigence. Hufton provides a fine evaluation of formal relief programs of frail significance, and the indifferent activity of private relief of the poor. A concluding consideration of the crimes of the poor, of begging, smuggling and of prostitution, is surpassingly fine. The mastery of subject evident throughout this book is nowhere more movingly balanced with human understanding and critical judgment than in a brief penultimate section on parent and child relationships among the impoverished. A brilliant study.

The Long Thirst, by Thomas M. Coffey. Norton $9.95

The prohibition of liquor in America lasted, incredibly, from 1920 to 1933, a “noble experiment” that was designed by its mostly conservative Protestant supporters to exalt this country to a position of international moral authority. Practically, the result was a moral vacuum which was filled by a wide variety of colorful rogues, some of whom were merely opportunists and some of whom were murderers. Coffey’s book is written in a fluent and clear journalistic style. It is more anecdote than history, but it is thus more informative than a heap of silly statistics.

The Indian in America, by Wilcomb E. Washburn. Harper & Row $10

Washburn has produced, in a field dominated by the polemical, unscholarly and politically expedient, a work on the history of Indian-white relations that is calm, factual and interesting. His survey of Indian culture and society is comprehensive without being exhausting, his opinions reasoned and convincing, his style solid and fluid. The Indian in America is an amalgamation of history and ethnology that puts the work of both polemicists and conventional historians to shame.

A True History of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Conspiracy of 1865, by Louis J. Weichmann. Edited by Floyd E. Risvold. Knopf $15

Louis Weichmann was the government’s main witness at the murder and conspiracy trial of John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices, and a man who spent the rest of his life responding to critics of his testimony. Shortly before his death in 1902, Weichmann, who was not involved in the assassination plot, recorded this narrative which details the trial and the events preceding and following it. Perhaps the most important lingering historical question of the conspiracy, and the one to which readers might logically look to this recently discovered manuscript for an answer, regards the role of Mary Surratt. The author reiterates the evidence presented in court, and adds specific responses to critics such as Father J. A. Walters, the priest who, some 25 years after Surratt’s death, alleged that the woman had professed her innocence to him in confession. Weichmann’s evidence against Surratt is hardly circumstantial, yet neither is it overwhelming. In short, the same questions remain unanswered. One is forced to conclude that the Surratt question is really a cul-de-sac. The chief merit of the book lies not in its riddle-solving propensity but in its retelling of an essentially firsthand account of one of America’s most bizarre and brutal political murders. In this, it is both compelling and engrossing.

Christianity in the Roman World, by R. A. Markus. Scribners $10

This is a handsome book, with intelligently chosen and handsomely printed photographs of texts and monuments. Directing himself to a non-specialist audience, Professor Marcus attempts in just under 200 pages to survey the parallel and eventually converging histories of Rome and the Christian church between the 1st and 6th centuries. The differentiation of a Christian consciousness in an initially hostile environment and the development of that self-awareness in a society that became Christian is the center of interest. A broad brush and bold strokes are required. There is little room for either qualification or elaboration, but the book succeeds.

Ideology, Reason, and the Limitation of War. Religious and Secular Concepts, 1200—1740, by James Johnson. Princeton $12.50

This is a serious and scholarly study of a subject that is of utmost significance. It may well be one of the most important works in the field to have appeared since the works of Paul Ramsey a decade ago. Indeed, in Johnson’s own words, Ramsey is “the nearest thing to a point of inspiration for the present book.” Although there are points of difference between Ramsey and Johnson, the influence of Ramsey is evident throughout. Johnson takes seriously the proposition that a “just war” is not merely a rationalization, but can be “just” in the true meaning of the term. The origins of the modern tradition are traced from the late medieval period through Grotius, Locke and Vattel. It is an able and judicious exploration of the relationship between a waning religious society’s efforts to cope with the problem and the developing secular world’s concept of the issues. The secularization of the doctrine of a just war is, as Johnson presents it, one of the major reasons for the problematic status of the concept today.

Daily Life in Victorian England, by Christopher Hibbert. McGraw-Hill $10

A slim, well-illustrated, tedious summary of only the most mundane facets of life in the 19th century England, replete with trivial details of daily life but devoid of any sense of either the quality or meaning of life or the character of the age. Hibbert’s style is pedestrian and pedantic, his view of Victorian culture myopic and superficial. The result is that, ultimately, this is a curiously ponderous work for what was meant to be, after all, merely a trifle.

POETRY The Western Approaches, by Howard Nemerov. Chicago $7.95

Nemerov’s latest volume of poems, which includes material written during the last two years, is one of his best, one of his most musical, one of his saddest and wisest. True wit is not easy and Nemerov is witty like Goethe, Blake, George Herbert or Diogenes; that is, his wit makes contact with the cornerstones of the universe. Such wit is poetic and accords with the fairy tale sounds and humane sayings of this late, strong product of our Western tradition.

The Innocent Assassins, by Loren Eiseley. Scribner’s $2.95 [paper]

Since there is much about Loren Eiseley’s prose that is poetic, it is not surprising that the poems of this collection, which has just been issued in paper, read much like his prose. One doubts seriously that there remain many individuals who are unaware of Eiseley and why his work is important. Suffice to say that these poems, like those of his previous collection, Notes of An Alchemist, are possessed of a unique vision of prehistory and man’s relationship with nature and science. Illustrated by Laszlo Kubinyi.

Resident Alien: Poems, by Daryl Hine. Atheneum $6.95

Daryl Hine is the editor of today’s version of Poetry magazine. He possesses the learning, technical ability and cultural experience that any poet at all ought to work for, if he or she wants to face with self-respect the blazing light of our poetic past. And yet Mr. Hine’s verse is neither thrilling nor very entertaining. He is a maker of brilliant platitudes, visual and intellectual, and even his trained ear somehow lacks music. His mind is truly admirable, but his skill lacks art.

Some Sweet Day, by Hugo Williams. Oxford $5.50

In Some Sweet Day Hugo Williams writes of commonplace topics with unusual restraint in style, technique and length; his language is fresh and lucid, his meanings sensitive and evocative. The 48 short, introspective poems in this volume are the work of a very skillful and very thoughtful poet. The price of this 50-page paperback is, however, excessive.

Carriers of the Dream Wheel, edited by Duane Niatum Harper & Row; $9.95

Native American poetry is only now growing out of its infancy, its writers casting off the bonds of formulistic pantheism and searching for a more personal, introverted, sensitive insight. The poems of the 16 contemporary authors represented in this extensive and nicely-produced collection may vary in style and quality, but all subtly invoke an imaginative imagery of anomie, of hope and despair founded in a lost spiritual heritage. It is hard to imagine a more diversified, balanced, impressive introduction to modern native American poetry than this welcome volume.

The Spouse in the House, by Richard Armour. McGraw-Hill $6.95

For those unfortunate people who have yet to be introduced to Richard Armour, this latest work of light verse should be “must” reading in the months (nay, ‘days’) ahead. For those more fortunate souls who have faithfully followed his verse in the more than 200 puublications here and abroad in which they have appeared, The Spouse in the House will no doubt constitute one of the truly bright spots of this year’s publishing. It would be too much to give more than the most tantalizing sample of Armour’s verse here, but one of my favorites in this latest work goes as follows:

“A woman requires but three things,
And life will but rarely bore her;
A table and chair
To move here and there
And a husband to move them for her.”
Please do not miss The Spouse in the House.

how i got ovah, by Carolyn M. Rodgers. Anchor $5.95

This collection of new and selected poems gives a representative view of the sensitivity and integrity Miss Rodgers brings to the act of writing black poetry. Her forte is the personal narrative poem, the impact of which is strongest in oral performance. Thus a number of the poems here, unfortunately, suggest the poet is more interested in pure experience than in rendering experience as poetry. Nevertheless, the poet treats spiritual aspects of black life, the getting over, with a tenderness that is rare in the new black poetry.

Sleepïng in the Woods, by David Wagoner. Indiana $5.95

David Wagoner’s poems have a self-assured rhetorical ease. He is an outstanding craftsman, a master of free verse. In Wagoner’s new poems there is a fresh and original sense of stanza, line length and sentence structure. Yet his style is neither opaque nor obtrusive. There is a beautiful precision to the poet’s language, especially in his descriptions of motion, as in “An Offering for Dungeness Bay,” where “The geese at the brim of darkness are beginning/ To rise from the bay/ . . .and now they gather/ High toward the marsh in chevrons and echelons, / Merging and interweaving, their long necks turning/ Seaward and upward, . . .” As with “chevrons and echelons,” or as with the columbine, maidenhair, or “the small green struggle of the weeds” in other poems, Wagoner’s acts of description have an exhilarating correctness. At his best, he does what all fine poets can do: he reinvigorates our language. Most of Wagoner’s poems take place outdoors, and there is a beautiful sense of the body merging with its surroundings. As with the final section of the book, “Seven Songs for an Old Voice,” there is a primitive religious mood to many of the poems, an enactment of ritual-in-nature. The most compelling of these ritualistic poems is “The First Place.” The only significant shortcoming in Wagoner’s seventh book of poems is that much of his light verse (in the second section) falls flat. Nevertheless, Sleeping in the Woods is a book of poems that grows with each new reading. It is a pleasure to find such a bold, well-written book.

C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems, translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Princeton $20

A beautiful book in both the physical and editorial sense, this bilingual edition of Cavafy’s mature poetry is as complete as one would wish, with excellent translations and readable commentary. Cavafy is certainly a major modern poet (one of several from Greece!) and despite a slight monotony if one reads too much of him at once in such a large collection, his strong and slender lyrics merit this attention. Not even Eliot has described the plight of declining epochs as has this love-poet from Alexandria.

Fully Empowered, by Pablo Neruda. Translated by Alastair Reid. Farrar, Straus and Giroux $8.95

A mark of the late Neruda’s great fame in this country is that bilingual editions of a number of his books are coming out in their entirety. This is one of his best, a product of the last decade or so when Neruda’s mind ripened to the complexity and contradiction of poetic and human experience. If these poems have a guiding theme, it is that of the poet’s role, the ambiguity of which is so tightly expressed by Neruda that one can hardly disentangle his day from his night.

LITERARY STUDIES Victory in Limbo: A History of Imagism 1908—1917, by J. B. Harmer. St. Martin s $12.95

Despite its title, thoughtfulness and full and useful documentation, this is not a “scholarly book.” Instead, Harmer’s is an unfailingly readable story drawn from the aesthetic currents early in this century, interlarded with numerous examples—67 poems are quoted in full, 59 in part—and an engaging complement of social and biographical background. The whole is an excellent introduction to Imagist poetry but even better as a chance for those slightly knowledgeable about H. D., F. S. Flint and John Gould Fletcher to re-experience key works in an appealing and usually enlightening context.

Meditations on the Hero: A Study of the Romantic Hero in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, by Walter L. Reed. Yale $11.95

At the same time that they felt an admiration for the ancient idea of the active, unself-conscious hero, the Romantic writers had to confront the problem of adapting this figure to the contemporary world. Mr. Reed’s thesis is that this difficulty is dealt with in many works through narrators who meditate on their respective heroes. In discussing works by Kierkegaard, Brontë Lermontov and Melville, he discloses a number of ways in which a narrator can qualify the reader’s understanding of a hero. The analyses of individual works are provocative and open up new possibilities for the study of Romantic fiction/ Except in the most general sense, however, the theoretical framework provided is not sufficient to unify the treatments of such diverse writers. There are a number of annoying typographical errors, one of which, in a quotation from Hawthorne, causes some confusion.

Virginia Woolf: The Critical Heritage, edited by Robin Majumdar and Allen McLaurin. Routledge & Kegan Paul $30

In the last four or five years, the work of Virginia Woolf has attracted a great deal of well-deserved attention. Thanks to the editors of this volume in The Critical Heritage Series, this wealth of recent criticism is now augmented by a collection of contemporary evaluations. Many literary figures important in their own right, among them E. M. Forster, T. S. Eliot, Edwin Muir and Conrad Aiken, have commented on Woolf’s writings, and their remarks, gleaned from reviews, articles and letters, are presented here. Also included is the first version of “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” and the documents of the journalistic debate between Woolf, Bennett and others which culminated in the revised version of her essay. Because of Virginia Woolf’s central role in the development of the modern novel, then, the pieces brought together in this volume not only record the initial critical response to her work but also the changing attitudes about fiction in the first part of this century.

Form and Meaning in Fiction, by Norman Friedman. Georgia $14

With this volume, the Chicago poetics is completed and extended. Gathering together 13 previously published exercises in theoretical and practical criticism, plus an abundance of new material, Friedman furnishes an exhaustive Neo-Aristotelian model for the study of narrative. Thus his book is an indispensable companion to Wayne Booth’s The Rhetoric of Fiction(which Friedman slights), as well as Elder Olson’s Tragedy and the Theory of Drama, The Theory of Comedy and The Poetry of Dylan Thomas. Potentially controversial, at least for orthodox Chicago critics, is Friedman’s successful attempt to conciliate the purely formal analysis advocated by Olson and R. S. Crane with the quest for literary meaning conducted by their bêtes noires, William Empson and Cleanth Brooks. Non-dogmatic practitioners of American structural criticism, however, will ignore the eventual in-house polemics and profit from Friedman’s highly adequate approach to the nature and interplay of fictional sequence and sense.

Literary Terms: A Dictionary, by Karl Beckson & Arthur Ganz Farrar, Straus & Giroux $10 Noonday (paper) $3.95

This sophomoric and condescendingly-written farrago of literary jargon is acceptable when it merely glosses the peculiar technicalisms of the literary pedant (though Webster’s and the O. E. D. are just as good), but it is criminally inadequate in describing broader concepts, theories and traditions. The explanations are so unsatisfyingly incomplete, so parochially literary, so blind to the theories and definitions of other scholarly disciplines that the book is virtually useless for anyone except teachers and reviewers who want to use words that other people have to look up in books like this. Tralatition, anyone?

Literature and History in the Age of Ideas, edited by Charles G. S. Williams. Ohio State $17.50.

This is a Festschrift honoring the eminent scholar of the French Enlightenment, George R. Havens. The contributors—friends, students and admirers of Havens—cover a wide range of subjects and figures from Fontenelle to Stendhal. The major French writers of the Enlightenment are not overlooked, with eight of the 22 essays devoted to Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot. Since the scholar being honored was interested, primarily, in the history of ideas, it is no surprise that most of the essays use this approach. There are, however, a few essays devoted to individual works, and there is even a bibliographical paper included. The volume concludes with a bibliography of the works of Havens.

Woman as Image in Medieval Literature from the Twelfth Century to Dante, by Joan M. Ferrante. Columbia $9

Professor Ferrante has given us in this brief study a useful introduction to a complex and important aspect of Western literary and intellectual history. Tracing the evolution of the feminine image in the traditions of scriptural exegesis, in allegorical poetry derived from the Latin classics and in courtly literature, Professor Ferrante finds the appropriate culmination of the tradition in Dante’s women, in the great images of Mary, Lucy and Beatrice, through which man achieves reintegration of the whole self. The 12th century, it is argued, was more open, optimistic and humane in its presentation of women than the 13th in which Ms. Ferrante finds the socio-economic exclusion of women reflected in literature. The neatness of this pattern is suspect on several grounds, not least because attitudes and conventions conditioned by genre are largely ignored, especially in the discussion of the Roman de la Rose. Still, this study is the best introduction to the subject now available in English.

Style and Structure in Literature: Essays in the New Stylistics, edited by Roger Fowler. Cornell $13.50

There is a startling and welcome humility in this collection of essays. Gone is the brashness of the old Stylistics of the 60’s, confident in its powers as linguistic science. In the place of that scientism is a common-sense willingness to use the methods and insights of linguistics to achieve “interests recognizable as traditional and important to established literary studies.” The proposal for reestablishing the relationship between Philology and Mercury is welcome indeed.

The Novels of G. K. Chesterton. A Study in Art and Propaganda, by Ian Boyd. Barnes & Noble $16.50

Ian Boyd has here produced perhaps the best study of Chesterton to date. It is insightful in terms of Chesterton’s aims in writing and thoughtful in evaluation of his achievements. What Boyd aims to show is that Chesterton’s novels are more than merely vehicles for the expression of his ideas, although they are certainly that, but are also genuine literary accomplishments in the growth of the novel in the 20th century. It is perhaps because Chesterton represents such a distinctly Catholic world view that he has been so studiously ignored by so many critics more interested in the form of writing than its content that he has not yet received the recognition due his work. Boyd’s admirable study should help to correct that problem and bring Chesterton more into the forefront of major writers of this century where he belongs.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Washington Journal, by Elizabeth Drew. Random House $12.95

For the past ten years or so, some of the best political writing in this country has appeared in the pages of The New Yorkermagazine, so it is not particularly surprising to discover that this book—journal entries of the political events of 1973 and 1974 recorded as they unfolded—was undertaken at the suggestion of that magazine’s editor, William Shawn. Miss Drew is a 15-year veteran of Washington political reporting, and an uncommonly fine writer whose stylistic flow and sense of timing are virtually flawless. While useful as an historical reference to the fall of Nixon and Agnew and the accompanying stress on our constitutional form of government, the book is especially compelling for its evocation of the emotions of the period, the anger, fascination and fear. To read this book is to experience again the sense of unpredictability so important at the time and so uniformly lacking in other similar accounts.

The Morality of Consent, by Alexander M. Bickel. Yale $10

Before his untimely death in 1974, Bickel was one of the most cited and most controversial commentators on the American Constitution. This collection of his last lectures is not likely to change his position. His social liberalism and legal conservatism have seemed to many a contradiction, and this tension in his work is evident here. But like all truly great scholars and commentators on human affairs, he has an explanation, “Our problem is the totalitarian tendency of the democratic faith, and the apparent inconsistency of most remedies for that condition.” Chief among the modern remedies which have led to Watergate is the direct, participatory mode of political action that has done so much to undermine the institutions of government. Bickel argues for a liberal philosophy, but with a touch of sadness that it may be profoundly the roots of our present crisis and not its solution. This is an interesting, provocative essay that ought to be widely read.

The Case Against Direct Election of the President. A Defense of the Electoral College, by Judith Best. Cornell $9.95

A defense of the electoral college system for selecting a President must be considered at least novel. Intended originally to preserve the federal character of presidential election, the electoral college has proven to be one of the most abused and yet durable aspects of the Constitution. It is the thesis of Miss Best that despite all of its faults, the electoral college system is preferable to the alternatives proposed thus far, including the direct popular vote proposal. Arguing convincingly that the proposed changes will do more than merely change the mechanism of election, she shows the far reaching impact changes would have on the entire federal structure of government. This is a thoughtful, well reasoned study. Anyone interested in presidential politics in the United States would be well advised to read this study and familiarize themselves with its arguments. Pro or con on the issue of electoral college reform, this is a first-rate analysis of the issues involved.

Twilight of Authority, by Robert Nisbet Oxford $10.95

People might accuse Nisbet of being wrong, but to date no one is likely to accuse him of being dull or uninteresting. This latest essay on the modern human condition is not going to change that assessment. Here is a stimulating new essay on an important old topic’ the nature of authority. Lest one think that nothing can be added to that subject, it should be noted that that opinion is more likely to precede than follow a reading of Twilight of Authority. The breakdown of authority, Professor Nisbet writes, means the potential decay of our democratic political institutions.


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