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Notes on Current Books, Winter 1978

ISSUE:  Winter 1978

If there were more historians like Claude Manceron, history would have a better reputation. Unable to pursue a “normal” academic career because of polio, Manceron immersed himself in sources, haunted the National Archives, read everything there was to read—and produced a work of near-genius. This is history, as von Ranke would have had it: flesh and blood, sweat and tears. It is the first volume of a projected study of the French Revolution, and it has made quite a sensation in France. Admirably translated by Patricia Wolf, it will doubtless have an equally great impact here.

North America From Earliest Discovery to First Settlements: The Norse Voyages to 1612, by David B. Quinn. Harper & Row $15

This latest addition to the New American Nation Series is one of the most comprehensive and significant of a series that has already become a landmark. It is an exhaustive account (621 pages) of the most recent scholarship dealing with the earliest discoveries and exploration of North America. There are far too many exceptional items in this splendid volume to point out here in detail, but one chapter in particular is worthy of special note—”European Technology, Ideology, and Institutions; Their Impact on North America.” It is a most fruitful discussion of an all-too-often neglected aspect of early exploration that is handled by Professor Quinn to near perfection. A first-rate bibliographical essay at the end completes this exceptionally fine study.

British Rearmament in the Thirties: Politics and Profits, by Robert Paul Shay, Jr. Princeton $18.50

The paradox of British rearmament during the 1930’s was that it took place against a backdrop of Chamberlain’s foreign policy now pejoratively referred to as “appeasement.” Shay argues here that appeasement was as much the result of economic limitations and related domestic pressures as it was a reaction to foreign problems. He bases his case primarily on recently opened papers at the Public Record Office in London. Since this is the first such study on the period to make extensive use of these papers, there are many new details added to our knowledge of the period. Whether this all adds up to any new insights on the more general picture of British policy during the period is questionable. Maurice Cowling’s recent The Impact of Hitler, while aimed at a different perspective, continues to give a more balanced treatment and plausible interpretation.

Ambivalent Americans: The Know-Nothing Party in Maryland, by Jean H. Baker. Johns Hopkins $14

This brief but admirably thorough monograph is written with great intelligence, verve, and wit. Professor Baker’s dexterous use of quantitative techniques to analyze various facets of the Maryland Know-Nothings is a bravura performance that could well serve as a model to introduce students to the merits of the so-called “New Political History.” Equally important, although she sometimes strains to demonstrate the originality of all of her findings, specialists on the antebellum period will find much that is new and significant here. Quite simply, Jean Baker has written the finest study of Know-Nothingism in print.

The Imperial Experience in Sub-SaharanAfrica Since 1870, by Henry S. Wilson. Minnesota $18.50

This volume, the eighth in the University of Minnesota’s series, Europe and the World in the Age of Expansion, serves as a satisfactory survey of the political history of the southern two-thirds of Africa for the past century. Wilson carefully traces the evolving administrative policies of the various European colonial powers through two world wars and the modern national liberation movements. Although most of the colonial governments envisioned a much slower route to independence for their territories, Western-educated African leaders and growing economic inequalities advanced the decolonization timetable beyond European control. The chief value of this work lies in its combining of the African and European perspectives on the chain of historical events rather than relying on the traditional one-sided viewpoint. As might be expected in a work of such scope, there are significant gaps in the treatment of various regions and problems, but an excellent bibliography should help the reader satisfy his curiosity.

The Black Death in the Middle East, by Michael W. Dols. Princeton $19.50

While the effects of the Black Death in Europe have long been a source of debate, this book is one of the few to examine authoritatively the plague in the Middle East. Dols shows that the disruption caused by the plague was even more severe there than in Europe. Although his sources limit his treatment chiefly to Egypt and Syria, the author argues convincingly for the existence of a virulent pandemic throughout the eastern and southern Mediterranean, causing the abandonment of cities and farmland, large-scale depopulation, and severe dislocation of the economic network. Dols maintains that this catastrophe led directly to the collapse of the Mamluk Empire, but unfortunately he gives only a summary treatment to the aftermath of the epidemic in contrast to his detailed and convincing analysis of the mid-14th-century plague years themselves.

Peasant Farming in Muscovy, by R. E. F. Smith. Cambridge $22.50

It is utterly superfluous to say that this is a book for the specialist, but it is not beside the point to indicate that the specialist will find it of extraordinary value. Using Soviet archives to an extent, and with a wise discernment rare among Western scholars, Mr. Smith has given us a picture of the life of the real people of the old Muscovite state. His is in many ways a pioneering effort, and it sets a high standard for all who will follow—Soviets as well as foreign scholars.

Man Through the Ages, by John Bowle. Atheneum $13.95

Criticism based on the impossibility of compressing the history of man into a single volume is disarmed in the preface of Man Through the Ages. There the author states that “no one is “qualified” to write such a book,” but goes on to say that he is perhaps less unqualified than many because of his previous historical experience. What really heartens the reader, however, is his statement that “history, at least vicariously, should be enjoyed.” Happily his text is enjoyable, and, even better, well balanced. What is missing is any illustration at all. Surely maps, at least, would have illuminated migrations and empires better than words.

Blood on the Snow, by John Elliott. St. Martin’s $8.95

On a gloomy Sunday early in January 1905, Nicholas II of Russia was frolicking in the snow at one of the imperial family’s palaces outside the capital. In St. Petersburg, his troops were positioned at strategic points around the city, ready to confront a massive demonstration by workers and their families. It was to be peaceful: the demonstrators were unarmed, and they bore ikons and portraits of the tsar. All they wanted was his intervention with the employers; perhaps the “little father” of the Winter Palace could persuade the factory and mill owners to reduce the working day a little, raise wages a few kopecks, provide a little security for old age and for widows and orphans. The loyal subjects marched; the troops responded with gunfire. Hundreds died, many more were injured. The legend and the myth of “Bloody Sunday” were born. It is a dramatic, melancholy story, and in the hands of a skilled novelist it would do well. Unfortunately, John Elliott’s game effort just does not make the grade. A television producer and writer, he is simply out of his element here.

POETRYSong for an Equinox, by St. John Perse. Princeton $5

The last four poems composed by the Nobel Prize winner before his death in 1975, these brief texts can be taken doubly: as a nostalgic recapitulation of the themes and forms that Perse explored and perfected during more than half a century of labor, or as a relatively easy and altogether pleasing initiation into the mysteries of the oeuvre. Both the expert and the beginner, however, will marvel at the precision and poise of Richard Howard’s facing-page translations.

Tossing and Turning, by John Updike. Knopf $7.95

Already recognized as a gifted writer of fiction, Updike’s first collection of verse since Midpoint gives us another glimpse of this modern perceptive writer. Updike reveals his moods so easily, so candidly. In each poem he stands next to reality while leaving us to view his words like paintings of beautiful, seductive women.

Houseboat Days, by John Ashbery. Viking $7.95

Ashbery is a master of impressionism whose poems are dreamlike, evanescent, full of abrupt shifts in perspective. His collages of surreal images obliquely examine moods of nostalgia, regret, memory, and illusion. This collection is not as outstanding as Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. Many poems seem to have no focus; image, syntax, and speaker are fragmented, difficult to relate to a discernible whole. Yet the poems are strangely satisfying, evoking recognizable subtleties of feeling, as in two of the finest, “Lament upon the Waters,” and “Syringa.” The themes of this volume revolve around the central interest in time and in progress or the possibility of redeeming “the moated past.”

New and Selected Poems, by George Scarbrough. Iris Press $9.50

In three previous volumes, published between 1949 and 1956 by E. P. Button, Scarbrough established no place for himself in the later modernist pantheon. His current collection makes it clearer than ever that it was not through ineptitude or lack of originality that he missed fame. Indeed, few poetic voices are more distinctive or articulate than his. The trouble with Scarbrough’s work is that it fails to blend in a convincing way the two traditions that fascinate, even obsess, him: that of poetry “versed in country things” and that of obscure erudition, verbal gymnastics, and precious imagery. In poem after poem, the traditions pull against each other with unequal force, so that Scarbrough waxes hokey one moment and Dylanesque the next. He is at his best when working with mythic materials (as in the Nativity poems of his 1951 collection), which lend themselves most easily to the modernist baroque treatment.

Things That I Do in the Dark, by June Jordan. Random House $4.95

The proliferation of significant women poets is a fact, and June Jordan is in the front ranks with such poets as Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich, Ai, Alice Walker, and Diane Wakoski, making major contributions. Things That I Do in the Dark is Jordan’s tenth book, a generous and representative selection of new and old poems. Many of the poems are political, yet Jordan is too talented a writer to confuse propaganda with art. Her work is informed by a vision that is intensely original, and we can learn much about community and humanity from this book.

How I Escaped From the Labyrinth, by Philip Dacey. Camegie-Mellon $3.50

It’s about time Dacey’s poems were published in book form; he deserves to be read and promises to be popular. Whether dramatic monologues, descriptions, or instructions, his poems have a lucid, engaging tone, energy, and immediacy, achieving an understated intensity like overhearing secrets. There is an amiable sensuality throughout and admiration for the “beautifully untranslatable” aspect of nature. The title signifies the dual focus on myth and wildness, and the poems approach a lyrical fusion of the wild with the spiritual. Dacey seems still to be seeking his best form and length; some poems are one or two lines, some several pages. The voice can be playful and exuberant or quietly moving and haunting. This is a welcome collection.

Blood, Hook if Eye, by Dara Wier. Texas $3.95

The title suggests the subjects of these poems: family background, sexual attachments, and the vision of an individual woman. The poems have a distinct atmosphere of the culture of the deep South. Her images are dense, visceral, evoking a violent discontinuity between childhood and adult experience. She exposes details of ordinary life in raw, vigorous, precision-cut language. Comforting beliefs and traditions contrast brutally with the deadly routine and lack of grace in the lives she sees, and the subtle abuse of women by men. The wealth of imagery and dramatic intensity of this first collection promises a style capable of impact and expansion.

Reservations, by James Richardson. Princeton $7.50, paper $2.95

Critic David Perkins speaks of “those facile writers who never achieve an individual identity,” and one hopes that Richardson’s obvious ease with language will not dead end him this way. So far, in his twenties, he’s stuck in the crowded school of “aura” poets—short, delicate impressions and ruminations waft in a calm, very literate way into a sort of ominous cloud of indefinite implications. The aura of something going on is there, like dew on summer feet, but by the end of the poem nothing is manifest, and only evaporation has occurred. Instead of freshness and force, there is a mere succession of words easily left behind, stiff blades of grass—”disinheritance,” “ungraduated,” “subsidence, “tenacious”—with little of Whitman’s, or anyone’s energy. One 12-page poem about stones, witty in places, makes them creatures with their own slow-paced cosmology, mostly occupied in waiting, and as a fairy tale for some adults, stoned perhaps, it may well be wholly effective. A plane-crash poem also works, and one about furnishing a house. But mainly Richardson fulfills his title, since most readers will have definite reservations as they grope among mercurial visions and drowse over the half-life of the stones— which, by the way, migrate in their sleep and clutter other poems.

The Gates, by Muriel Rukeyser. McGraw-Hill $7.95

A new collection of poems by Muriel Rukeyser is a cause for celebration. The most interesting part of this book is the section from which the book takes its name, “The Gates.” Here the poems, most dealing with openings, closings, barriers, symbols of endings, and renewals, form one long allegorical poem. The theme is the poet as prisoner in solitary, as lover, as betrayer, as betrayed, as Christ. Miss Rukeyser interjects herself (“Muriel”) as well as other contemporaries (Anne Sexton and her suicide) in the poems. Miss Rukeyser is capable of using language as a weapon as well as a thing of beauty. This intensely personal volume includes some of her best poetry.

Tracking, by Virginia Terris. Illinois $3.45

This collection is marred by the uncertainty and derivative verse that typify a first book. It traces the paradoxes of love and the reluctant changes from girl to woman and mother, frustration and isolation, cruelty and tenderness. Some of the shorter pieces are simple but effective. However, the attempts at dramatic intensity and clever endings are not very successful, and there is nothing very striking or original in most of these poems.

Trolling, by Douglas Lawdor. Little, Brown $7.95

There is unusual freshness and power in this first collection: sensuous imagery, smoothly integrated perceptions, an unaffected voice, and a variety of moods. The sense of dramatic shape and intensity is consistently accurate; the images are original and haunting. He locates a dreamlike, surreal atmosphere in each experience he examines and has some particularly nice erotic and landscape poems. Illuminating and penetrating, these poems invite several readings, and they accomplish what is required of poetry, to quote Lawdor in one line: “To grace the public with a private passion.”

Millions of Strange Shadows, by Anthony Hecht. Atheneum $7.95

Hecht’s verse is ambitious, measured, and precisely chiseled. Writing public rather than confessional poems, he tends to be highly rhetorical, opulent, and grave. A careful craftsman, he is strong in mythologizing the present. This collection has many polished, epigrammatical pieces dedicated to friends and several translations. Hecht can be elegant, graceful, and witty, but his slick punning and allusions sometimes distract from the thoughtful resonance of his poems. The cool, poised, philosophical voice of these poems is well suited for the scholarly topics, moralized landscapes, and thoughts on the ambiguous function of art.

Griffon, by Stephen Dobyns. Atheneum $4.95

Dobyns’s second collection is somewhat repetitive in its stark, terse tone, but captivating to read nevertheless. He has perfected a style, though perhaps narrowed his range, from his first book. Striking and arresting, his poems are tightly controlled, with precise, surreal language, undertones of deep violence, and a grim sense of humor. The mood is usually ominous or alarming. The best section, “Grimoire,” is a black book of negative emotions dramatically presented. Instead of describing a state of mind, they come close to a re-creation of it, some with great impact. These poems are not only accessible; they grab.

Salt and Bitter and Good: Three Centuries of English and American Women Poets, edited by Cora Kaplan. Paddington Press paper $6.95

Cora Kaplan and illustrator Lisa Unger Baskin have produced an excellent anthology of poems by women. The selections are ample and well-chosen, the introductions helpful, and the physical appearance and quality of the book superlative.

LITERARY STUDIESThe Poetic Vision of Robert Penn Warren, by Victor H. Strandberg. Kentucky $9.95

A major reassessment of Warren’s poetic career, this intelligent chronological study groups the poems under three themes: passage, the undiscovered self, and the osmosis of being. A valuable summary of the critical reckoning sets the stage for arguing Warren’s affinity with Jung and William James. Works of the mid-career, especially “The Ballad of Billie Potts,” are given special attention. Strandberg is a perceptive critic, but, as with Warren, his interest in theme often pre-empts his attention to style.

Theory of Criticism: A Tradition and Its System, by Murray Krieger. Johns Hopkins $12.95

The climactic production of Krieger’s long career as a critic and a critic of critics, this volume develops a poetics of presence intended to reconcile formalism and contextualism without tumbling into the confusions or cop-outs of the eclectic. Whatever one may think of Krieger’s conclusions, it is impossible not to admire the erudition, rigor, and intensity of his arguments. His paradoxical opening chapter—on the vanity and indispensability of theory—is a classic statement of the post-modern intellectual dilemma and as such deserves to be widely read.

Prophetic Waters—-The River in Early American Life and Literature, by John Seelye. Oxford $15.95

An original and engaging study of the American river—which John Seelye views as the paradigm of American culture, the channel of a new people’s colonization of a new continent. He sees American adventures, travels, conquest, settlements, and expansion as constituting an essential— and heroic—unity defined by the patterned confluences of rivers, north and south. This river-centered culture in turn gave to American literature distinctive metaphors and literary expression. Professor Seelye writes not only convincingly but with a charm and grace equal to his subject. An important contribution to Americana.

Love and Language, by Louise K. Horowitz. Ohio State $12.50

A brilliant, penetrating, and eminently readable group of essays on the French classical moralists, this book explodes cliché after academic cliché. Horowitz convincingly rehabilitates a number of “minor” authors, particularly Jacques Esprit, Saint-Evremond, and Méré, while showing the ideological coherence and originality of novelists whose notions of love and conduct had been considered fragmented or derivative. She also furnishes the freshest analysis we have of La Rochefoucauld’s maxims (as well as work newly attributed to him) and demonstrates that Mme. de Sévigné” is best read as an analyst and judge of the human heart, whose vehicle is the letter. And there is a bonus: the book itself is beautifully crafted and is thus a rarity among scholarly works.

Milton Studies IX, edited by James D. Simmons. Pittsburgh $17.50

In this valuable annual collection of essays on Milton’s work, there are three dealing with Paradise Lost, two with Areopagitica, two with the minor poems, and five others on general Miltonic subjects. It is a varied and interesting gathering, particularly in the sensitive—and intellectual— approach these twelve writers bring to the further exploration of one of our most complex and satisfying poets.

Children of the Revels, by Michael Shapiro. Columbia $15

The subtitle, “The Boy Companies of Shakespeare’s Time and Their Plays,” shows the aim of this study—to examine the origins, the productions, and the audience of those troupes of child actors in the English Renaissance. The companies developed out of the classroom and the banqueting hall to become competitors with professional companies; they moved from cathedral precinct to commercial theatre and palace. When we recall that women’s parts in Shakespeare’s theatre were taken by boys, it is no wonder that boys could also play adult males. But the playwrights did not cater to their youth but more likely to the audience. The listing of the plays presented by these little eyases is extensive and includes some of the best of the playwrights. What a pleasure it must have been to see one of Lyly’s plays done by the Children of Blackfriars!

The Life and Times of Chaucer, by John Gardner. Knopf $12.50

The tendency toward overwriting and cuteness that mars John Gardner’s novels is everywhere evident in this life of Chaucer. The “essentially impish” Chaucer that Gardner presents nods and winks his way through 14th-century courtly society, the comfortable bourgeois Rotarian so inexplicably dear to generations of scholars who scorn precisely that vulgarity in their own society. We are given a great deal by way of background—realizations of the horrors of the plague years, the wars with France, the dog droppings on the floors of elegant houses, even information that 14th-century husbands could not (legally) beat their wives till their unconscious bodies farted. We are given pages on the rumors (all modern) that Chaucer’s wife Philippa was the mistress of John of Gaunt, Chaucer’s friend and patron, and speculations about Chaucer’s attitudes toward William Langland (“Chaucer avoided him as he would the plague, but he kept track of his work . . . .” ) and John Gower. The untenable theory that the Gatwzin-poet was one John Massey is welcomed uncritically, and in general it must be remarked that though Gardner mastered a considerable body of Chaucerian scholarship to write this biography, his love of the sensational rendered him uncritical and his scholarship unreliable.

The Novels of Anthony Trollope, by James R. Kincaid. Oxford $21.50

At length and in considerable detail, Kincaid presents an intensive analysis of Trollope’s aims, intentions, accomplishments—and failures. The question he answers at length is this: “Is Trollope the last of the old-fashioned novelists, working snugly within safe conventions and allowing to his readers a full indulgence in the nostalgic pleasure of recognition, or is he the first of the practitioners of “open form,” anticipating the freest experiments in fiction and holding a moral outlook so advanced it is best understood as “situation ethics”?” Kincaid lines up the critics on both sides and concludes that “both answers are, in their way, correct.” He comes to this conclusion by working his way through all the novels, major and minor, early and late. His judgments are not always the conventional ones. A fairly broad acquaintance with Trollope’s work is definitely a requirement for reading this book with enjoyment.

Chekhov: A Study of the Major Stories and Plays, by Beverly Hahn. Cambridge $19.95

Another bit of Chekhoviana? Yes, and let there be no weary sighs. This is a splendid piece of literary criticism that enhances our understanding of the man who stands, it seems reasonable to say, at the top of the second level of great Russian writers. Unlike Tolstoy (not to speak of those strange gentlemen, Gogol and Turgenev), Chekhov had a way with his female characters that made them utterly believable, women as women, and not women as men tend to see them. This book, particularly good on “The Cherry Orchard,” and not bad on “The Lady with the Dog,” gives us new insights into Chekhov’s genius.

The Elizabethan Prodigals, by Richard Helgerson. California $8.95

The view that Elizabethan poets were self-assured adventurers in life, love, and art has been supported only by a wishful belief that the prodigal poets pursued beauty and pleasure as carelessly as they contended in poetry. Helgerson has ably renewed the argument that Gascoigne, Lyly, Greene, Lodge, and Sidney were seriously troubled by the moral implications of vain pursuits in a world of admonition and achievement. If the thesis is not new, it is cogently put and not so widely circulated as it ought by rights to be. The contentions of this monograph require wider application and much discussion, suggesting that this slim volume is a very worthwhile contribution to the history of literature.

Precious Bane: Collins and the Miltonic Legacy, by Paul S. Sherwin. Texas $10.95

Collins’s relation to Milton provides a splendid test case for this, the first extended application of Harold Bloom’s theory of poetic influence to a specific, complex, already well-studied body of writing. Collins was mad, and so has already been the subject of intense psychological scrutiny; Collins was obsessed by the unreachable example of Milton. And yet Sherwin’s excellent book owes few if any of its major insights to Bloom’s theory. To Bloom we may perhaps attribute Sherwin’s greatest vice: seeing Milton under every couplet and behind every cesura of all Collins’s work, but this focus does bring out connections (Bloomian or not) that are useful for a nontheoretical criticism.

Wieland and “Memoirs of Carwin,” by Charles Brockden Brown, edited by Sidney Krause and S. W. Reid. Kent State $20

Volume I of the projected five-volume Bicentennial Edition of Brockden Brown bears the MLA stamp of textual approval, witness to the scientific editing procedures of Fredson Bowers, and the weight of 120 pages of textual apparatus (as compared to 310 pages of text). Despite excessively flaunting its textual purity, this heavy volume presents an entirely readable text and contains as well a brief but suggestive historical essay on the novels.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRSEnemies of Society, by Paul Johnson. Atheneum $9.95

A former editor of the left-wing New Statesman, Paul Johnson has all too obviously decided that he can make a bit of a splash, not to mention cash, by way of apostasy, and in this silly book he undertakes to destroy Marx, Freud, the Enlightenment, social progress, and civilized behavior. All of the above may, of course, fall but not from the ineffectual blows of a simpleton like Johnson. There is, as they say, no zealot like a converted zealot, and Johnson has converted to jungle warfare as the norm of human relations. At least it pays well.

The Soviet Union and International Oil Politics, by Arthur J. Klinghoffer. Columbia $16.50

Few countries can play the capitalist game as well as the Soviet Union. If the wheat coup of the early 1970’s still rankles many Americans, the coming oil ploy—in fact it is already here—is going to create a sustained nightmare. The Soviets were a bit slow to sort out the significance of the OPEC embargo, perhaps thinking that Mr. Kissinger’s heavily veiled threats to send troops to the Middle East might be translated into action. When they saw the light, they responded, and they promptly threw even their own satellites’ economies out-of-kilter by charging them the world price for crude. Mr. Klinghoffer has made a valiant effort to get at the roots of Soviet oil policy, but he falls a little short, principally because he is weak in his knowledge of the internal mechanisms of Soviet decision-making. His book is nevertheless a moderately useful introduction to an explosive problem.

In The Peoples Republic, by Orville Schell. Random House $8.95

In a book subtitled “An American’s Firsthand View of Living and Working in China,” Schell records with vivid journalistic skill (comparable to Hedrick Smith’s The Russians) the China he experienced while touring, assembling generators in a Shanghai factory, and laboring at the Taichai People’s Commune. More than a sensitively written travelogue, it is a fine piece of ethnographic fieldwork, constructing with disarming honesty the meaning of Chinese collectivist culture by counter-pointing our own individualistic traditions.

The Newscasters, by Ron Powers. St. Martins Press $8.95

This book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning television critic is almost as superficial as the “news business” it attacks as “show business.” Powers uses a melodramatic style to make the point that television news is on the air to make money. This should be no surprise, but news executives have been treating Powers as if his revelations had given away sacred professional secrets. There are interesting behind-the-scenes chats with news personalities and revealing (and horrifying) descriptions of the use of consultants to reshape news programs, but the book fails to address a fundamental question: since the majority of the American public relies on television as its principal news source, could it be that “show business” is just what the public wants?

Technology, World Politics and American Policy, by Victor Basiuk. Columbia $17.50

Mr. Basiuk has written a timely and co-herent study of the interrelationship of technology and society and a series of recommendations for American public policy in international relations. As expected, he notes the increasing global inter-dependence arising from technological developments, but he does not assume that such integration will bring harmonious relations. On the contrary, he raises important questions about the ability of governments to cope either within their areas of governance or without to control the effects of this new society. Yet he insists that nation-states will remain the principal actors in world politics, and it is to the quality of their decision-making processes that one must look for the ability to mobilize people and resources in the solution of contemporary problems. He examines the sociopolitical context and impact of technological trends and the linkage between such trends and the global patterns of power and stability. In a useful section, he also evaluates the ability of the developed regions to cope with increasing complexity. An excellent introduction to an important aspect of international affairs.

Between Center and Periphery—Grassroots Politicians in Italy and France, by Sidney Tarrow. Vale $15

Professor Tarrow examines the political links and interactions between national politics in Italy and France and local politics in the villages, cities, and towns. He argues that in the modern state, one must define local politics in terms of the constraints and resources identified and largely influenced at the national level. Hence, grassroot politics is very largely concerned with lobbying, entrepreneurship, and brokerage in attempts to secure one’s place with the center and to integrate the periphery within the broad context of national politics. He also adds some important insights on the role of Communist leaders at the local level who appear to exhibit most of the traits of other party politicians. An interesting and useful contribution to the growing literature on local government.

The Military and Politics in Modern Times, by Amos Perlmutter. Yale $15

This is the best comparative study of civil-military relations in the 20th century that has appeared to date. It will be the standard by which any future studies will be measured. Perlmutter addresses himself to a broad spectrum of problems in civil-military relations: organization, psychology, military types, etc. He divides military professionals into three types. First, the professional along the lines of the West, including Japan and the U. S. S. R. Second, the Praetorian type, most often found in Latin America and Africa. Finally, the professional revolutionary of China, some Arab states, and, most interestingly, Israel. One might dispute his observation that the Western-style professional officer ought to be the managerial-type bureaucrat he has all too often become (a factor Perlmutter regards as to the improvement of the military) instead of the charismatic combat officer of old. Perlmutter ought never to forget that the battle is the pay-off for the military, and the charismatic leader is indispensable on the battlefield. Yet his observations are only partly invalidated by that criticism. There is more stimulation of thought in this scholarly work than any other study on the subject. A landmark contribution.

The Anarchial Society. A Study of Order in World Politics, by Hedley Bull. Columbia $20

Professor Bull asks three basic questions about the concept of order in world politics: (1) What do we mean by the word “order” when we speak of the international system? (2) How is world political order maintained? (3) Are there alternatives to the present system that make sense? This last-mentioned question is very much dependent upon a particular view of permanence or impermanence in human nature which Professor Bull implicitly assumes operates to make some policies more reasonable than others. This work is divided into three parts that separately explore these themes and tie them together into a coherent study. Among the highlights of this provocative study are Bull’s discussion of Kissinger’s vision of world order, the role of the balance of power in the modern world, and order vs. justice in politics. A genuine contribution to literature on international relations.

The Totalitarian Temptation, by Jean Francois Revel. Doubleday $8.95

Revel’s earlier book, Without Marx or Jesus, was intended to provoke controversy about the direction of modern society. In it Revel largely succeeded in making of himself something of a controversial figure in contemporary French literature. That deserved reputation, however, was built on a basically shallow understanding of the complexity of political life. Here, in his latest work, Revel hits upon an oft-noted theme in modern life, the predilection of intellectuals for a totalitarian political system. But Revel takes a sound idea and weakens it by calling for his own romanticized nostrum of global socialism with a humanitarian face. The roots of much modern tyranny lie in such schemes, and it is Revel’s unwillingness to face seriously the challenge of Camus, and others—that this is where one must begin to unravel the dilemma of modern politics—that finally undermines his conclusions. It is, however, about half right as a thesis, and that is considerably better than many of the theses set forth by his contemporaries. For all of its weaknesses, it is stimulating reading.

The Collapse of Liberal Empire: Science and Revolution in the Twentieth Century, by Paul N. Goldstene. Yale $10

Mr. Goldstene, a professor of government, has synthesized an imaginative critique of the modern world of liberal assumptions, a critique that melds the sometimes cryptic logic of social and political philosophy with the ailing ecology of liberal ideology.

Doing Better and Feeling Worse: Health in the United States, edited by John H. Knowles, M. D. Norton $9.95

Twenty physicians, economists, and social scientists consider American health policy and medical care in this stimulating collection, the product of the generous public spirit of the Rockefeller Foundation. No uniform approach is made to a wide range of topics, including costs, services, training, ethics, research, and technology. If the contributors agree that medicine has accomplished very much in the past 20 years, they provide very different views on the goals, obligations, and rewards of health care at present and in the future. The inevitable plethora of statistics is enriched by a generally high standard of literacy and by the remarkable thoughtfulness of the distinguished contributors. It is well to know that pathologists, administrators, sociologists, medical historians, psychiatrists, and internists manage to think over and express the problems of sick folks and healers so well and so vigorously. This volume is not complete or even balanced; it is, however, the best symposium on the subject in print.

The Unmaking of a President—Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam, by Herbert Y. Schandler. Princeton $16.50

A thorough and sober assessment of the official reevaluation of American policy and purposes in the Vietnam War after the Tet offensive of 1968. Schandler’s study indicates most forcefully that elements of military strategy, while important, were less decisive than public opinion, party politics, domestic programs, monetary difficulties, and the particular mix of personalities involved in the decision-making process. The complexity of the decision-making process is revealed in enormous detail as is the poignancy of Lyndon Johnson’s position. The irony of the Tet offensive is that it was clear within the retrospect of days of the attack that the North Vietnamese had suffered a serious military setback and that the South Vietnamese government was more resilient than anyone expected. Yet the combination of forces within the United States made a completely military judgment impossible. A fascinating insight into a critical period and into the multifaceted nature of decision-making.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict, edited by John Norton Moore. Princeton $30

Professor Moore has edited within one volume many of the readings and documents contained within the 1975 three-volume set and updated the work to include documents through December 1975 and readings to April 1976. As in the earlier set, the study first examines through a series of readings the underlying issues, the 1967 and 1973 wars, and the problems and proposals for a settlement. The latter part of the work includes documents ranging from the Basle program and Balfour Declaration to General Assembly Resolution 3414 (XXX) concerning the situation in the Middle East, Dec. 5, 1975. An excellent overview of the conflict and a balanced presentation of competing views in a form which should make the study more readily available to the general student.

FICTIONA Family Gathering, by T. Alan Broughton. Dutton $7.95

Alan Broughton does not hesitate to treat subjects that have been treated before, but he does it so well that one cannot hold it against him. Not since Catcher in the Rye have we had such a perceptive study of a young boy’s coming of age. After Holden Caulfield, Lawson Wright, and Lawson does not suffer from the comparison. One regrets that the two other principal characters, Bailey and Jacqueline, are comparatively dim. The author clearly wishes these two, the parents, to stand on their own, but it would have been a better book if we had seen them only through Lawson’s eyes. When this has been said, there is nothing left but praise for a very absorbing first novel. There is a marvelous description of a country wedding that must surely take a place among the classics of its kind. Altogether a novel to be read and enjoyed for some time to come.

Attachments, by Judith Rossner. Simon & Schuster $9.95

Credit is due Ms. Rossner for having written the kind of fast-paced, readable commercial novel that will likely sell as quickly as it is printed. Who, after all, could resist a book about a pair of middle-class women who seek out, bed, and wed Siamese twins? Yet if we are expected to take this book as something more than a supermarket shocker, honesty requires that we point out that the dialogues are often trite; that the interminable word-play—the title and the physical condition of the twins, for example—snaps with all of the subtlety of bubble gum; and that beneath the intriguingly bizarre veneer lies the tired but self-important theme of contemporary female discontentment that is fast becoming the abiding cliche of a decade of American women writers of fiction.

The Silmarillion, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Houghton Mifflin $10.95

For many readers, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings hinted of arcane matters far beyond the borders of a mere adventure tale. The Silmarillion is the Bible we always suspected underlay The Ring. It is Tolkien’s invented religion, couched in Biblical language and obviously influenced by the Eddas and William Morris. Any narrative matter is abstract and aloof as befits a tale told by High Elves. And like the Bible, The Silmarillion represents the obsessive, inconsistent, and gradual accretion of heterogeneous material over a long period of time.

The Boardwalk, by Robert Kotlowitz. Knopf $8.95

Atlantic City, while still a queen of resorts in 1939, is the setting for this story of a 14-year-old boy whose world changes markedly during his annual vacation. He enjoys the sea and its pleasures, he indulges in the less public excitements of adolescence, and he hears of and dreads the Hitlerian march into Poland, where he still has many relatives. Adolescence is a troubled enough time, but these triple troubles tend to strengthen Teddy, a result which would be very much desired in any ethnic milieu.

The Man from Next Door, by Honor Tracy. Random House $7.95

This twice-told tale (once from the view-point of the woman, and once from that of “the man next door”) is given life by the writer’s sure technique. The narrative carries one along, there is just enough mystery to keep one searching for its solution, and there is a large enough sprinkling of rather odd characters to keep the book well seasoned. It may add up to minor Tracy, but minor Tracy much surpasses major efforts by many other writers.

The Death of the King’s Canary, by Dylan Thomas and John Davenport. Viking $7.95

This long unpublished writing of one of our most significant poets is exotic indeed. Satire, libelous parody, and considerable absurdity on the part of a literary house-party make for a pungent murder mystery. Thomas and Davenport probably take unfair liberties in that unwritten contract of writer and reader of the whodunit, and certainly the savagery of the parodies is bewildering. Yet, somehow, this novel works. It is extremely funny, although much of the portraiture of Eliot, Auden, Spender, and others, is so intimate as to be unrecognizable. One need not be an insider to appreciate the darker life of art expressed so elegantly in the poetry and prose of this engaging farce. No death of a poet laureate could be more satisfactory.

Staggerford, by John Hassler. A theneum $8.95

With a small Mid-west town as locale and a youngish, mild-mannered man as hero, Staggerford surprises the reader with its humor, its tension, and its unusual revelations of the uncommon aspects of commonplace life. The author immerses his audience in the excitements of his townspeople; he leads it step by unsuspecting step to his final tragedy; and only that final violence jars. A remarkable first novel.

The Walnut Door, by John Hersey. Knopf $7.95

It is the interregnum between Woodstock and Watergate. In New Haven, Elaine Quinlan, on the run from her own recent past, rents an apartment and awaits transformation. Across town, longhaired locksmith Eddie Macaboy, part of the detritus of the New Left, orchestrates a kinky burglary in Elaine’s apartment to promote his wares—solid walnut doors and complicated locks—as well as his favorite indoor sport—entrapment, d la The Collector. Lesser hands might have developed this loopy outline into a good, trashy suspense story, or even a black comedy. But Hersey plays it straight, infusing the book with a baffling seriousness of purpose that is occasionally unintentionally amusing, but mostly just plain feeble.

The Consul’s File, by Paul Theroux. Houghton Mifflin $8.95

Two score tales of contemporary Malaysia, as seen through the eyes of a young but alert American diplomat who relieves his boredom by observing and recording the goings-on of the locals, whose numbers include witch doctors, dropout Americans, and seedier versions of the Anglos that inhabit books by Maugham and Greene, as well as every “B” movie ever set on a rubber plantation. Theroux’s penchant for funny names is much in evidence, and the stories flow one from another in an intuitively sensible manner. A fine storyteller at his peak.

Next of Kin, by Al Dewlen. Doubleday $7.95

An Establishment-type father whose only son is killed in Vietnam embarks on a vendetta to discover and kill the anonymous author of hate mail desecrating the memory of his martyred hero. His mission involves him with the world of the anti-Establishment youth culture. Just in time he realizes that in his avenging frenzy to destroy his victim he is simultaneously destroying himself. Such is the strong story used by the author to present a powerful picture of a complex moral dilemma of the 70’s.

A Sea-Grape Tree, by Rosamond Lehmann. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $7.95

This is a small story (just 160 pages) of a woman who is jilted by her married lover, which is not exactly a new theme. It is set in a Victorian boardinghouse in the Caribbean. The cast is an odd assortment of oddballs, mostly British expatriates, including a Grande Dame with alleged psychic powers. All ends well for everyone except the reader.

Avalanche Express, by Colin Forbes. E. P. Dutton $8.95

This is a thriller dealing with a 1,000-mile railroad chase by the Russian KGB to capture a defecting double agent from NATO intelligence officers. It is so exciting and so full of suspenseful intrigue it makes one wonder why we continue to tolerate the dull and dreary dramas regularly inflicted upon us by our current stage, screen, and television.

Cry Wolf, by Wilbur Smith. Doubleday $10

A generation ago Evelyn Waugh wrote the definitive satire, full of fun and fury, on the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in his biting and hilarious novel Scoop. He must now yield to Wilbur Smith, whose treatment of the same theme is as good as his, if not better. It took courage, if not gall, for the author to challenge Waugh on the same turf, but he has pulled it off successfully.

LIVES & LETTERSFriends, Enemies and Sovereigns, by Sir John Wheeler-Bennett. St. Martins $8.95

This posthumous publication is the last contribution in a three-volume autobiographical account, the first concentrating on Wheeler-Bennett’s recollections of European politics in the interwar period and the second focusing on his connections with the American scene both before and during the Second World War. In this volume, he examines in fascinating and witty detail his role in the recording of history— studies of the German Army, Munich, and the Nuremberg aftermath of the war, his biography of King George VI. What is revealed in this as in the other volumes is not only a keen observer and master of the English language but an extraordinarily warm and attractive human being. The dedication of the book is typical of this loyal son of England and friend of the United States: “With humble duty and by gracious permission I dedicate this book to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother with deep devotion . . . John Wheeler-Bennett.”

A Rumor of War, by Philip Caputo. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $10

It is difficult to know where to begin an analysis of this first-rate memoir of a Marine lieutenant’s experience with war. It is unquestionably the very best work to appear on the Vietnam war and one of the finest pieces of American writing on war from the ground in this century. The fascination of Caputo’s account is not that his experiences were typical or his reactions to the war commonplace among veterans— both of these interpretations would be only partly true. What Caputo has done is to capture the sounds of men at war as no other American writer has ever done. Those sounds will surely evoke a response from veterans of the Vietnam conflict, but equally anyone who ever served in the military will feel that this memoir somehow speaks to him. If there is any book published last year that ought to be read by everyone, it is this one.

William Blake: A New Kind of Man, by Michael Davis. California $12.95

Davis’s new life of Blake is an accurate, middle-level introduction, neither frustratingly cursory nor tiringly thorough. Short exegeses of the major poetry and outlines of Blake’s artistic innovations, all in themselves quite informative, appear like unexpected guests in the narrative, which is also punctuated by 69 unusually well reproduced plates (eleven in color). What is not made clear is this book’s purpose: none of Davis’s information is new; similar introductory books on Blake already exist, though none is so handsome. A final mystery: Davis never in his text illuminates his book’s subtitle, so that we never learn what made Blake “a new kind of man.”

Jack London, the Man, the Writer, the Rebel, by Robert Barltrop. Urizen $10

The author asserts that he wishes to “view Jack London as a writer, a socialist, and whatever else, a man.” He fails on all counts. As a writer, London is characterized as a hack, oblivious to art, interested only in fame and a fast buck. Jack London as socialist hero emerges from this biography as a pretentious buffoon, uncertain whether he is one of the toiling masses or a Nietzschean superman. Although Barltrop obviously wishes to recommend Jack London as a writer to be taken seriously, this study of London’s career offers few reasons why anyone should be curious about either the man, his ideas, or his books.

The Other Woman: A Life of Violet Trefusis, by Philippe Jullian and John Phillips. Houghton Mifflin $10

The authors tell us that while Violet Trefusis was never a people snob, she did know who owned the smartest houses. Vita Sackville-West had one of them, and it was with Vita that Violet fell in love and stayed in love for years—all her life, really—after the excitement of their celebrated affair had, for Vita, dissipated. The book is filled with larger-than-life characters—King Edward VII was Violet’s mother’s lover and was always lounging about—but, as the book drags on, we discover that, the authors’ protestations to the contrary, Violet’s life really didn’t amount to much. She wrote some and gave swell parties at her country place in France; but aside from those three years with Vita, that was pretty much it.

At Random: The Reminiscences of Bennett Cerf. Random House $12.95

Not a memoir in the usual sense, this volume offers Cerf’s contribution to the Columbia Oral History Project, as edited and supplemented by his widow, Phyllis Wagner, and old Random House hand, Albert Erskine. Through scores of fresh and breezy (if uncharacteristically punless) anecdotes, Cerf gives some fascinating insights into the New York publishing hurly-burly between 1923 and 1970. Of particular interest are his accounts of Horace Liveright’s influence and downfall, the comical maneuverings behind the Ulysses


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