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Notes on Current Books, Winter 1979

ISSUE:  Winter 1979

Beverly Tucker was a Virginia gentleman and professor of law at William and Mary. Growing up in post-revolutionary Virginia, he was extraordinarily sensitive to the eroding position of the Eastern planter aristocracy in the antebellum South. Although Tucker’s response to the problems posed by the economic, political, and social changes of the 19th century was extreme and reactionary, it was nevertheless revealing about the way Southern gentlemen, in general, responded to 19th-century changes and to criticisms of the way of life in the old South. Brugger raises the interesting question of why those Southern aristocrats, disturbed by the changes, reacted by isolating themselves and romanticizing the past in contrast to the equally discontented New Englanders, who threw their imaginative and creative energies into plans for the future.

Brugger successfully weaves together the personal psychological development of Tucker with the changing environment in which he lived. The biography portrays with insight the character and ideals of this early secessionist, who so well perceived and expressed the discontent of his class yet was so little capable of responding to it constructively.

The Chinese Connection, by Warren I. Cohen. Columbia $16.50

This is an interesting biography of three men who were influential in the shaping of American policies toward East Asia: Roger S. Greene, a former diplomat associated with the Rockefeller Foundation; Thomas W. Lamont, of J. P. Morgan and Company, and George E. Sokolsky, a right-wing journalist. The reader certainly learns a great deal about the backgrounds and opinions of these men as well as about their access to decision-makers. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the book is the author’s description of the American national debate over collective security from 1938 to 1941.The author is less than successful, however, in his aim of providing a sophisticated analysis of the foreign policy-making process.

The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy, Volume I: 1840—1892, edited by Richard L. Purdy and Michael Millgate. Oxford $28.75

Even so fine an edition of Hardy’s letters as this promises to be may not deeply penetrate the profound reserve of this elusive man. Yet the diligence of these editors—in the face of severe obstacles, such as the destruction of much of Hardy’s most intimate correspondence—has achieved a most significant result in this first volume. The period of time with which it is concerned is largely one of lost or highly impersonal correspondence, yet there are moments in these letters that reveal in sharp detail the moods and ambitions of the architect who was to become one of the foremost novelists in English. Of particular interest is much evidence of Hardy’s extreme sensitivity to criticism and to history—as if his reserve were to forestall future biographers. If these precious few early letters throw fleeting light on Hardy’s maturation, future volumes, so excellently edited, will prove a considerable treasure—this is a project well and fittingly begun.

Genji Days, by Edward G. Seidensticker. Kodansha $15

This is probably as close to the Japanese nikki, poetic diary, as any current work in English. It is a charming autobiographical account of Professor Seidensticker’s experiences and reflections while he was engaged in the monumental translation of the Genji Monogatari. The entry for Sunday, September 30 1973, reads: “. . . a memorable day. I finished my first draft of the Genji.” In reading this diary, one shares with the writer the discouragements and triumphs, the random experiences and technical problems encountered by one of the great translators of our day.

Francis Jeffrey, by Philip Flynn. Delaware $12

For more than a quarter of a century, as editor of the Edinburgh Review, Francis Jeffrey shaped British thought about politics, philosophy, and letters, Flynn provides short, clear summaries of these areas of Jeffrey’s work, interlarded with brief and impersonal sketches of the most important events in his life. Flynn’s book, however, is too elementary to be very useful. His background material on Hume and Scots philosophy is easily accessible elsewhere; much more helpful would have been some study of Jeffrey’s influence, rather than his sources.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, by Frances Donaldson. Lippincott $12.95

Lady Donaldson, who gave us a biography of Edward VIII, has now given us an affable, indeed almost adulatory, account of his younger brother and wife. Her telling of their story makes clear the admiration and the affection the two gained from their people in one of the most difficult of English reigns—the way he succeeded Windsor, the manner in which they gave wartime courage and comfort to the Commonwealth, and her magnificent acceptance of widowhood. Along with the text, more than 50 pages of personal photographs, many unpublished before, make this an appealing and attractive volume.

Silent Missions, by Vernon A. Walters. Doubleday $12.95

To those who have studied the few available transcripts, Vernon Walters’s translations often seemed more in the nature of interpretations, but that mattered little to the five presidents (as he notes with justifiable pride) who used his undoubted linguistic skills. Walters, who ended his career in the Watergate-era CIA, went everywhere, knew everyone, and kept his nose clean. He did not make waves, and the movers and shakers like that. He was discreet, he was honest, and he did not chase women. His greatest joy, and his favorite verb, is “to fly.” And to think what he might have told us.

With Trotsky in Exile, by Jean van Heijenoort. Harvard $12.50

A man like Trotsky had more than enough enemies to go around, and so he surrounded himself with as many bodyguards as he could afford, That usually meant two. From 1932 to 1939 one of the two was a young Frenchman of Flemish origin, Jean van Heijenoort. In these memoirs, inexplicably delayed for many years, van Heijenoort gives one of the most revealing portraits ever of Leon Trotsky; indeed, one is tempted to say that this may well be the best study yet of Lenin’s colleague and Stalin’s rival. It is not without its faults, but it stands as an invaluable corrective to the miserably tendentious accounts of the late Isaac Deutscher and others.

The Illustrated Pepys, selected and edited by Robert Latham. California $15.95

This edition of Pepys’s diaries has been culled from the nine-volume unexpurgated edition published by the University of California Press. The abridgement is severe—the editor estimates that only one-twelfth of the diaries are included—but this loss is somewhat compensated for by judicious selection, especially of the most amorous passages, reproduced in Pepys’s curious polyglot pidgin. Fourteen color plates and 80 halftones adorn the volume; the plates are particularly fine. Two plates of London Bridge in the 17th century will make those of us who never saw it regret its replacement by the one now in Arizona.

Selected Letters of John O’Hara, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Random House $17.95

It is not surprising that a writer like O’Hara, with such a keen sense of detail and a sharp ear for the vernacular, should write such flowing, vivid, and engaging letters. In his letters, O’Hara assumes the many personas he pursued in life: he is at once the socially-aware almost Yalie, the New York raconteur, the dutiful father, and the writer working hard for a living. In a collection so varied and revealing, one is bound to find letters that demonstrate personal flaws. But these less attractive letters are more than balanced by O’Hara at his most congenial and most literary. His letters to The New Yorker are alone worth the price of the book.

The Case of Walter Pater, by Michael Levey. Thames and Hudson $14.95

In imitation of Pater’s own style, this dreamy, affecting, and finally evasive biography conveys a portrait of Pater more convincing in light of Pater’s works than any that has yet appeared. Working rather by suggestion and allusion and a skillful manipulation of context than by analysis, Levey’s book has the air of one of Pater’s Imaginary Portraits. It has also their carefully masked emptiness: Levey’s Pater never had a single idea but wrote, as he thought, only about himself. If this is all there is to Pater, Levey’s biography is as unjustified as is his account of his subject’s fame. But there is more to Pater—and less in Levey’s engrossing story than meets the eye.

The Memoirs of Anthony Powell, Volume II: Messengers of Day. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $10.95

If you enjoy name-dropping autobiographies, this is the book for you. It opens with Powell, just down from Oxford, beginning work in a publisher’s office and carries through those first heady years in London. The style is chatty and irregular, suggestive more of a daily journal, unedited, than of a finished memoir. (Example: “Plunket Greene was a friend of Rosa Lewis, but we struck a night when she was absent, accordingly nothing at all going on; all Cavendish life completely dependent on the proprietoress.”) All the names dropped are not well known, but they are dropped as though they were. (Example: “Basil Hambrough had met Gerald Reitlinger through Dorothy Warren (married to Philip Trotter, another former Welsh Guardsman) lively founder of the Warren Gallery in Maddox Street, scene of many avant-garde shows, not a few controversies, though by then Dorothy Warren had, I think, herself given up the Gallery.”) If Powell’s memoirs may be described as like his major novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time, the dance indicated here is a lively jig.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, by Steven Allaback. Taplinger $9.95

The blurb praises this book as a “probing study” and a “masterly guide.” It is wise to be wary of advertising in books as in other merchandise. The fact is that Mr. Allaback knows no Russian and, it is soon clear, very little about Russian literature. His book is poorly written and contains secondhand opinions culled from a handful of books and articles in English by authors far more sophisticated and knowledgeable than he is. The reader interested in learning more about Solzhenitsyn would do better to go to those sources than Mr. Allaback’s pedestrian account.

Linotte: The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1914—1920. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $14.95

For admirers of Nin, this childhood diary has a different kind of appeal; it portrays a more tender, idealistic, and religious personality, with many longings for her father and outbursts of patriotic fervor. Beginning at the age of eleven when her father deserted the family, Anaïs records her journey from Spain to New York, her impressions of America, her family’s doings, and all the struggles of an adolescent. Unlike the six volumes published previously, this diary was not shaped later by the author; but apart from the unpolished surface, the writing reflects the same soul-searching dreamer who composed Nin’s great memoirs.

HISTORYAmericans in a Changing World, by William Appelman Williams. Harper & Row $20

Historian William Appelman Williams is best remembered for his critical appraisals of American foreign policy. In this volume he turns his attention to other aspects of American life since 1900 and in the process has produced a “New Left” textbook for the masses. Openly admitting his biases, Williams eagerly endorses a nebulous philosophy which he describes as “democratic socialism.” To him, American “success” should be defined only as those actions which over time have turned out to be “morally and aesthetically admirable.” What emerges here, therefore, is not so much the 20th-century history of the United States but rather a lamentation by the author on how “a once revolutionary society [proved] unable to break free of the status quo.”

Adams and Jefferson: A Revolutionary Dialogue, by Merrill D. Peterson. Georgia $7 cloth; Oxford $2.95 paper

Of all the books written to celebrate the American Bicentennial, this is the best. Brief and easily read, it is an excellent introduction to John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two of the most fascinating and most important founding fathers. By following their dialogue of 50 years on the meaning and purpose of the Revolution, one obtains an appreciation for the complexity of that event. Even specialists in the field should find this a profound and moving work. Mr. Peterson has succeeded here as an historian of ideas and as a biographer.

Confucian Gentlemen and Barbarian Envoys: The Opening of Korea, 1875—1885, by Martina Deuchler. Washington $20

This is a careful and detailed study of some of the most intricate portions of modern Korean history, ending with the Convention of Tientsin in 1885.It is of interest primarily to advanced students of Far Eastern politics. Not the least of the excellent features of this book is the comprehensive bibliography.

The Russian Fascists: Tragedy and Farce in Exile, 1925—1945, by John J. Stephan. Harper & Row $15

The best thing about this book is a photograph of a brightly lit swastika on a Russian club in Manchouli, Manchuria, just a couple of miles from the Soviet frontier. No doubt the Soviet border guards did not like that. As for the rest, this is just much ado about almost nothing. The author came across some papers left by some eccentric Russians, one of whom had married an American heiress, and was thus able to finance a few harebrained schemes to link up the Russian emigres with Hitler. Nothing came of it, of course; Hitler had some strange allies, but he normally did not look for them among the ranks of the disoriented. There is next to nothing in the book about General Vlasov, admittedly not a Fascist but a man who certainly fought with the Nazis on a fairly wide scale.

The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 in Retrospect, edited by Béla K. Király and Paul Jónás. Columbia $11

It is a measure of our cynicism that “Budapest” has not taken on the same kind of connotations as “Munich.” More than two decades ago, the world watched, fascinated, as the Soviet monster crushed its Hungarian prey. John Foster Dulles spoke on November 1 of his “heavy heart,” but he was referring to the vote he was about to cast in the U. N. General Assembly against Britain, France, and Israel for their Suez operation. As for Hungary (where American propaganda had played a still not thoroughly explained role in fomenting revolution), Mr. Dulles and his colleagues at State had little to say. Indeed, as Robert Murphy later said, no one in the Eisenhower Administration had the “skill or the imagination” to devise a plan to save Hungary. The country was simply written off to the Soviets, and that was that. It was not exactly our most shining hour. This collection of essays on the Hungarian tragedy is timely and important, and it deserves a wide audience.

The First Hundred Years (Of the University of Virginia School of Law), by John Ritchie. Virginia $9.95

This could have been a dull documentary presentation of the first century of Thomas Jefferson’s law school. Instead, one of its most distinguished alumni has enriched us with an illustrated and charming chronicle on the origin and growth of one of the nation’s great centers of legal education. History buffs in general as well as U. Va. graduates in particular will read this delightful exposition with much enjoyment and enlightenment.

The Faustball Tunnel, by John Hammond Moore. Random House $8.95

Few Americans remember that nearly half a million prisoners of war were housed in five hundred camps throughout the United States during the Second World War.The Faustball Tunnel is a very interesting reconstruction of an escape by 25 German prisoners of war from an Arizona prison camp in 1944. The strength of this book lies in Moore’s style of personalizing the digging of the 178-foot tunnel and the escape from the prison compound. He based his research primarily on reports issued by U. S. Army inquiry boards which investigated the tunnel escape plus interviews with several people involved in the episode.

The Cultural Roots of National Socialism, by Hermann Glaser. Texas $12.95

This translation of Glaser’s classic indictment of the German “Philistine” mentality brings to the English reader an interesting yet controversial study of the roots of the Nazi regime. Glaser’s weaving of literature, music, and politics provides fascinating insights into the cultural milieu of early 20th-century Germany. At the same time, his central theme stimulates without entirely convincing—that is, the adoption of the Nazi ideology is traced to the cultural decay resulting from the clash of German provincialism, on the one hand, and German Classicism and Romanticism, on the other. Yet, although too much weight seems to be put on his principal thesis, the study does provide a useful dimension to our understanding of the phenomenon of National Socialism.

Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women’s Movement in America, 1848—1869, by Ellen Carol DuBois. Cornell $12.50

This well-written volume in women’s history argues that the American feminist fight for women’s right to vote has been the singlemost important step in the century-old feminist movement, both for permitting participation in the democratic process and for leading to more modern demands. In documenting the short-lived marriage between abolitionism (and black suffrage) and feminism, DuBois proposes that the former, far from eclipsing the woman’s suffrage caucus, only served to strengthen the latter, by highlighting the politically secular potential for abolishing the legal basis of discrimination against a major social group. The later flirtations with the labor movement are also discussed. This is a solid, if uninspired, work.

The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology, by Lance Banning. Cornell $15

This book traces the geneaology of the political-social assumptions Jefferson shared with the men who by the mid-1790’s called themselves Republicans. They had, in short, good reason for doing so, steeped as they were in the writings of 17th-century “republicans” like Harrington and Bolingbroke, Trenchard and Gordon. Banning’s monograph is intelligent and persuasive, and it serves nicely as a general reader’s introduction to current historical views of how ideology brought on the Revolution, sharpened differences in the Confederation period, and shaped the party struggles of the early republic. Yet it contains few surprises, advances no new arguments. Neither wrong nor crassly imitative, it is merely late.The Jeffersonian Persuasion is a pop that earlier might have made a bang.

The United States in Prague, 1945—1948, by Walter Ullmann. Columbia $13

The tragedy that unfolded in Czechoslovakia after World War II was in many respects the most poignant of the disasters that struck all of Eastern Europe. An intelligent, durable, and generally pacific people, the Czechs and Slovaks alone in the area had preserved a democratic state during the interwar period. They had patched up their own differences, they got along well with both the Western Allies and the Russians, and they threatened no one. No one, that is, save for Stalin and his henchmen, who could not conceive of an independent state in East Central Europe. The American diplomats on the scene saw early on what was coming, and they worked as best they could with Jan Masaryk and Eduard Benes to thwart the Communist takeover. It was a hopeless task. Public opinion in America (not to mention Great Britain and France) simply could not support the risk of a new war so soon after the conclusion of hostilities in 1945, and Stalin’s Czechoslovak puppets came to power. There were no heroes in all this, for there could be none; but there were tragic victims and villains in abundance. Mr. Ullmann has told this story in an exceptionally fine manner.

Tutankhamun, by Thomas Hoving. Simon & Schuster $12.95

The former distinguished Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art who brought the fabulous treasures of Tutankhamun, the legendary boy king, on tour to America has written the behind-the-scenes story of the colorful characters involved in the richest discovery in the history of archaeology in Egypt a generation ago. Few fictitious spy thrillers spin as fascinating a yarn as this adventurous true tale full of bitter intrigues, mysterious deaths, and seamy scandals.

Chariot of Fire, by Marie Caskey. Yale $25

Billed as a study of the psychological dimensions of religious belief among the eleven influential offspring of Rev. Lyman Beecher, this book is better described as a dense (but often subtle and revealing) study of formal theology in 19th-century America. Specialists in religious history will find it packed with new insights, But nonspecialists will have to consult other works on the Beechers—McLoughlin on Henry Ward and Sklar on Catherine—before undertaking this difficult volume.

The Pursuit of Equality in American History, by J. R. Pole. California $14.95

This book, the first to examine the changing meaning of equality in American history, evokes both admiration and dissent. Pole, the preeminent British historian of early American history, is at his best in the initial chapters. The discussions of the impact of sectarianism on church-state relations and the emergence of political equality—subjects on which Pole has written before—are sophisticated and informed with brilliant new insights. Still better, perhaps, is the chapter on racism, immigration, and the changing idea of cultural pluralism—a new foray for Pole. But in other areas, such as equality of economic opportunity, the coverage is thin and derivative. The conclusion, too, is unsatisfactory. In the end, the subject remains as elusive as at the beginning—all of which indicates the persistence of American ambivalence to the idea of equality. Much remains to be done on this important problem in American intellectual history. This is not the last word; but for a long time to come, Pole’s work will remain the essential point of departure.

FICTIONThe Execution of Mayor Yin and Other Stories from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, by Chen Jo-hsi. Indiana $8.95

The author of these powerful short stories about the People’s Republic of China was born and educated in Taiwan, did postdoctoral work in the United States, and, as an idealistic Marxist-Maoist, moved to China with her husband in 1966. Chen wrote these stories after their emigration from China in 1973.The stories describe life in China today as no Western visitor or reporter could, yet without the vindictiveness expected of a political refugee. Life in China proved to be far different from the ideals Chen had so admired. Yet the stories are not propagandist indictments of Communist China, but rather passionate and beautiful portrayals of the strengths and frailties of individuals as they express their humanity against the impersonal forces of the government and party bureaucracies.

A Young Man in Search of Love, by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Doubleday $12.95

Winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature, Mr. Singer offers in this work some thinly disguised autobiography. His theme is familiar: Jewish life in Poland at the turn of the century. A worthy successor to Sholem Aleichem, Singer is our last major living link to a world destroyed by Naziism of both the German and the Polish varieties. For those who do not know him and who were surprised—as is frequently the case—by the award of the Nobel, this account of Singer’s youth in Warsaw is one of the better starting places.

The World According to Garp, by John Irving. Button $10.95

The praise accorded this novel has been fully justified. Its rush of imagination, its extraordinary characterization, its relationship of part to part, and its ability to involve the reader reach the highest plane of talent. There is one question it does raise which this reviewer cannot answer. All the four-letter words and all the four-letter-word actions are used with complete innocence as natural extensions of the flow of the novel. Does this, then, mean that such a thing as pornography has disappeared? Or, put another way, no wonder the Supreme Court cannot set up rules as to what is and what is not pornography.

Vessel of Sadness, by William Woodruff. Southern Illinois $8.95

A fictional account of the agonizing Allied attempt in early 1944 to establish a beachhead below Rome at Anzio by one who was there (as a British officer), this short book is not so much a novel as a series of vignettes, nearly all designed to show that, yes, war is hell. There are no main characters, no real heroes, no real villains, only the victims—Allied, German, and innocent Italian—of a wearying battle that lasted more than four months and caused 75,000 casualties. Mr. Woodruff has an almost poetic power to evoke the scenes of suffering so deeply etched in his memory. But there are so many such scenes, so similar to scenes from other WWII books and movies, that the reading becomes a forced march; the vessel ultimately runneth over.

The Last Magic, by N. Richard Nash. Atheneum $10.95

Neither the dust jacket nor the publisher’s blurb so proclaimed, but this may well be the novel of the year. The Pope has died, and the Church is beset by dissension within and terrorism from without. A young American priest survives an affair with a prostitute and then goes on to save the day for the Ecclesiastical Establishment in a fascinating tale of intrigue in the Vatican and hijinks in the Big Apple.

Time in Its Flight, by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. Doubleday $12.95

A long saga of a New England family beginning with the marriage of John Steele and Edna Dickinson, Time in Its Flight traces the Steeles from pre-Civil War to the 1960’s. The characters are interesting; their lives are exciting. The main fault in this book is that it is too long (782 pages). There are extensive, repetitious sections in which Ms. Schaeffer sets up the historical background of her characters. Still the book holds the reader’s interest to the end. Worth reading.

Just Representations, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $6.95 paper

This is an anthology of the writing of the late James Gould Cozzens, containing the text of a complete novel, some short stories and essays, excerpts from novels and diaries, and reviews by various critics. It will be relished by old fans and convert a number of newcomers. For some strange reason, the writer has never achieved the wide acclaim he so richly deserves, but this compilation may well serve to overcome that oversight. His 75th birthday was justly commemorated by this superb collection of his own work which also contains an admirable introduction by the editor.

Splendora, by Edward Swift. Viking $8.95

Story of a transvestite who returns to his home town of Splendora, Texas from New Orleans. This is supposed to be a satirical story, the humor stemming in part from the fact that the inhabitants of Splendora think that the transvestite, Timothy John, is actually a newcomer, Miss Jessie Gatewood. Further complicating matters, the minister falls in love with Miss Gatewood (unaware she is a man). Moderately entertaining novel.

Living in the 25th Hour, by Richard Jones. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $8.95

In this, his fifth novel, Richard Jones displays the irrepressible sense of humor, the eye for detail, and the insight into human character that delighted critics in such earlier works as The Three Suitors and The Tower is Everywhere. And he pushes to an extreme a question that has concerned him all along: Is it possible to achieve and maintain moral sanity in a “post-moral” world?

Picture Palace, by Paul Theroux. Houghton Mifflin $9.95

A woman of 70, a famous photographer, plain, sharp-spoken, and now somewhat reclusive, allows a young curator access to all her photographs in order to arrange a retrospective exhibition. He, like so many critics, reads into her work what he wishes to see. Their tugs of war over his interpretations are useless since he always wins. In the process, however, she relives her life and realizes that the triumphs have not outbalanced the defeats. At the opening of the exhibition, she finds herself invisible both to the guests and in her work, which has been manipulated into a new thing by the curator—a sad conclusion to a robust novel.

The Death of Nora Ryan, by James T. Farrell. Doubleday $10

This is the third Farrell book to have been issued in what may be less than a year, and one can only wonder at the energy displayed by this man well into his seventies. It is his 52nd book and is built up with as much meticulous detail and care as any of the earlier ones, A remarkable and vital demonstration by a remarkable and vital man whose birthdays belie his age.

Getting Up and Going Home, by Robert Anderson. Simon & Schuster $9.95

Would an impressively successful New York lawyer so lose himself in the intricacies of love as to leave his office to spend a long summer playing three women one against the other? In the end it is no wonder that the poor man is depressed, for all three desert him. Even his dog must be put down. Cut free from his past, he wanders inconclusively into a most unpromising sunset.

Innocent Eréndira and Other Stories, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Harper & Row $8.95

If you have not yet treated yourself to the marvelous delights of One Hundred Years of Solitude, try this collection of García Márquez’s short stories just to whet your appetite. The title story, written after his masterpiece, is the best in the book. Erendira, a luckless and unwilling Lolita type, knocks over a candle and burns her grandmother’s house down. Grandmother, a true García Márquez type, promptly forces the girl into prostitution in order to recoup her losses. Eréndira is not exactly overjoyed, but then she, too, is this author’s special creation, and her adventures bear no resemblance to what any reasonable person might expect. In all this—the bizarre, the unexpected, the cruel, and the fantastic—lies the genius of the author. The other stories in this collection, which belong to his youth, are less successful and remind one of the first showy, mannered attempts of (for example) Buñuel in the cinema. But those who read this book will go on, most likely, to One Hundred Years of Solitude, and they will be richly rewarded.

The Death Freak, by John Luckless (a. k. a. Clifford Irving and Herbert Burkholz). Summit Books $8.95

The hoax autobiographer of Howard Hughes has now joined forces with a former writer-in-residence at the College of William and Mary to produce a slambam spoof of the spy novel. A Russian spy and his American counterpart, both expert producers of UKD’s (Unusual Killing Devices), decide they want to come in from the cold, but their respective bosses at the KGB and CIA feel they know too much to retire, except to some spot in the cold, cold ground. So it becomes a case of who gets whom first, as the two UKDers join forces with an anything-but-chaste lass named Chalice in a battle of wits and weapons against their old employers (each aided by a fiendish CYBER-model computer). The locales range from Moscow to Mexico, Washington to Williamsburg, and the bodies pile up in greater profusion than in the last act of Hamlet, but the action never sags and neither will your interest. In short, a nice little case of bonded Bond.

The Welsh Sonata, by James Hanley. Horizon $9.95

James Hanley tells a rich, dark story and tells it well. In The Welsh Sonata, Hanley paints the somber tale of Rhys the Wound, hermit, Bible-toting prophet, and sometimes god to children, whose disappearance from a small Welsh village casts a strange light over the town’s inhabitants, particularly Goronwy Jones, policeman and aspiring bard. Jones’s search for the secret of Rhys’s life and sudden vanishing turns into an unrelenting quest for truth worth enshrining in poetry. As always, Hanley delves deeply into the grim side of experience, revealing the solitude, uncertainty, and conceits that pervade even the simplest of human circumstances.

Another I, Another You, by Richard Schickel. Harper & Row $8.95

Mr. Schickel subtitles his novel “A Love Story for the Once Married.” I fancy it has more sociological value than literary, given the sharp rise in divorce rates in this country and the pedestrian nature of Mr. Schickel’s writing. If you are going to select a first-person narrator, then you need to give him a coherent style and a special angle of vision. If you select a narrator-participant, then you should make sure he or she has an interesting personality. Mr. Schickel does neither, with the result that his story is dull and predictable: there is too much recollection in tranquillity, and the narrator is a bland fellow full of terribly decent thoughts. The characters don’t exist because they cannot surprise us.

LITERARY STUDIESMilton’s Imagery and the Visual Arts, by Roland Mushat Frye. Princeton $37.50

Twenty-five years in its making, a decade devoted almost entirely to its research, this lavishly illustrated study of the iconographic tradition in Milton’s epics is large in design and enormous in scope. It shows clearly that the poet, far from describing what cannot be described, as Dr. Johnson claimed, relied on a pictorial tradition and created from a “great panorama” of painting, mosaics, and sculpture which represent the same subjects and personalities of the epics. For centuries artists had developed a vocabulary of visual imagery known well to Milton’s world but now largely forgotten by us. But as he had an amazing knowledge of literature which he could call up at need, so he seems to have had an equal facility in recalling and using the visual traditions. He must have known representations of angels fallen and unfa-Ben, of the Garden of Eden and the wastes of Hell, of the Fall and the expulsion of Adam and Eve. These works of art, but more importantly the traditions that surround them, join in his far-ranging acquaintance with received knowledge, and that joining makes the epics what they are. That, of course, and genius.

Invitation to Goethe’s Faust, by H. G. Haile. Alabama $12,75

An unabashed admirer of Goethe’s great work, Professor Haile gives a close reading of most of its important portions. He sees it in part as “a kind of Everyman drama” in its central fiction; but he also sees the main issue as “Individual Man’s specific identity.” With these themes, he explores how the drama sets forth the fiction that embodies the meaning of experience on earth for an individual. His study concludes with a valuable summary of Goethean scholarship during the last decade.

Medievalia et Humanistica, vol. 8, edited by Paul Maurice Clogan. Cambridge $22.50

This has become one of the most distinguished of the learned journals devoted to medieval and Renaissance culture, and this year’s offering of eleven essays and three review articles is perhaps the best in the new series. Studies on medieval history, aesthetics, rhetoric, oral formulaic diction, and exegesis are joined by perceptive essays on Chaucer, the Towneley plays, Everyman, and Gower. Particularly fine are Robert Hollander’s study of Boccaccio’s chiose to the Teseida, Jeanne Martin’s use of Eusebian historiography to explicate the Towneley cycle plays, and Marvin Colker’s learned survey of recent paleographical scholarship.

The Poetic Art of A. E. Housman: Theory and Practice, by B. J. Leggett. Nebraska $9.95

Leggett’s book has two outstanding merits: if a little too self-consciously, Leggett does take Housman seriously as a poet and critic; having done so, he has much that is fresh to say about both A Shropshire Lad and Housman’s only critical attempt, the 1933 lecture on The Name and Nature of Poetry. Careful chapters analyze Housman’s “mithridatic” theory of poetry (Trilling’s phrase) and its surprising but genuine parallels in the theories of such Freudians as Simon Lesser and Norman Holland; a refreshing comparison proves that the critical views of Housman and Eliot are not so different as disgruntled auditors of The Name and Nature of Poetry once supposed Leggett’s readings of particular poems stem from his premise (established in an earlier book) that Housman’s lyrics are best read in their proper genre as the speeches of a nai’ve persona in which content is commented on by form. Despite Leggett’s diffuse and repetitious style, his book is full of insights both useful and new.

Dostoevsky and the Novel, by Michael Holquist. Princeton $10

Holquist focuses his attention on the formal method of Dostoevsky’s narrative art in pursuit of certain general conclusions concerning Dostoevsky’s very peculiar centrality in the development of the Russian novel. A matter of great interest in recent criticism has been the extent to which the very idiosyncrasies of these novels and especially the pervasive brooding questions of individual identity represent some great Russian national longing for identity. The murky Russian past has indeed ill-prepared each new generation in literature as in politics, as this strange people has pursued a destiny that has been all but coherent. The contribution of this volume is fresh and provocative, and of the slightly impressionistic flavor that tantalizes one with rich intimations of the elusive Russian soul.

Hart Crane and Yuor Winters: Their Literary Correspondence, by Thomas Parkinson. California $11.95

This record of an important literary correspondence gives us an admirably sympathetic characterization of both men, their friendship, and the issues that inevitably separated them. Professor Parkinson’s achievement is the more remarkable because the terms of Winters’ will forbid for many years the publication of his letters. The force of Winters’ character, the seriousness of his commitment to poetry, and the drama of his movement away from Imagism shine through Crane’s letters and Parkinson’s commentary. Crane, too, appears here at his generous best. Parkinson helps us to see the strength of the friendship—which existed almost entirely through letters about poetry, for the two young men met only a few times during Crane’s brief sojourn in southern California—and the reasons why it could not last.

The Unknown Virginia Woolf, by Roger Poole. Cambridge $11.95

Mr. Poole has a bee in his bonnet which buzzes busily. His thesis is that Virginia Woolf was a greatly maligned, mistreated, and unhappy woman, abused in youth by her half brothers and married to a man who was incapable of understanding her, even though he was convinced that she was a genius. Mr. Poole makes extensive use of the novels to bear out his contentions, but throughout has to rely on such phrases as “She must have felt. . . .” and “it does not seem to me. . . .” There is far too much repetition throughout the book. His argument is far from convincing, and the book as a whole from start to finish, in both substance and style, is rather irritating.

Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood, by Jack Sullivan. Ohio $12

In his introduction Jack Sullivan comments on the reasons for the proliferation of the ghost story in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one of them being that “supernatural horror stories provide their authors and readers with a masochistic but relatively safe means of fantasizing the worst.” He then discusses the archetypal ghost story (“Green Tea” by Sheridan Le Fanu), the works of Le Fanu, the anti-quarian ghost story as practiced by Montague Rhodes James, and the visionary ghost story of Algernon Blackwood. His conclusion is on ghost stories as enigmas and his final word on the subject is: “As for the ultimate reasons why we read these stories, that tiresome, unanswerable question has already been raised too many times. That we enjoy them is enough. The reasons remain as perverse and mysterious as the stories themselves.”

Trollope’s Later Novels, by Robert Tracy. California $12.50

Although starting well, Trollope’s Later Novels degenerates into the usual academic form. That is, points are taken in opposition to previously expressed opinions, the refutation is pursued to the nth degree, while the poor reader loses sight not only of the point which is being upheld, but of the novel or novels on which the point is based. Since Trollope is a rather more human writer than many authors, this severely analytic text seems to clash continuously with Trollope’s books, a bifurcation which is frequently disturbing.

The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change, by Thomas S. Kuhn. Chicago $18.50

These essays, some of which were written prior to Kuhn’s famous The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, are fore-shadowings of, supplements to, and corrections of his thesis of paradigms. Of special interest to readers are his autobiographical comments in his “Preface” explaining how he arrived at his view of history, and his recent essays on “Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice” and “Comment on the Relations of Science and Art.”

Ben Jonsons London: A Jacobean Place-name Dictionary, by Fran C. Chalfant. Georgia $13.50

The London milieu is of some importance in the appreciation of the plays of Ben Jonson. Chalfant has made of all the place-name references in the plays a collection of concise and erudite entries in this useful book. However, it must be noted that aside from being a vade mecum for the reader who seeks to be in touch with topography and habitués that were familiar to Jonson’s original audience, this graceful dictionary is terribly interesting reading. It is only with great difficulty that anyone with any acquaintance with or interest in this great city can put down this authoritative account of London before the Great Fire.

Shakespearean Representation, by Howard Felperin. Princeton $11.50

In a perceptive study of Shakespeare’s major tragedies, Professor Felperin clearly shows the models of dramatic prototypes on which they are built and the ways that they are modernized by the dramatist. Thus his subtitle “Mimesis and Modernity” is his indication of what he sees as the dual aspects of Shakespeare’s art, his ability to imitate and innovate. Except for Macbeth, the tragedies are based on the orthodox Christian morality plays, those like Everyman; in Macbeth the prototype is the series of tyrant plays in the medieval guild plays. Thus his book’s title may be read as “re-presentation” if one will combine it with a contrary idea of “innovation, differentiation, and discontinuity.” His is another valuable contribution to the exploration of Shakespeare’s multifaceted and endlessly challenging work.

Coleridge’s Poetic Intelligence, by John Beer. Barnes & Noble $20

This is an attempt to trace some of Coleridge’s ways of thinking up to 1805. The author relates the images of traditional lore—”images of budding rod, ebullient spring, irratations of glory from the body and, centrally, the winged, serpent-twined staff of Mercury”—to Coleridge-’s thought as a whole. The study makes a valuable contribution to an understanding of the young Coleridge.

Nabokov: The Dimensions of Parody, by Dabney Stuart. Louisiana $11.95

Professor Stuart addresses himself to the “modes” of the Russian master’s fiction in his shorter, less remarked novels, and he succeeds in clarifying many of the delights and frustrations we experience in reading them. Nabokov constructs parodies of detective fiction, films, and biography; Stuart explains the nature of these frames—the rules of Nabokov’s games—and as a result we become better players and more appreciative readers. The chapter on The Real Life of Sebastian Knight is particularly welcome.

POETRYCollected Poems of Karl Shapiro, by Karl Shapiro. Random House $15

Modern criticism finds it difficult to deal with poets who, not being monomaniacally devoted to a slender aesthetic or a blunt ideology, are thoughtful and versatile instead. People like Shapiro or Nemerov or Sissman ought to have millions of readers because they are accessible and mature as well as beautiful. Shapiro’s Collected Poems offers a wide variety of humane and melodious pleasures, stimulants, and even purges. Satire, myth-making, and historical insight come to him with ease. His love poems are humble and grateful. And despite versatility, the personality of the book remains intact.

Twenty Poems, by Vincente Aleixandre. Seventies Press $3

This, incredibly, is the only collection currently available in English of the Nobel Prize winner’s poetry. Taking Aleixandre’s own words about his work to heart, translators Lewis Hyde and Robert Bly have wisely organized the poet’s lifework into two categories, Poems With Red Light and Poerns With White Light. From the early, pessimistic poems that lead gradually to a more than merely provisional acceptance, Aleixandre comes to say, with complete authority, that love “is an explosion that lasts a whole lifetime.” An extremely important collection.

Words for Doctor Y; Uncollected Poems, by Anne Sexton. Edited by Linda Gray Sexton. Houghton Mifflin $8.95

These poems, posthumously published, represent the poet’s entire career. The poems entitled Letters to Doctor Y throw light on the period of To Bedlam and Part Way Back while other poems reflect other periods in Sexton’s stylistic development. Scorpio, Bad Spider, Die: The Horoscope Poems are perhaps the most coherent in the book. Also included are three clever but amateurish Gothic short stories. This volume has some granules of gold in it and epitomizes Sexton’s rather depressing but fanciful life.

Young Men’s Gold, by Daniel Mark Epstein. Overlook Press $2.95

The poems in Epstein’s third collection all seem bathed in a golden glow; they are full of noble diction, elegant expression, and high Romantic rhetoric reminiscent of 19th-century poets. The title poem, a long narrative told by a Civil War veteran, resonates with Epstein’s rare gift for myth and melodrama. There are also many lyrical love poems rich in sensuous detail and striking figurative language.

Don’t Ask Me How the Time Goes By (Poems, 1964—1968), by José Emilio Pacheco. Columbia $12 cloth, $5.95 paper

One can’t help but approach with curiosity and eager interest a book of poems by a young Mexican poet who is announced as “the best younger poet writing in Mexico today.” So much the more disappointing to discover a poetry that is for the most part rather pretentious and vapid. This is a poetry of ideas, yet the ideas lack originality or depth. The publisher’s claim notwithstanding, one suspects that contemporary Mexican poetry has more to offer than this.

There Is No Balm in Birmingham, by Ann Deagon. Godine Chapbook Series $5

A strong sense of violence pervades these poems. Life, love, and sex are stripped down to a deadly falseness, a vision depressingly similar to Sylvia Plath’s. The tight control and economy of line are admirable, the images original and well-chosen; but the collection runs the risk of overwhelming the reader with too many negative emotions. While her terse wit is everywhere, no real humor relieves the grim tone.

The Reason Why The Closet-Man Is Never Sad, by Russell Edson. Wesleyan $3.45

This volume is the latest brilliant stone Edson has thrown into the river, causing the unconscious to overflow onto dry land. The world of the other in all of us—which rarely gets to speak—is Edson’s domain. Through his prose poems, his surreal dances, one sees the marionette strings being pulled by the tensions of that small, universal principality, the family: “A man splits into two who are an old woman and an old man,” or “A father with a huge eraser erases his daughter. When he finishes there’s only a red smudge on the wall” (from “The Parental Decision” and “Erasing Amylou”). And in Edson’s miraculous creations, even when the strings are cut, the dancing continues. . . .

The Hocus-Pocus of the Universe, by Laura Gilpin. Doubleday $4.95

Gilpin’s poems unfold easily on the page, with a strength and depth which belie that same ease. Her images are clean and powerful, the best a kind of photo-surrealism. However, Gilpin belongs to no school. She employs the host of contemporary techniques selectively, tailoring all to her vision. Her range of concerns is wide: family (particularly grandparents), the death of friends, dreams, the shadow, and successful political poems, successful because they begin with the self and then move outward. Throughout this collection, one is guided by the warmth and intelligence of an enormously gifted young poet.

The Pregnant Man, by Robert Phillips. Doubleday $4.95

These poems are mostly parodies, light, witty, various, clever but not powerful. Phillips offers an entertaining array of subjects: poems on body parts, satirical allegories on commercial values. The voice is open, modest, with a warm, often comic perspective. His twists on clichés get a bit showy at times, as his language shows us how, quoting from Nemerov, “the sacred and the suburban often coincide.”

Twenty Poems, by Rolf Jacobsen. Seventies Press $3

Jacobsen’s poems radiate with an all-encompassing acceptance, and identification: with the struggling ant, the aged, “the calm hands of grief,” all that moves inexorably to the waiting silence and light. This Norwegian poet is a melancholy celebrator, who trains his poetic eye on the large and small alike, and begs for more: “Bring up some more small rivers!” He finds these rivers everywhere. Also obsessed with constructions of all kinds, he dives into the entelechy behind stave churches, medieval towers, symphonies. Once again, translator Robert Bly graces us with further discoveries of Scandinavian poetry.

From Room to Room, by Jane Kenyon. Alicejamesbooks $3.50

A remarkable first book. Poems of quiet strength and quiet violence. They represent an exploration of “inhabiting” (one’s body, a particular farmhouse, a world) in which the literal world is presented with sure and simple detail whose symbolic resonance builds as the book progresses. A final section consists of six translations from the Russian poet, Akhmatova, whose lyrical kinship with Kenyon makes this a superb and fitting coda to a fine book.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRSInterpreters and Critics of the Cold War, by Kenneth W. Thompson. University Press of America $6.50 paper

This is a book slight in length yet packed with substance. Mr. Thompson focuses on four men whose professions differed but whose positions on foreign policy, particularly concerning U. S.-Soviet relations, were similar—and often out of step with the prevailing orthodoxy at the White House and in Foggy Bottom. The four: diplomat George F. Kennan, journalist Walter Lippmann, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and political philosopher Hans J. Morgenthau. Unlike the Wilsonian idealists who too often have pursued illusions across the international landscape (such as


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