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Notes on Current Books, Winter 1984


ISSUE:  Winter 1984

Painters, poets, and interpreters of Milton’s epic have generally found Eve to be, in McColley’s words, “weak, vain, useless, mindless, trifling, grasping, vacillating, wanton, obstinate, presumptuous, and (nonetheless) fatally seductive.” But, for Milton at least, Eve was not fallen before the Fall. Even if created in subordination to Adam, hers is an identity capable of equally complete blessedness and self-fulfillment (McColley is not so much feminist critic as anti-antifeminist). Milton’s Eve is a remarkably learned, sensible, and useful book written in the tradition of Arthur Barker’s “regenerative “reading of Paradise Lost; its chapter on Eden and the labor of unfallen man there (as well as the transformation of pastoral Milton achieves in describing it) is among the most balanced and insightful that has appeared.

Twentieth-Century French Literature 1920—1970, by Germaine Bree. Translated by Louise Guiney. Chicago $25

Translated virtually without change from its 1978 Paris edition (as a volume in a semipopular encyclopedic history of French literature), this manual covers in some detail the works of Cocteau, Breton, Malraux, Celine, Beauvoir, Camus, Duras, and Simon, as well as their social, intellectual, and artistic backgrounds. Omissions from the pantheon (Sartre, Robbe-Grillet, and Barthes, to name just three) alert readers to certain weaknesses, as does the author’s preference for description and sweeping generalization even to the most superficial analysis. One wonders whether problems could have been minimized had almost 70 pages not been wasted on a kitchen-sink “dictionary of authors” and a Ph. D.-level bibliography useless to the audience that the volume addresses. Despite such blemishes this “march of time” through recent French letters is an eminently readable compendium of factology and plot summary, well worth perusing.

The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews, by Flannery O’Connor. Georgia $16

The latest collection of the author’s miscellaneous writings continues to substantiate her status as one of the most sophisticated, penetrating, and delightful minds of our age. Even within the context of 200-word book reviews written for minor Catholic publications, O’Connor’s profound seriousness blends with her splendid style to yield the most enjoyable reading since The Habit of Being. Also included are various pieces of correspondence not previously available.

Chekhov: A Study of the Four Major Plays, by Richard Peace. Yale $18.50

The four works analyzed by Professor Peace of the University of Hull are The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard. The author sees Chekhov as social critic, aesthetician, and humorist. He brings some fresh insights into familiar territory and in so doing opens up some new avenues to even the most sophisticated playgoer. This is a witty, urbane, and highly intelligent reading of Chekhov.

To Be and Not To Be: Negation and Metadrama in Hamlet, by James L. Calderwood. Columbia $29.50 cloth, $13.50 paper

Almost a deconstruction of Shakespeare’s play: Calderwood brings the language and disposition of recent French thought to bear, and finds in the structure of Hamlet a display of the problematics of “artistic arrest and functional erasure.” But by Calderwood’s own account, this is ultimately a “metadramatic” rather than a deconstructive reading, and the outcome is surprisingly sweet and positive, as the writing is surprisingly cheerful and clear and the obligatory playfulness unheavy.

Realism and Consensus in the English Novel, by Elizabeth Deeds Ermarth. Princeton $26.50

This book reads like the doctoral dissertation of a clever graduate student, gifted in making what John Berryman called “rich critical prose” out of modest intellectual materials. A forced analogy with perspective in painting props up a discussion of what we more commonly call point of view; the new jargon of “temporality” (here borrowed from Paul Alkon on Defoe and Fictional Time) gets us through the expected quick review of 18th-century novels which is prefatory to the Victorians, when (teleologically) the form came into its own. Often familiar critical insights are made to put on their Sunday best so they may take walk-on parts in the studies of Austen, Dickens, and Eliot with which this book concludes.

Katherine Anne Porter’s Women: The Eye of Her Fiction, by Jane Krause DeMouy. Texas $19.95

If Jane DeMouy had been able to give more than a “cursory reading” to Joan Givner’s Katherine Anne Porter: A Life, she might have hedged a bit or even changed some of her readings of KAP’s women; but then again, she might not. Though this is a comparatively short book (about 200 pages), the reading of it seemed interminable. In her conclusion DeMouy says: “Whether the setting is Mexico, New York, a rural farm, or even the oceanbound Vera in Ship of Fools, Porter’s women struggle with the tension between a desire to be feminine (in fairly traditional terms) and a desire—not to be alone—but to be free.” What she is saying throughout the book, of course, is that all of KAP’s women are mirror images of herself; and this is both the strength and the greatest weakness of her work as a whole.

The Chain of Becoming, by Frederick M. Keener. Columbia $15

In the formalist tradition of defining genres on the basis of plot form, this study of narratives by Swift, Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Johnson argues that the philosophical tale focuses on the protagonist’s passage from a lesser to a greater degree of sophistication concerning the links between himself and the world. A reflection of the Enlightenment’s new science of empirical psychology, the conte philosophique is to be rigorously distinguished from the 18th-century “novel.” Solid, insightful, convincing.

King Lear, Macbeth, Indefinition, and Tragedy, by Stephen Booth. Yale $16.95

The title is ungainly to the point of unintelligibility, but those familiar with Booth’s work on Shakespeare’s sonnets will know what to expect: a defense of “indefinition” as a literary value, here specifically as the essential element of the tragic experience and the key to the structure of the two main plays he discusses. The point is quickly made and is less odd than Booth seems to think, and things edge toward monotony. A speculative appendix, though, on the doubling of roles on the Shakespearean stage provides some graceful surprises at the end.

Realism, Myth, and History in Defoe’s Fiction, by Maximillian E. Novak. Nebraska $17.95

These masterful essays confirm Novak’s place as Defoe’s most appreciative critic. Not the mere hack he is too often considered but a subtle manipulator of complex and sophisticated techniques, Defoe reemerges as a supreme realistic mythographer and as the inventor of historical fiction. Alas, these essays have been insufficiently reedited, for they discuss outdated polemics and offer no coherent theory of the relations between “realism,” or “fiction,” much less “myth” or “history.” Defoe awaits his Lukács.

Madness and Lust, by Carroll B. Johnson. California $22.50

In attempting to answer one of literature’s eternal questions of whether or not Sancho and Don Quixote were mad or just going through a mid-life crisis, in trying to put their dream of chivalry into an everyday existence, this intriguing volume will have served its purpose in enticing us to reread the great classic and with much more pleasure and reward than our first encounter with Cervantes.

Strangers and Pilgrims: From The Castle of Perseverance to King Lear, by Edgar Schell. Chicago $22.50

In five chapters this book provides close readings of The Castle of Perseverance, John Redford’s Wit and Science, Thomas of Woodstock, Volpone, and King Lear. Schell is concerned to trace in detail a process of transformation within a basic sameness: all these plays make fundamental use of the structuring idea of life as a pilgrimage, yet each represents a different stage in the development of nonsymbolic from allegorical characters. The basic premises of Schell’s book, then, are not new; what makes Strangers and Pilgrims valuable is the extraordinary sensitivity as a reader with which Schell pursues them. He is especially persuasive in tracing that stage of life’s pilgrimage which takes the soul into what St. Bernard called “the land of unlikeness,” that spiritual condition in which one’s very human identity is in jeopardy. Pilgrimage is among other things a movement toward realization of one’s true self, and Schell is perhaps most useful in reminding us of the ways in which medieval and Renaissance ideas of selfhood and self-fashioning are enacted in dramatic structures.

The Art of Telling, by Frank Kermode. Harvard $15

With this collection of essays Kermode establishes himself as a mediating voice between the aggressive forces of deconstructionism and the equally stalwart if less well focused forces of the old “constructionism.” Kermode is at his best when he illuminates and berates some of the shortsighted assumptions of both schools; he is at his worst when he practices a weak-kneed deconstruction of his own on The Good Soldier. On the whole, the essays are worth a careful reading but allow some time between the reading of each: these are Kermode’s work papers for a more general understanding of a critical revolution and have the repetitiveness of variations on a single theme.

The Reach of Criticism: Method and Perception in Literary Theory, by Paul H. Fry. Yale $20

Every young critic living in New Haven has for some years been required to publish at least one book which overturns the entire Western critical tradition (or, if this seems extreme, returns us to some correct pre-Socratic theory since lost sight of), revolutionizing our ideas about text, reader, history, and—well—the universe in general. Paul Fry is fortunate in being now the author of two such works. His first book, on The Poet’s Calling in the English Ode, explained to us for the first time that all odes are the “vehicle of ontological and vocational doubt,” attempts to bring into being an ontologically authentic world which by (Fry’s) definition cannot exist. Now we learn that all use of “method” in criticism, too, rests on an illusion, for it fails to understand “that written texts are not to be understood most radically as modes of production but as modes of substitution, as ways of recovering the experience of being.” The Reach of Criticism is a handbook of the kind of criticism appropriate to the ode as Fry conceives it; whether this pretentious, overwrought book has wider application is open to doubt.

Literature and Psychoanalysis, edited by Edith Kurzweil and William Phillips. Columbia $25

Although each reader may quibble over which pieces ought to have been included in this collection, all must ultimately agree that Kurzweil and Phillips have executed a difficult task—compiling a volume which essentially provides a history of an extremely complex critical mode—most admirably. The editors have grouped the essays into six convenient classifications and introduce each unit with a concise, lucid commentary. Among the authors featured are Freud, Trilling, Gombrich, Fromm, Empson, Hartman, and Girard.

Language and Style in Leaves of Grass, by C. Carroll Hollis. Louisiana $27.50

This ambitious study turns out to be a sort of critical flea market. Much of it is shopworn, much of it too highly prized by the proprietor, but hidden here and there among the inventory are bright, intriguing things. Professor Hollis argues for the primacy of the poems of 1855, 1856, and 1860 and attributes their peculiar greatness to the oratorical persona and the adaption of oratorical modes to the written text which he claims characterizes Whitman during those years. There are chapters analyzing Whitman’s work in terms of speech acts, metonymy, negation, and the diction and syntax of journalism. Although some of this may strike the unconverted as myopic or bigoted, much of it is genuinely sophisticated and enlightening. Professor Hollis himself may seem either refreshingly brash or capricious and arrogant.

LIVES & LETTERSMarcel Proust: Selected Letters, 1880—1903, edited by Philip Kolb. Translated by Ralph Mannheim. Introduced by J.M. Cocking. Doubleday $19.95

General readers of Proust may now know the delights of specialists who have long had access to Philip Kolb’s research on the novelist’s vast and revealing correspondence. Previously available only in the editor’s ongoing Plon edition, and discussed in depth only in his monographs, the letters are now authoritatively translated, ably introduced, and brilliantly annotated for the cultivated Anglo-Saxon reader. If the volume is received as warmly as it deserves, perhaps the publisher will commission Kolb and Mannheim to produce sequels until the cream of Proust’s letters is accessible to all Frenchless enthusiasts of the Recherche. This, together with the Kilmartin-Mayor reworking of Scott-Moncrieff’s translation, could provoke a major reassessment of the author and his work in the English-speaking world.

A Personal History, by A. J. P. Taylor. Atheneum $14.95

He is as cantankerous, opinionated, petty, arrogant, and charming as ever. The finest historian of the century, some call him, while others see in him Satan’s spawn, or at least Stalin’s. The author of 30 books, some of them best sellers, Mr. Taylor now contributes his autobiography, for which he is unlikely to win any prizes. He still tells a good story, some of it juicy, but the British libel laws make him pull too many punches in this book. He is not a forgiving man, as Lewis Namier, Hugh Trevor-Roper, and assorted others learn, and he is surely too generous to his very few friends, notably Lord Beaverbrook. But withal our century is the richer for this man, and his book is worth reading.

Super Chief: Earl Warren and His Supreme CourtA Judicial Biography, by Bernard Schwartz. New York University $29.95

There is a great deal of information about the Warren Court’s internal deliberations in this long “unabridged” chronology of the Court’s years during Earl Warren’s chief justiceship (1953—69). Unfortunately, the author’s methods for documenting his information undermine his voluminous research. Materials in paper collections are interspersed with “reconstructed . . .conference discussions” based on “notes made by at least one Justice who was present.” The discussions are not often footnoted. The effect is to produce a cross between a conventionally documented volume and a book like The Brethren, whose authors simply invented conversations Supreme Court justices might have had. Students of the Court will learn comparatively little new about its justices, including Earl Warren himself: the title of the book is a misnomer. Nor is there much analysis of the dramatic social and political context of the Warren Court’s decisions. This is a book for Court-watchers who are anxious to penetrate the justices’ curtain of secrecy and willing to rely on Schwartz’ impressionistic forays.

Chickenhawk, by Robert Mason. Viking $17.75

Professional military men in the 1960’s liked to describe Vietnam as a research and development area. The new weapon that came closest to being effective against the crafty Viet Cong was the helicopter, and nobody better combined the combat power of rifleman and chopper than the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Hit and Run, Snoop and Poop, Search and Destroy; for a while in 1965 it looked as if the war would be a smashing success. Mason’s recollections as a Huey troopship pilot with the 1st Cav throw his readers hard into their seats or leave them weightless and airsick just as if they were riding his ship into a hot LZ. This forceful book is also thoughtful, however, tracing Mason’s growing disenchantment with his superiors and our tactics and purposes.

The Papers of Henry Clay, Vol. VII, edited by Robert Seager II. Kentucky $35

Under the direction of a new senior editor this distinguished project, commenced 30 years ago, has made a number of changes of editorial procedure with an eye to reducing costs and improving productivity. Certain types of “routine” letters have been omitted, though they are calendared at the end of the volume. Many incoming letters have been summarized, and editorial comment has been drastically reduced. As a result, the last year of Clay’s career as secretary of state is documented in half the space that would have been required under the former procedures. This was an election year, and the political correspondence overshadows the diplomatic. A comprehensive index to the first seven volumes punctuates the transition that occurred in Clay’s life upon his retirement in March 1829.

The Life of John Milton, by A. N. Wilson. Oxford $19.95

There are a good many biographies of John Milton, ranging from the recent magisterial Parker’s to shorter and less detailed ones. This present one, pleasantly written, emphasizes Milton’s public life as polemicist and apologist for Cromwell’s reign; it does not aim to be primarly a “literary” biography. At times it is too confident in its assertions, a bit irrelevant in its asides, and sometimes too aggressive in its attacks. It makes statements that are doubtful—could Milton really have written all of the “Nativity Ode” early on a Christmas morning? or was he a “fey little creature”? or did he really have “a low opinion of the human race”? or do we know he fell “instantly in love” with Mary Powell? or, finally, that Sonnet XXIII is surely—as Wilson says— based on a dream about his second wife? But despite the deficiencies the biography may have, its testimony to the greatness of Paradise Lost, less than 14 pages, makes up for them.

A Carolinian Goes to War: The Civil War Narrative of Arthur Middleton Manigault, Brigadier General C.S.A., edited by R. Lockwood Tower. South Carolina $24.95

This authentic memoir of a Confederate general will be appreciated most fully by readers versed in military ways, for they present a detailed account of the training and discipline of troops and of various kind of battles and maneuvers, but even the untrained reader will find much of interest in Manigault’s very personal and highly critical opinions of various generals (Bragg, Hood, Hardee, and, on the opposite side, Sherman and Thomas). As interesting as the general’s narrative are the editor’s prefaces, which introduce and explain each chapter. Manigault’s narrative was written very soon after the end of the war, which perhaps accounts for the full and accurate picture that he gives of the movements and actions of the Army of Tennessee.

Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, by Peter Alexander. Oxford $29.95

Flamboyant, controversial, belligerent, an unusual poet who is perhaps overlooked today, Roy Campbell is well served by Peter Alexander’s biography. The book may not enhance the poet’s stature, but it is undoubtedly revealing. Campbell’s life, as reported here, was both dramatic and dull, a curious combination but no more curious than the man himself.

The Compensations of War, by Guy Emerson Bowerman, Jr. Texas $9.95

Subtitled “The Diary of an Ambulance Driver during the Great War,” this journal recounts the story of a Yale dropout who served in France from August 1917 until the armistice. The account is boyish and good-humored as Bowerman goes about his duties without any particular sense of place or of self. Although the book is not without value, it is no better or worse than hundreds of manuscript accounts that lie drying in footlockers or local historical societies’ archives. Like a kindergartner’s drawing attached to the refrigerator, the journal holds interest and charm for the family, but outsiders need not linger. The introduction is a piece of workmanlike hype that makes claims that cannot be demonstrated. The attempt to place these unskilled jottings in the context of great memoirs is as pretentious as the title.

Alba, by William S. Maltby. California $29.50

This is the first modern scholarly biography, and the first biography in English, of Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, third Duke of Alba (1507—1582). Alba was the leading Spanish military figure under Charles V and Philip II, and certainly one of the most important—and notorious—soldiers of the Renaissance. Because of the extent of the Hapsburg empire, Alba directed military operations not just in the Iberian peninsula but throughout much of Europe, most notably in the Netherlands. Maltby reconstructs Alba’s private life (what little there was of it) and does a particularly admirable job of presenting the Duke’s extensive public career as soldier and statesman. Because Alba was involved in so many undertakings throughout Europe, this necessitates recounting much of the political and military history of the second half of the century, and Maltby does so in a constantly enjoyable fashion. For this reason, Alba will be of value not only to students of Renaissance Spain but more generally to those interested in the history of much of Europe during this era.

Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901—1915, by Louis R. Harlan. Oxford $30

The late 20th century scarcely knows what to make of Booker T. Washington, by far the most influential black man of the early 20th century. The behind-the-scenes political machinations and maneuverings that accounted for so much of his power now seem tawdry; his “reasonable” stance on race relations now looks more like mere vacillation than it once did. Louis Harlan’s well-crafted biography shares these mixed feelings; he is not unsympathetic to Washington, but Harlan obviously finds much of his subject’s behavior at the peak of his power unsavory and unfortunate. The “Wizard of Tuskegee” who emerges from these pages is a man without a center, a man whose mind was “a hall full of mirrors,” a black man who, against all odds, had attained power and was willing to pay most any price to keep it.

My Own, My Country’s Time, by Vermont Royster. Algonquin Books $18.50

As the title suggests, this is a memoir but a memoir with a difference. The author adopts the autobiographical point of view not only because it allows him to relate numerous personal anecdotes but also because those anecdotes reveal how unusual a front-row seat he had from which to view major events and personalities during the American 20th century. From his downhome country childhood to the editorship of the Wall Street Journal, Vermont Royster’s career grew alongside the growing power and complexity of the country his paper chronicled. The major flaws of the book are that it sets into print a few too many of what seem to be unexamined conclusions about the world in which Royster grew up. To explain race prejudice as a problem that abated significantly with the coming of air conditioning, to cite just one example, is to reveal a superficiality almost fatal. It is not, however, a surprising perspective to find in a man who was the voice of the country’s business community for more than 40 years.

The Collected Letters of John Millington Synge, Vol. I: 1871—1907, by Anne Saddlemyer. Oxford $64

Someone once commented that the Irish writers of the 20th century have been long on genius and short on talent, an ambiguous remark at best. But we know what was meant, and it reflects the lopsided way we often look at the literature: Yeats, Joyce, and the rest. John Synge is one of several writers whose work is now claiming more attention than it did in the days when scholars were explaining Yeats to the world, and Saddlemyer’s edition of the letters (the first of two volumes) will be indispensable for anyone wanting to understand Synge for what he was, a writer of talent in some ways more Irish than Yeats himself.

HISTORYParties and Politics in North Carolina, 1836—1865, by Marc W. Kruman. Louisiana $37.50

The study of antebellum Southern politics has made great advances in recent years, and Marc Kruman’s book is a good example of the reasons why. Here we have an analysis that employs sophisticated statistical methods, draws upon the best recent work, and displays a fine sensitivity to the nuances and cadences of history as it was lived. Kruman joins a growing school of historians who stress the real, though paradoxical, belief of whites in the slaveholding South in republicanism, in democracy for white men. The ironies of that belief existing in that society still amaze and confuse us, but studies such as this one can help make sense of what remains one of the most enigmatic parts of American history.

Low City, High City: Tokyo from Edo to the Earthquake, 1867—1923, by Edward Seidensticker. Knopf $20

This book will probably be of greatest interest, not to students of Japanese history or to persons who have stayed in one of Tokyo’s great hotels and have eaten in one or more of the magnificent restaurants, but to those who have lived in the city, even during the postwar period, and have had to cope with the peculiarities of both the high and low areas. This work is that unusual item: the biography of a city between initial and terminal dates that are meaningful and important. One is inclined to wonder what sort of biography might be written of Chicago or Washington or, for that matter, of one of the great foreign metropolises over a correspondingly brief interval of time. In any case, Professor Seidensticker is magnificently qualified to perform the monumental feat of writing a biography of Tokyo. His comprehensive and intimate knowledge of the land, its people, and its literature could hardly be equaled. The being and becoming of the great city are brought together in a panorama which balances the small with the large, the trivial with the vital, and, in particular, the “Low” with the “High.”

The Light of the Home: An Intimate View of the Lives of Women in Victorian America, by Harvey Green with the assistance of Mary-Ellen Perry. Pantheon $18.95

There is a certain charm in this essay about American women before Cuisinarts, women’s lib, the pill, and instant divorce. In an amicable text that ranges over a woman’s life from courtship and marriage to motherhood, housework, and leisure and finally to death and mourning, the author recreates a distant world—using letters, diaries, and magazines. The heart of the book is the 123 plates, illustrating photo albums, “bride’s bowls,” chamber pots, toys and games (such as the Pilgrim’s Progress board game), the Sterling range, sewing tools, corsets, jewelry made from woven hair, and paper-punched mottoes with “God Bless Our Home.” Yes, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

Red Petrograd: Revolution in the Factories, by S.A. Smith. Cambridge $47.50

This extraordinarily thorough study of the Petrograd working class in the great revolutionary year constitutes a major addition to our fund of knowledge. Professor Smith of the University of Essex had access to Soviet archives and contemporary Russian newspapers; and if any secondary sources have escaped his attention, they are surely few in number. The workers in the Petrograd factories were caught by surprise by the revolution, but they quickly grasped some of its possibilities and they tried to make it their own. The Communists would thwart them, the while professing to speak in their names.

Clandestine Operations: The Arms and Techniques of the Resistance, 1941—1944, by Pierre Lorain. Adapted by David Kahn. Macmillan $24.95

The title says it all, and military history buffs will delight in this handbook of French Resistance weapons and procedures. The work is heavy on codes and code-breaking, reflecting the special expertise of both Mr. Lorain and of Mr. Kahn, the well-known author of The Code-breakers. It is a measure of how far we have come, at least technologically, that the equipment which served so well in World War II now seems as antiquated, as we look at the drawings in this book, as the crossbow.

The People of England: A Short Social and Economic History, by Maurice Ashley. Louisiana $20

Paul Fussell has observed that class is America’s “dirty little secret.” If Fussell is correct, and if we are, in fact, fascinated by class consciousness (vide Upstairs/Downstairs), then it is less surprising that this book was published. Maurice Ashley has written a pleasant enough account of the peaks and valleys of England’s national existence. Unfortunately, it is a concentrated dish, rather like canned vegetable soup: all the ingredients or facts are there, but the texture, the flavor, and the unique identity of the dish are all somewhat seriously impaired. Ashley throws in a few footnotes to let us know he is serious, but it isn’t a particularly well-documented work and so will be of relatively little use to scholars or students. On the other hand, he may presume too detailed a knowledge of English history for many casual readers. Finally, both constituencies will be frustrated by the way the narrative leaps from one event to another, often leaving out intervening action. Many Americans are unabashed Anglophiles, and, perhaps, some are so devout that they will indiscriminately devour anything relating to England. By definition, this book will appeal to them. The rest of the Anglophilic contingent probably will find this cryptic, innocuous book to be quite unsatisfying.

Between the Guillotine and Liberty: Two Centuries of the Crime Problem in France, by Gordon Wright. Oxford $19.95

Inspired by the brilliant and idiosyncratic Michel Foucault, French scholars have displayed a great fascination with the history of deviants in their society. This book, by an eminent American historian of France, provides a synthesis of much of the work on French criminals, criminology, and prisons. There is little here that is new, however, and the treatment is quite pedestrian by the standards of the most innovative scholarship. Yet this quiet analysis of the subject provides a balanced overview and should prove a useful starting place for those first approaching the subject.

Tarnished Expansion, by Paul S. Holbro. Tennessee $12.95

In this slender monograph Professor Holbro focuses on the scandals associated with the Alaska purchase, and by a thorough use of primary sources he sheds new light on the questions of guilt and innocence of the congressmen and journalists involved. Not content merely to narrate the facts of the Alaska scandals, Holbro goes on to place the scandals in historical context, arguing that after the sordid dealings in the Alaska purchase, Americans shied away from further expansion for several decades—expansionism had become “tarnished.” A neatly done little study.

Historians and the American West, edited by Michael P. Malone. Nebraska $25

A lot has been written concerning the American West, with the majority of this material focusing on the “frontier” period. In this volume, Malone brings together the first major assessment of the historical writing concerning this region. The book surveys, from the perspective of 18 important historians of the West, the entire field: what has been done, how well it has been done, and what needs to be done. The chapters, while substantially bibliographical in nature, are much more than that. They are in-depth studies and criticisms of major works in focused subspecialties. Of special interest (because of the lucid prose presented and the intrinsically fascinating subject matter) are chapters by Dennis Berge on “Manifest Destiny and the Historians” and Alan Coombs on “Twentieth-Century Politics.” An indispensable research tool for scholars and students alike.

Dracula Was a Woman, by Raymond T. McNally. McGraw-Hill, $14.95

Seeing this catchy title, one might expect to pick up the screenplay for a Barbara Steele horror epic from Hammer Studios, but this is actually the latest of Professor McNally’s efforts to uncover the historical basis of the vampire myth. The book traces the history of the Hungarian aristocrat, Elizabeth Bathory, the so-called blood countess, whose novel idea of how to obtain beauty lotions eventually led to her being tried as a witch. McNally has discussed Bathory before, in his original book on the real figure behind the Dracula legend, and indeed the “blood countess of Transylvania” has become sufficiently famous to have been a featured character in a recent episode of Fantasy Island, in which she challenged the magical powers of no less than Mr. Roarke himself. As always, McNally has succeeded in bringing to light interesting facts about his subject, but one wonders how he expects his “scholarship” to be taken seriously when it is packaged in such vulgar and sensational form.

The Origins of the Cultural Revolution: The Great Leap Forward, Vol.2, by Roderick MacFarquhar. Columbia $35

Why did Mao do it? For a few brief, terrible years it seemed all China had gone mad at his order. Backyard “furnaces” were supposed to produce millions of tons of steel, “rotten liberals” from the cities were supposed to wade in the muck and grow rice to feed China and atone for their sins, and everyone was to attain a state of political exaltation, not to say stupefaction, by reading and rereading that infamous Little Red Book. It was an unmitigated disaster, and the post-Mao leadership has acknowledged it as such. Mr. MacFarquhar tells the story better than any previous writer.

The Parish Clergy in Nineteenth-Century Russia: Crisis, Reform, Counterreform, by Gregory L. Freeze. Princeton $50

The Russian Orthodox Church was one of the pillars of the Old Regime, and its great crisis in the last century attended that of the autocracy itself. In the most thorough, systematic account to date in a Western language of the Church’s troubled times, Professor Freeze of Brandeis University makes excellent use of a wide variety of archival sources to indicate the causes of the crisis, the nature of the state’s attempts to deal with them, and the ultimate decision simply to give up and hope for the best.

Coffee and the Growth of Agrarian Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico, by Laird W. Bergad. Princeton $27.50 cloth, $14.50 paper

Here is a book that does what the title promises. The author has his sights trained both on the rise and fall of coffee production in two highland municipalities and the history of commerical agriculture and wage labor in Puerto Rico as a whole. The result is a study that shows how the early coffee industry depended on profits from sugar and coastal merchant houses and how Puerto Rico responded to changes in market forces in a world economy. The documentation drawn from notarial and administrative records is very rich (there are 51 dense tables on population, land use, prices, production, labor, income distribution, and social structure) and is used with precision to chart changes in the social structure, a surprisingly early demise of subsistence agriculture and simultaneous rise of a free labor market, and control of the coffee industry by foreign merchants-turned-planters. This is a very solid and genuinely historical case study of Latin American economic development and dependence.

Evolution of the European Idea, 1914-1932, by Carl H. Pegg. North Carolina $28

Professor Pegg, who taught history at Chapel Hill for many years and who trained generations of graduate students, here returns to a subject that first engaged his attention half a century ago. The idea of European unification was not new in 1930, but it seemed more relevant to contemporary problems than ever before. The Locarno Conference had seemed to give the movement to translate the idea into reality some impetus. Prominent statesmen in several countries grappled with the political complexities, journalists debated the idea, the cafes and meeting halls resounded with calls for European unity. It was not to be, but it was a noble dream.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRSThe Grand Strategy of the Soviet Union, by Edward N. Luttwak. St. Martin’s $14.95

Henry Kissinger calls this book “brilliant,” and Alexander Haig finds it “highly readable,” whatever that means. With advisers of the caliber of Mr. Luttwak, one would think the Pentagon was well served, or, conversely, that we all ought to head for the hills of the next planet. Luttwak’s Soviets are ten feet tall, they are stalking us relentlessly, and they are not open to reason. That being the case, it would seem the only conclusion to be drawn is that we must kill or be killed. This is Strangelovian Kremlinology at its best—or worst.

Politics and Money, by Elizabeth Drew. Macmillan$11.95

Part of the legacy of Watergate is the legislation that it spawned. Only ten years after the scandal, and on the eve of another national election, Ms. Drew analyzes one such law that was designed to curb corruption in the electoral process. Her conclusion about the campaign finance law: it doesn’t work. Rather than preventing the sale of offices, influence peddling, and generally venal behavior among public officials, the current law has given rise to the ubiquitous political action committees, which threaten the foundations of representative government. This expanded version of Drew’s New Yorker series on campaign financing also contains her proposals to control the corrosive effect of money on the political process. The book should be required reading for anyone who votes in 1984.

Acid Rain, by Robert Boyle. Nick Lyons Books $8.95

The rain in Raleigh, N. C. , is sometimes more acidic than vinegar. Wheeling, W. Va. has reported rainfall with more acid than lemon juice. One can only imagine the corrosive potential of rain in the much less pristine, smog ridden areas of the urban Northeast. Comments such as these make this brief but powerful analysis of what author Robert Boyle calls our “single most important environmental threat” worthy of serious consideration. Boyle interviewed scientists, sportsmen, and politicians while researching Acid Rain. Their conclusions about the devastating effect of industrial pollution in the atmosphere upon vegetation, wildlife, and ultimately the human water supply put this book into the same class as Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring. One can only hope that Boyle’s work will not languish in obscurity while destruction of the environment continues unabated.

Along the Edge of the Forest: An Iron Curtain Journey, by Anthony Bailey. Random House $15.95

The Iron Curtain becomes more brittle as one moves south. Anthony Bailey found the East Germans the most nervous of all the peoples on the West’s frontiers, the Hungarians and Yugoslavs the most relaxed. His journey was undertaken simply to examine life along the border between communism and Western-style freedom, and he spins a pleasant if not terribly enlightening tale. He is at his best when he finds someone to talk to; some of the stories about attempted escapes are hair-raising.

Dangerous Relations: The Soviet Union in World Politics, 1970—1982, by Adam Ulam. Oxford $25

Take every cliché about the USSR, toss in some New York Times headlines, add a pinch of the Polish émigrés’ hatred of Russia, and you have Mr. Ulam’s recipe for a book on Soviet foreign policy in the recent past. This book is long on words, short on thought. It is moreover incredibly badly edited, with a superabundance of typographical errors, bad grammar, and tortured syntax. Somebody was asleep when this one walked by.

Why the Jews? The Reason for the World’s Greatest Hatred, by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin. Simon & Schuster $14.95

Messrs. Prager and Telushkin have performed a useful service with this book, for they make us examine an ancient and ugly prejudice for what it is, the product of our own ignorance, fear, and envy. They point out that Jews have a higher quality of life than Gentiles, and they are right: one has only to examine the figures on the Jewish crime rate, divorce rate, child-abuse rate, and level of education to realize that there is a stability—or was, for it is changing—in the Jewish family that Gentiles are losing. Add to this all the problems of religion and money, and you have anti-Semitism.

Present History, by Theodore Draper. Random House $19.95

As the title of this work implies, the author has chosen to give us an “historical” overview of current events. Certainly this book will provide a convenient summary for those who have neglected contemporary international affairs. However, the book is a collection of essays written by Draper over the past decade rather than a unitary work with a coherent theme. As such, it does not offer the in-depth analysis that one has come to expect from historical scholarship or investigative reporting or the insider, albeit partisan, view exemplified by many recent memoirs authored by the actual participants. Draper’s essays are provocative and reflective, though, and provide an interesting framework to view such topics as Soviet expansionism, the nuclear arms race, détente, Vietnam, the NATO alliance, and the Middle East. The portraits of some of the important individuals involved in recent events are also fascinating. In sum, this is a worthwhile attempt to address many of the important events of our era while they are still current, but it is not a book that is likely to withstand the test of time.

Red Carpet, by Joseph Finder. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $16.95

The idea was a good one, but somehow the author does not quite bring it off. Western businessmen have been dealing with the Kremlin since 1920, and they deserve to have their story told. Armand Hammer, Cyrus Eaton, Donald Kendall (who took Pepsi to them and brought vodka to us), David Rockefeller, and other captains of American finance and industry have long urged politicians to put politics aside and let trade go forward. It has usually worked to the advantage of the businessmen and of the Soviets; whether the United States has profited is another matter. This is an interesting subject to which Mr. Finder—whose expertise is modest—is not equal.

The Rise of the Computer State, by David Burnham. Random House $17.95

In the foreword to Burnham’s book, Walter Cronkite, in typically avuncular style, praises Burnham for raising “the threat, with its many permutations,” which the geometric advances of computer technology within governmental and private sector institutions present to U.S. citizens. Cronkite is right, but what saves Burnham’s book from emerging as just another alarmist tract is its rare combination of descriptive adequacy and prophetic concern. Burnham is straightforward in his reportage of contemporary data bases and computerized networks. And he is particularly instructive in his knowledge of how corporations and governmental agencies use such systems. That synthesis of fact and insight makes for sober reading.

The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945—1980, by Diane Ravitch. Basic Books $19.95

This study of American education since World War II is chiefly a critique of federal intervention in the nation’s primary and secondary public schools. Beginning in the mid-1950’s, the national government began supplanting the states and localities as the forger of education policy. Public school systems, which initially clamored for federal dollars, came to realize that they had abdicated control of their programs to Congress, federal judges, and faceless bureaucrats in Washington. Ravitch, herself an educator, tends to accent the shortcomings in federal attitudes toward education. While the blunders attending the centralization of education policy have been legion, it is easy to forget the serious problems—such as segregation and inferior financial support—which the national effort has at least attempted to address.

Marxism, Central Planning, and the Soviet Economy: Economic Essays in Honor of Alexander Erlich, edited by Padma Desai. MIT $35

This Festschrift in honor of a noted Columbia University scholar, Dr. Erlich, brings together the best American scholarship on the Soviet economy. Some of the essays are highly technical, but most can benefit the layman with at least a rudimentary grasp of economic theory. Noteworthy are the contributions of Gregory Grossman, Joseph Berliner, and Kenneth Arrow.

The Reagan Presidency: An Early Assessment, edited by Fred I. Greenstein. Johns Hopkins $7.95

Early assessments of the Reagan presidency are coming from every corner of Washington. This one hopes to be different by being both a “dispassionate analysis” and a corrective to the picture of the Reagan presidency developed by journalists during its first year and a half. The collection includes four analytic essays on the making of fiscal, domestic, defense, and foreign policy as well as two general essays by Greenstein. His first essay discusses the need for an early appraisal of this president, and the second draws lessons from the Reagan presidency for those who thought Watergate and Vietnam had left the office powerless. The reader will be surprised at the analytic essays’ reliance on the journalistic accounts they are designed to correct and should be skeptical of Greenstein’s broad conclusions about the state of the presidency.

Southerners: The Social Psychology of Sectionalism, by John Shelton Reed. North Carolina $17 cloth, $5.95 paper

The development and changing character of the American South continue to fascinate political and social scientists. This study, based on survey research done in North Carolina in 1971, treats Southerners as one of many primordial ethnic groups which make up the pluralistic society of the United States. Though limited—by the passage of time and its restriction to white Southerners—and sometimes given to banality, this study does provide an intriguing glimpse of one paradox of the contemporary South, reflected in the experience of the Carter administration: as Southerners become more like the rest of the country in levels of income and education, their sense of Southernness remains and even increases. Given the limited nature of this study, it is not surprising, though it is disappointing, that the author does not make much of an effort to explain what this means for the region or the nation.

The Soviet Union and the Arms Race, by David Holloway. Yale $14.95

As the editors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ponder whether to move the hands of the Armageddon clock even closer to midnight, most people do not even try to make sense of the arms race. It is the quintessential madness, and Professor Holloway takes us through the Soviet side of it in this admirable, readable, and oddly calm study. The Soviet generals are fighting the last war, their NATO counterparts the one before that. Both sides have forgotten that generals are supposed to fight battles, never wars; and therein lies much of the danger. Highly recommended.

POETRYIn the Neighboring Cell, by Mark Rudman. Spuyten Duyvil $5

A marvelous if too brief collection by a poet unlike anyone writing today. The world of these poems is predominantly urban, urgent in its quest for “the guitar that will lead us/ into a sequence of happy days—/ complex, uncomplicated, intense.” Again and again, there are poems that are lovely, haunting, anguished, and, above all, precise. Though love, in its difficult and uneasy guises, sustains both poem and protagonist against the assaults of the world, what ultimately distinguishes Rudman’s vision is a commitment to the act of perception itself: a moral commitment to alertness of visual perception, accuracy of musical phrasing. Occasionally there are poems that are suspended moments of great beauty and an almost sublime, existential paralysis (“The Man in the Room,” “The Missing Delft”). But the characteristic mode is of a restlessness and relentlessness of perception that is the stylistic equivalent of anxiety seeking surcease and clarity, yet unwilling to betray its insights into contemporary consciousness (“the simple life eludes me: the autumn sky inside my head/ is a sheet of lead, angelic and sinister”). These are indeed poems in which “the perilous moment is blessed.

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, by Robert Penn Warren. Random House $9.95 cloth, $5.95 paper

Warren’s new poem recounts the pursuit of the Nez Perces by Federal troops in 1877 from Oregon to Montana, where the Indians surrendered. Told at first by Warren’s Chief Joseph and later by Warren himself, it is a straightforward narrative interspersed with brief excerpts from actual historical documents. Chief Joseph lacks the pervasive folk quality of the allegorical Ballad of Billie Potts, the rhetorical pitch and philosophical probing of the dramatic Brother to Dragons, and the immediacy of the lyrical Audubon—Warren’s other long poems. But it is still a sturdy, authoritative work that enhances Warren’s reputation as the only important American poet since Jeffers who can sustain a long verse narrative.

The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy, Vol. I, edited by Samuel Hynes. Oxford $39.50

This volume includes Wessex Poems (1898), to which Hardy’s original illustrations have been restored, Poems of the Past and the Present (1902), and Time’s Laughingstocks (1909)—the first three of Hardy’s eight individual volumes of verse. Presumably, in addition to these eight books, Hardy’s dramatic epic, The Dynasts, will eventually find its place in this edition, which promises to be the final text that Hardy, a lifelong reviser of his poetry, labored to accomplish. The printed versions of the poems, which sometimes do differ noticeably from previously standard versions, incorporate Hardy’s final revisions, garnered from a bewildering number of sources, while footnotes record all variants, even those canceled by Hardy in drafts. Excellent explanatory notes, which include a history of the composition and publication of the work, conclude this elegant and very welcome volume.

Comeuppance, by James E. Seigel. Philosophical Library $13.95

Reminiscent of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, this ambitious and lyrical prose-poem is sui generis in its ambitious attempt to reconcile (among other things) East and West, physical and psychical, science and mysticism, inner world and outer world, art and life. The title does not refer to a rebuke or a reprimand but rather to a “coming up” from the unconscious to consciousness, from lower to higher forms of evolution, to the mountaintop on the symbolic quest, and, ultimately, to humanity’s future in outer space. Slow reading but well worth it.

The Maximus Poems, by Charles Olson, edited by George F. Butterick. California $35

This is an important edition, bringing together for the first time The Maximus Poems, Maximus Poems IV, V, VI and The Maximus Poems: Volume Three, all of which have been out of print and unavailable. Carefully edited in keeping with the standards maintained by the MLA Center for Scholarly Editions, Butterick’s edition presents us at last with a definitive text. Olson’s work has always been a printer’s nightmare, far more so than even the variously indented poems of Pound and Williams. In Olson’s case, blank space is more than an empty margin or frame: the interplay of printed text and blank space is itself meant to be constitutive of meaning. Butterick has met this challenge and shown himself to possess the sympathy, attention, and patience that the publication of Olson’s poetry really demands. The result is an edition as beautiful to behold as it is faithful to Olson’s intentions.

Modern Poetry in Translation: 1983, edited by Daniel Weissbort. Persea $9.95

Translation is a tricky and controversial business, as the editor of this volume readily admits; but, when well done, it opens our minds and hearts to a common humanity denied in most other modern activities. This volume of translations and commentary helps us share in the complexities of the art as both process and product. The fine essays by the translators complement the prose and poetry in both interest and variety. Since this is an annual survey, it makes no claim to include all of the best translations or represent all areas of activity. The lack of South American work makes this obvious. But this is an interesting and entertaining selection of translations and essays by translators today.

Corpse and Mirror, by John Yau. Holt, Rinehart &a

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