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Reprint, Summer 1985

ISSUE:  Summer 1985

Like his predecessor, Frederick Jackson Turner, historian Ray Allen Billington devoted his distinguished career to an intellectual exploration of the American frontier and was the author or editor of about 25 books on this subject. The late Mr. Billington’s final work was Land of Savagery, Land of Promise; The European Image of the American Frontier in the Nineteenth Century. It was, Billington found, a paradoxical image in which Europeans saw America both as a land of savagery, where personal justice ruled and life was brief, and yet as a land of promise, where Europe’s downtrodden might find prosperity and freedom. Oklahoma has now published a paper edition of Billington’s book [$10.95]. The American West is also the subject of two recent reprints in Nebraska’s Bison Book series. The books are, respectively, David Lavender’s Westward Vision: The Story of the Oregon Trail [$24.95 cloth, $9.95 paper] and Jay Monaghan’s Civil War on the Western Border, 1854—1865 [$26.95 cloth, $9.95 paper]. With the boys of summer dashing across the nation’s television screens, Atheneum has brought out two paperbacks looking back at earlier eras of America’s favorite pastime. One volume is Harvey Frommer’s New York City Baseball: The Last Golden Age, 1947—1957 [$8.95]. The second work is Donn Rogosin’s Invisible Men: Life in Baseball’s Negro Leagues [$7.95]. Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History, in which the great American theologian draws an ironic contrast between the “innocent” nation our forefathers hoped to build and the superpower America became, was first published in 1952 and has since become a modern classic. A new paper edition of this work has just been published by Scribner’s [$6.95], Another new Scribner’s paperback is Nick Tosches’ Country: Living Legends and Dying Metaphors in America’s Biggest Music, which the Houston Post called “an absolute steamroller of a book” [$9.95]. Vintage has published a revised edition of James Q. Wilson’s Thinking about Crime, a work Fortune deemed “a powerful indictment of the American criminal-justice system” [$7.95]. Touchstone Books is offering a paper edition of Gerard O’Neill’s The Technology Edge: Opportunities for America in World Competition [$9.95].


The final work of prolific biographer Douglas Southall Freeman was a 7-volume, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of George Washington, published between 1948 and 1957.In 1968 Scribner’s published a 1-volume condensation of Freeman’s final work, in which editor Richard Harwell preserved the style and scholarship of one of America’s greatest biographers. The paper edition of Harwell’s abridgment, Washington, has now been published by Scribner’s [$18.95]. Max Beerbohm, that leading wit and dandy of the Edwardian Age, is also considered England’s supreme parodist and cartoonist. He appointed David Cecil as his biographer and gave Cecil access to his private papers. The result was Max: A Biography of Max Beerbohm. Originally published in 1964, a picture of an age as well as a portrait of a man, Max is available in a paper edition by Atheneum [$12.95]. One of Max’s contemporaries, although somewhat younger, was Violet Trefusis, whose mother, Alice Kappel, was the last mistress of Edward VII.A remarkable woman in her own right, Violet is best remembered today for her scandalous affair with Vita Sackville-West, the wife of Sir Harold Nicolson. This affair, as well as the other highlights of her long life (she died in 1972), are discussed in Philippe Jullian and John Phillips’ Violet Trefusis: A Biography, a recent Harvest/HBJ Book [$9.95]. Illinois has published a second edition of Zora Neale Hurston’s Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography, including previously unpublished chapters and edited with an introduction by Robert E.Hemenway. The autobiography is described as an “exuberant account of her (Hurston’s) rise from childhood poverty in the rural South to a place of prominence in the pantheon of American writers” [$22.95 cloth, $8.95 paper]. When Richard Schickel’s D.W.Griffith: An American Life was published last year, film critic Stanley Kauffmann commented, “At last—a really comprehensive and comprehending biography of the first great film artist.” Shickel’s biography was recently reissued as a Touchstone Book [$12.95]. Collier Books is offering a new edition, with a new preface for the edition, of Irving Howe’s Thomas Hardy, which Library Journal found to be “a strongly compassionate and knowledgeable reading of Hardy” [$6.95 paper]. New Directions has issued a paper edition of The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams edited by John C.Thirlwall and spanning 54 years in the life of one of 20th-century America’s foremost poets [$9.95]. Vintage Books has republished Ernst Pawel’s The Nightmare of Reason: A Life of Franz Kafka, a work which received the 1984 Los Angeles Times Book Review Award for biography [$7.95]. Carroll &Graf has published a new edition of an autobiography by an American born in Paris, who became one of France’s most eminent men of letters. The work is simply entitled Julian Green: Diary, 1928—1957 [$9.95 paper]. Another French writer, Jean-Paul Sartre, is the subject of Simone de Beauvoir’s Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre, a year-by-year account of the noted existentialist’s last decade, a recent Pantheon paperback [$8.95]. Bison Books has come out with a new edition of Rose Pender’s A Lady’s Experiences in the Wild West in 1883, with a foreword by A.B. Guthrie, Jr.[$4.95 paper]. Also available in the Bison Book series is R. David Edmunds’ The Shawnee Prophet, the life of a noted Indian leader [$7.95 paper].


Frederick R.Karl’s American Fictions, 1940—1980, is, said the Los Angeles Times of its publication in 1983, “the best and most comprehensive critical guide to American fiction in its cultural setting we have—or are likely to have for some time.” A paper edition of Karl’s survey of contemporary U.S.fiction has been published by Harper &Row as a part of its Colophon Books series [$19.95], Harper &Row has also brought out revised editions of two works involving writing and editing. One is a third revised edition of William Zinsser’sOn Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction [$12.95 cloth, $8.50 text edition]. The other is an anthology of Editors on Editing: An Inside View of What Editors Really Do, edited by Gerald Gross, a veteran of the New York publishing scene [$22.95]. Columbia has published a new edition of Peter Brooks’ The Melodramatic Experience: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and the Mode of Excess [$30.00 cloth, $12.50 paper]. A recent addition to the Cambridge Paperback Library is W.W.Robson’s The Definition of Literature & Other Essays [$12.95], Also available as a Cambridge Paperback is K.K. Ruthven’s Critical Assumptions [$14.95], New Directions is offering a paper edition of The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton, edited by Brother Patrick Hart [$14.95]. California has reprinted Harvey Pitcher’s The Chekhov Play: A New Interpretation [$8.95]. A recent Wisconsin offering is Penny Boumelha’s Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form [$9.95 paper]. As the latest volume in its History of Literature Series, Schocken Books has published Bruce King’s Seventeenth-Century English Literature [$8.95].


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