Current Books In Brief

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In this sprightly re-examination of the great 1929 crash, Mr. Galbraith conducts a study of the speculative mania which from time to time takes possession of human society, and while he does put Wall Street under the microscope he is not hunting for any particular villain or set of villains who led America astray. As he remarks, the world is inhabited, “not by people who have to be persuaded to believe, but by people who want an excuse to believe.” In 1929 and the years just before, general economic conditions provided the excuse. There was a solid industrial boom; and, as Mr. Galbraith notes, “at some point in the growth of a boom all aspects of property ownership become irrelevant except the prospect for an early rise in price.” So the speculative mania ran wild, there was a market crash, and—as the author insists—it took place in an economy which was fundamentally unsound, and hence was vulnerable to sudden shocks. The great depression was a logical result.

The Parkman Reader , selected and edited, with an introduction and notes, by Samuel Eliot Morison. Little, Brown & Co. 532 pp. $6.

Francis Parkman was perhaps the greatest historian America has produced. In this book Dr. Morison has selected chapters from his books, given them unobtrusive editing and annotation, and presented them so that the general reader may get a solid and cohesive sampling of the man’s work. The result is a book of very substantial value and interest, not the least appealing portion of which is Dr. Morison’s introduction, which sketches in Parkman’s career and provides a brief critique of his writings. Plagued with frail health and extremely defective eyesight, and (by his own statement) loathing “the drudgery of historical research,” Parkman traveled the West at a time when such a trip was arduous, uncomfortable and not altogether safe, burrowed relentlessly into his sources, and came up with a marvelous account of the early American Indian tribes and the struggle between the French and British for North America—an account which is still authoritative and which present-day readers will find eminently readable.

Doc Holliday , by John Myers Myers. Little, Brown & Co. 287 pp. $4.50.

The western gunman was undoubtedly one of those American creations whose entertainment value increases with the distance. Seen at close range, he must have been a highly difficult person to get along with; a generation or two removed, however, he appears as an amusing and glamorous fellow, a fit subject for novels, moving pictures and straight biographies. Here is one of the gaudiest of the lot—Doc Holliday, the wispy and consumptive little dentist who went west when the West was really wild, turned from dentistry to gambling, and became one of the most accomplished killers of an era that boasted some real artists in that line. He was equally at home with the revolver, sawed-off shotgun and bowie knife, he was vaguely on the side of the law in some of his more startling adventures, and in the end he died quietly in beddowning a water glass full of whiskey, smiling, remarking “This is funny,” and then passing on in peace. Whatever his contemporaries may have thought of him, from this distance he seems to have been an engaging sort of killer.