by Anthony Burgess Charles Scribner’s Sons, 144 pages, photographs, $10.95
A biography of Ernest Hemingway seems an unlikely project for the British author of A Clockwork Orange to undertake, but it’s a combination that works wonderfully well. In this brief, richly illustrated book, Anthony Burgess tells us much that’s important, fascinating, distasteful, and sad about Ernest Hemingway. Burgess has little sympathy for Hemingway the hunter, forever banging away at some wild creature; for the personal war Hemingway seems to have conducted while ostensibly working as a war correspondent during World War II; or for his tall sexual tales (he once boasted of sleeping with Mata Hari although he first arrived in Europe a year after she had been shot as a spy). But Burgess never overlooks what’s really important- that Hemingway was an original, a writer who conceived and produced a new kind of spare, taut prose which has influenced three generations of authors—whether they hated or admired his work.
by Michael Novak Basic Books, approx. 245 pages, $10.95
A tragedy that has been almost entirely unrecorded, “a gap in history,” occurred at Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania, in 1897, Michael Novak reveals in this engrossing book. When a posse of deputies fired upon four hundred unarmed, striking miners, nineteen men were killed and another thirty-nine were wounded, making this one of America’s half-dozen bloodiest labor disputes. The reason so little has been written about Lattimer, Novak believes, is that the strikers were Slavs, “the most silent, and most invisible Americans,” the voiceless bottom of the ethnic heap. Many were recent immigrants, but they knew enough of their new country to believe their demonstration was legal, and they marched proudly carrying two American flags. Most of the victims were shot in the back as they cowered or fled from the guns, yet six months later, the deputies were totally exonerated of wrongdoing by an equally bigoted, Slavhating j ury. This grim history of prej udice is told with the excitement and pace of a good novel.
by Sheila M. Rothman Basic Books, approx. 297 pages, $12.50
In this clearly organized and crisply written history of women in America, Sheila Rothman discusses an overheated subject in a cool voice. A hundred years ago, woman’s “proper” role—her only proper role—was “virtuous motherhood.” Rothman describes what forces have hastened and what have impeded women’s emergence from the nursery. One of the obstacles, she argues, was the belief of nineteenthcentury doctors that “God first made a uterus and then built woman around it,” a persistent bias that has slowed every liberating step women have tried to take. An admirable and informative book.
by Bruce Catton and William B. Catton Doubleday & Co., 12 maps, 480 pages, $12.50
Although those of us who worked with him at American Heritage thought of Bruce Catton as a man who could write about or edit anything, most readers of history associate him primarily with the Civil War. In this book, he departed from that era. With his son, a professor of American history at Middlebury College, Catton has written about the first three hundred years of European settlement of the new continent. In general, the facts are not new, but the Cattons’ swift, precise portraits of people, and the large and small ideas that motivated them, make this a rich, perceptive narrative. They start with those first Europeans, “armed equally with cross, sword and pocketbook,” who pushed their tiny ships across unknown waters to the New World, and they end with the War of 1812. It was a war, the Cattons say, that could be considered a “comedy of misconceptions, in which clumsy amateurs and distracted professionals outfumbled each other across the wild North American landscape.” But it was also a war which provided the newly independent Americans with the self-confidence to pursue their “bold and magnificent dream.”