ARTHUR RACKHAM: HIS LIFE AND WORK (Scribner’s, $20.00) is a pleasantly uncomplicated biography by DEREK HUDSON, reinforced by enough reproductions of Rackham’s drawings to make it more work than life, and done in appropriately lavish Edwardian style. The taste for Rackham’s delicate, bizarre figures, his razor-sharp line, and the greenish overcast across his color is not universal, but even the confirmed anti-RackhamitE is likely to be impressed by the pictures collected here. Rackham’s style was so uniquely his own that when the books he illustrated are considered separately, the reaction may be, Oh, Rackham as usual. But when drawings for Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Rip Van Winkle, and The Wind in the Willows are set side by side, it appears that this idiosyncratic style really had considerable latitude and that the effect of Rackham’s drawings differed according to the text they joined, for the artist was as conscientious in deferring to the intention of the author whose work he illustrated as he was in battling printers over the unpredictable whimseys of the four-color process.
DWIGHT MACDONALD, a splendidly irreverent critic, has edited an anthology of irreverent writings — to wit, PARODIES (Random House, $7.50), which is as near perfection as any anthology can be. It begins with Chaucer’s demolition of conventional medieval romance and rolls on hilariously to the present, skipping few worthy targets and sparing none.
CLEVELAND AMORY and FREDERIC BRADLEE have edited another anthology, a collection of material from the magazine VANITY FAIR (Viking, $10.00). It provides a nostalgic view of the 1920s and 1930s (the women’s hats are back in style, but the men’s lapels are alarming) and reveals that the charm of Vanity Fair was not that it printed great works but that there was simply no telling what it would print next.
The Orion Press has issued three unusual books, starting a proposed series: THE SKY by JEAN-CLAUDE PECKER, THE SUN by ETIENNE