THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS & CO. (Abelard-Schuman, $3.95) is the first novel of the young poet DARYL HINE, and it reads like a poet’s first novel, for it bubbles with ingenuity and literary jokes and is more interesting for its author’s skill with words than for any originality of theme. Since Mr. Hine himself makes no attempt to disguise what may be called the source of his inspiration, there is no reason to be cagey about the matter. His hero is obviously modeled on Robert Graves, and the novel is a cheerfully irreverent parody of Mr. Graves’s circumstances, history, principles, and most of all, his admirers and imitators. Mr. Hine’s target is less the poet than the excesses of his followers, and some of the episodes concocted about this ridiculous crew are successfully satirical. But, on the whole, the best things in The Prince of Darkness & Co. are the author’s witty asides on the Mediterranean climate, the habits of expatriates, the war between parents and children, and other topics that are irrelevant.
In her unhappy old age, Thomas Hardy’s first wife wrote a pleasantly scatterbrained reminiscence of her girlhood, parts of which Hardy used in his own autobiography. The unpublished portion of this manuscript is now available as a very small book, SOME RECOLLECTIONS (Oxford University Press, $3.75) by EMMA HARDY, edited by Evelyn Hardy and Robert Gittings. Emma’s memoirs alone would be merely a minor period piece, but the editors have included a dozen or so poems that Hardy wrote after her death, in which he clearly borrowed scenes, ideas, and even phrases from her pages. The book’s illustrations reveal that Emma, a chronic taker of art lessons, and Hardy, a trained architect, both drew abominably.
Firsthand accounts of the effects of drugs, either through addiction or experiment, comprise an anthology, THE DRUG EXPERIENCE (Orion, $5.95), edited by DAVID EBIN. The contributors range from Baudelaire, whose discussion of the effects of hashish is the clearest and most hardheaded piece in the book, to Mezz Mezzerow, who describes the interaction of music and marijuana in a rattle of jive talk.
EXPRESSO BONGO (Yoseloff, $6.95) includes most of the better-known stories of WOLF MAAKOAVITZ, wry, tart, ironic tales of the antique trade, life in old Russia, and the fringes of English show business.
DORIS LANGLEY MOORE, with access to a mass of papers not so much suppressed as forgotten by Byron’s descendants, has achieved in THE LATE LORD BYRON (Lippincott, $8.50) a fascinating and completely convincing reconstruction of the uproar of intrigue that followed the poet’s death. Everyone who had known him, and this meant a singularly eccentric group of people, instantly tried to make use of the event for personal advancement or protection. As Miss Moore carefully unravels the tangle of false claims, mutual deceptions, blackmail, and bribery created by these people, one begins to feel that Byron was lucky to escape from their society even by death. It is hard to imagine any place worse than a world inhabited simultaneously by Lady Byron and Caroline Lamb. The book is written with great charm and a candid bias in favor of Byron.
The annual Christmas flood of art books has washed up three rather unusual items. In THE ART OF ASSEMBLAGE (Museum of Modern Art, $6.50), WILLIAM C. SEITZ discusses, very solemnly indeed, the dubiously solemn motives of those artists who glue old theater stubs and bits of wallpaper into their canvases, or mount broken bidets on pedestals for gallery exhibition. GISLEBEKTUS, SCULPTOR OF AUTUN (Orion, $13.50) provides a detailed tour of this Romanesque cathedral, demonstrates that its sculptural decoration was designed, and to a great extent executed, by one extraordinarily able artist, and carefully studies his style, technique, and development. The photographs are excellent; and the text, by PROFESSOR GEORGE ZARNECKI and ABBE DENIS GRIVOT, is scholarly without being oppressive. GASTON DIEHL’S THE MODERNS (Grown, $12.50) contains a remarkable number of color plates, but the author’s laudable desire to mention every good painter since 1880 and to relate his work to that of every one of his colleagues necessarily results in a text that swoops and roars like a roller coaster.