LORD; GEOFFREY’S FANCY (Pantheon, $3.95) is the latest of ALFRED DUGGAN’S historical novels and, regrettably, far from his best. It is set in Greece in the thirteenth century, when the country was divided up among northerners, generally French, backwashed from the Crusades. The Frankish lordlings lived in great style, devoting themselves to profitable alliances and sporadic territorial scuffles and wasting no effort on Jerusalem. A book about them ought to be lively, but for once, Mr. Duggan’s method of telling his story through an alien narrator has failed him. The narrator in this case is a juvenile Colonel Blimp from the Welsh marches, earnest, humorless, and a bit of a pedant on matters of knightly duty. This dull dog stands between the reader and everything that happens, and ninety percent of the time, he’s a confounded road, block. There is, however, one truly glorious moment when young Blimp describes the beautiful, but peculiar, Cathedral of Our Lady of Satines, and speculates gravely on which saints can be represented in the carved procession of unfamiliar personages circling the walls; it dawns upon the reader that he is viewing the Parthenon.
WILLIAM BITTNER’S POE (AtlanticLittle, Brown. $6.50) is a sensible, unpretentious life of a writer who has in the past been subjected to every conceivable biographer’s extravagance. Poor Poe, romanticized, sentimentalized, Freudianized, and vilified, turns out under Mr. Bittner’s factual treatment to be a rather uninteresting man. The book is nevertheless a sound corrective to the whimsies of Poe’s more imaginative devotees.
SAMUEL CHAMBERLAIN has been taking beautiful photographs of New England, among other places, for the last twenty-five years, and many of the most striking are now assembled in THE NEW ENGLAND IMAGE (Hastings House, $12.95). It’s a handsome book with captions that tell enough, but not too much, and includes items, like wooden bridges and cupolaed barns, that will soon be gone forever.
ISLAND IN TIME (Sierra Club, $7.50) describes the beautiful, wild Point Reyes peninsula north of San Francisco. The photographs by PHILIP HYDE are admirable, and the text by HAROLD GILLIAM covers the history, as well as the character, of the area. The project is frankly designed to support the conversion of Point Reyes into a national park.
In THE GREAT WHITE MANTLE (Viking, $4.95), DAVID O. WOODBURY undertakes to describe the formation and decay of Ice Age glaciers. This is not every reader’s subject, and Mr. Woodbury’s approach to it is perhaps overcomprehensive; it seems a safe bet that anyone who can read his book has already heard that glaciers exist, if not all the more intimate details of the Ice Age. Assuming that one wants to start on the ground floor with glaciers, however, Mr. Woodbury explains them clearly and also has the knack of reducing vast lumps of time and space to readily graspable images.
FREDERICK ANTAL’S HOGARTH (Basic Books, $15.00) is subtitled And His Place in European Art, a fair warning that this is a grave, scholarly volume. Hogarth as an example of the rising middle class of the eighteenth century, his political sympathies, his social ambitions, his adaptation of new ideas and old techniques to his particular situation and point of view are all examined by Mr. Antal with intelligence and thoroughness. The complicated background against which Hogarth lived and worked is described in a solid, accurate, practical way, but there is little hint of the pigheaded, hottempered eccentricity of which Hogarth was capable, or indeed of any aspect of his personal life. The illustrations are numerous, black-andwhite, and small.
ART OF THE NORTHWEST COAST INDIANS (University of California Press, $7.50) by ROBERT BRUCE INVERARITY is exceptional among books on primitive art, in that the author is himself an artist as well as an anthropologist, and director of the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. He is able to discuss totem poles, storage boxes, masks, and statuary with a specialist’s knowledge of when and why they were made and their relation to the work of other primitives, and a sculptor’s understanding of the skill and effort that went into their construction. The book is enlightening, and the illustrations are verv handsome indeed.