Short Reviews: Books

Ten brief book reviews

The Maiden Voyage, by Geoffrey Marcus. Viking, $8.95.
On the very cold, calm, star-brilliant night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic, luxurious and unsinkable pride of the White Star Line, clipped a smallish iceberg and sank in less than three hours—with gallant gestures by doomed millionaires and the band playing “Nearer My God to Thee,” as everyone knows—so why another book on the subject? Because it was not exactly like that, after all, and Mr. Marcus, an accomplished naval historian, has made some highly interesting additions to a tale that has always had the fascination inherent in dramatically logical disaster.

Voyager, by John Unterecker. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $15.00.
Hart Crane was a spectacular winner in the ghastly parent sweepstakes. It is a wonder that the unfortunate poet accomplished anything at all before escaping by suicide from his intolerable life, and not at all surprising that he was himself a generally intolerable nuisance, for he learned that trade at his mother’s knee. Mr. Unterecker is a conscientious biographer and writes well, but nobody can avoid monotony when describing a life composed of neurotically repeated idiocies.

The Memoirs of an Erotic Bookseller, by Armand Coppens. Grove, $6.50.
Seller of erotic books is what Mr. Coppens really means, but the distinction is unimportant because his clients turn out to be just as monotonously peculiar as his merchandise.

The Code of the Woosters, by P. G. Wodehouse. Simon and Schuster, $4.95.
Bertie and Jeeves, originally published in 1938 and still demoralizingly funny. The suspicion arises that Mr. Wodehouse is a genius who will outlast any dozen Nobel Prize winners.

Black Misery, by Langston Hughes. Eriksson, $2.50.
The juvenile miseries described, in wry single sentences, by the late poet (and prettily illustrated by Arouni) prove to be, on the whole, variations of those affronts to self-esteem suffered by all children, and more amusing than tragic. Tragedy is implied by the necessity for the black child to attribute all difficulties to color while the white child, when insulted by an obtuse teacher, is free to dismiss the affair as just part of the way schoolteachers are.

Gardens of War, by Robert Gardner and Karl G. Heider. Random House, $15.00.
It was originally intended that the text accompanying the photographs of Stone Age tribesmen taken by the Harvard-Peabody expedition to New Guinea should be written by Michael Rockefeller, who was killed on his second trip to the region. Perhaps through some element of regret or reluctance, the text Mr. Gardner has finally provided is low-keyed, severely practical, and not calculated to arouse enthusiasm in any reader not already interested in these particular savages. The pictures themselves range from splendid to incomprehensible.

Last Stop Camp 7, by Hans Hellmut Kirst.Coward-McCann, $5.95.
Mr. Kirst is a German novelist of some reputation, based with reason on his early Gunner Asch satires. What he has been writing lately crackles pure celluloid. One would expect to meet these dim internment camp Krauts and paper doll Americans on television next week if Hogan’s Heroes were not there already.

The Feminized Male, by Patricia Cayo Sexton. Random House, $6.95.
Excessive female influence ruins the character and disposition of little boys, according to Mrs. Sexton, and women should therefore be lured away from schoolteaching into business, politics, and the professions. However one views the filigree of psycho-sociological findings that support this argument, the book is impressive as the most ingeniously backside-to feminist tract of this, or any other, season.

French Watercolors of the 18th Century, by Philippe Huisman. Viking $12.95.
Twenty pages on the history anti development of watercolor painting; forty-two fine color reproductions with remarks on subject and method; a brief description of watercolor technique, enlivened by old diagrams; biographical notes on the painters. All of it elegantly designed on delightful thick paper. This is the way an art book ought to be made, compact and beautiful. It was produced, naturally, in Switzerland.

Tormented Loyalty, by Christopher Sykes. Harper & Row, $8.95.
Mr. Sykes explores carefully, sympathetically, and at more length than is strictly required the beliefs and actions of Adam von Trott zu Solz, who was simultaneously a fiercely loyal German nobleman and a wily anti-Nazi conspirator. When von Trott’s luck ran out, he was executed, like numerous other decent Germans. It is a sad story, but less surprising than Mr. Sykes keeps telling us.