The Editor's Page

Some recommended reading for the month of June:

THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD for Thursday, March 30, 1972, pp. 5244-5254. A lesson in civics. Arranged and directed by Senator William Proxmire (Democrat of Wisconsin), featuring the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, assorted other admirals, and memoranda writers. They tell the story of how more than $400 million of the taxpayers’ money was declared to be “over target” and ordered (by Admiral Zumwalt) to be spent posthaste, so the congressmen who’d appropriated the money wouldn’t think they’d been overgenerous to the Navy.

“The story ... is about as devastating an indictment of service waste as I have ever heard—and I have heard plenty in the 15 years I have been in the Senate,” says Senator Proxmire. It’s a suspense story of sorts if this is the way the admirals rush to get rid of the boodle before the fiscal year ends, what about the generals of the Army and the Air Force? No doubt the Senator from Wisconsin is already pressing that question.

IN A DARKNESS by James Wechsler, with Nancy F. Wechsler and Holly W. Karpf, a touching but disquieting book about the Wechslers’ son Michael, whose ten years of mental illness ended with his suicide at twenty-six. Touching for what it shows of Michael’s struggle and his family’s loving efforts to help him; disquieting for what it tells of the arrogance, callousness, petty jealousies, and downright obtuseness the Wechslers encountered in Michael’s association with eight different psychiatrists and three mental hospitals. An entire profession, of course, cannot be judged by one family’s experience; there are many humane and compassionate men in the profession, perhaps even a saint or two. But the uncomfortable fact is that the Wechslers’ experience was not by any means a unique one.

ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner, one of the best American novels in several years, and certainly one of the best of 1971—although one wouldn’t know it from this April’s National Book Awards, whose jurors didn’t so much as mention the Stegner book, or from the New York Times Book Review, which (probably through accident or oversight rather than deliberateness) neglected to review it when it was published in the spring of 1971. The National Book Award fiction judges didn’t do their homework. As a matter of fact, the whole NBA crowd—booksellers, publishers, et al—ought to feel pretty sheepish after this year’s doings. The Awards were established to outshine, or at least equal, the Pulitzer Prizes, and to celebrate the vitality of American books and the achievement of American writers, but the judges couldn’t find, or so they imply, a living writer of fiction or of history who deserved the prize, and the award for Contemporary Affairs went to a catalogue. Decisions like these can make the Pulitzer judges look good.

Speaking of awards, three more feathers are herewith stuck into the old cloth cap at 8 Arlington Street, Boston.

For the special supplement on “Work in America” in October, 1971, The Atlantic and five authors have won Sidney Hillman Prize Awards. Congratulations to Richard Todd of The Atlantic, Dr. Robert Coles, William Serrin, Carolyn See, and Kenneth Lasson (whose book The Workers is now in the bookstores).

For the two articles on China, “The 800,000,000,” published last November and January, Ross Terrill and The Atlantic have been awarded the National Magazine Award for outstanding achievement in reporting excellence, and for the same articles Mr. Terrill now holds the George Polk Memorial Award for outstanding magazine reporting. This is the first time one magazine has won the National Magazine Award for reporting two years running. Last year’s went to Ward Just’s “Soldiers,” which appeared in The Atlantic of October and November, 1970.